Re: [ACAT] Why should RDA matter to me?

Posting to Autocat

On 14/01/2013 15:25, Bonnie Powers wrote:

With the official implementation date drawing near, it is my charge to present to our team what we must do to address RDA at the local level. My feeling is that if RDA is going to be the new standard for excellence in cataloging, then that is what we have to learn and use. While I am fairly comfortable with the mechanics of the specific changes (thanks in part to the wonderful cheat sheets provided by Mr. Elrod), and I know where to look for the tools necessary to implement the mechanics of the changes-the “how”-what I am lacking is the justification or rationale for making them-the “why.” Will someone please give me a short, concise summary of the reasons why the changes under RDA are significant and important to our users and will make our catalogs better? Why should RDA matter to me, to our cataloging department, to the library profession as a whole, and most importantly, to our users? I guess I’m looking for an RDA elevator speech of sorts.

This is what I and others have been asking for a long time: why? What is the justification for spending all this time and money, splitting our catalogs, and necessarily splitting the cataloging community between the haves and have-nots, and the wills and will-nots? What is in it for the public, the library, and the cataloger? In other words, what is the business case?

Unfortunately, there has never been a clear reply. At first, everyone was saying “So that people can do the FRBR user tasks,” but then people finally began asking, where is the research that demonstrates people want the FRBR user tasks so desperately? It never appeared, and then, catalogs with facets appeared and laid the FRBR user tasks to rest because anybody can do those tasks now very easily in such a catalog.

Then everyone emphasized the need to enter Linked Data (heavenly chorus) so that we can take our rightful place in the new world. Of course, the fact is that lots of agencies have already entered the linked data universe without any kind of FRBR/RDA structure, so if Linked Data is to be the goal, neither RDA nor FRBR are necessary. As a result, the public will see little change except they will find library catalogs even more complex because of added inconsistency (as I have discussed in a podcast Sooner or later the public will learn of eliminating the rule of three and replacing it with the rule of one, making the subtitle optional and so on, and that should result in some outcry, at least for a time. In any case, it becomes difficult to imagine how the catalog could seem substantially improved in the eyes of the public.

For the library as a whole, probably they will hear very little. Perhaps a few comments at first, both positive and negative, but people will increasingly ignore the library catalog in their searches, preferring the ever-improving other tools for their information discovery. If people do use the catalog, they will probably be looking for call numbers to get free copies of something they have already found through other means. Browsing the shelves will probably still be popular.

For the cataloger, the work will be more complex with nothing in return. The amount of copy will not increase, unless they begin to accept ONIX records without editing them but I hope that never happens. There will be pressure to lessen the inconsistency with the earlier catalog, so there will be several recon projects going. And that will be major work but it is difficult to predict how fast the recon projects will go or if they just peter out.

Probably not the kind of RDA elevator speech you were wanting….

Yes, there are alternatives.