RDA Executive Briefing (#RDA12)July 1, 2012
This Thursday around 80 cataloguers and cataloguing managers gathered at CILIP HQ to hear the latest developments in Resource Description and Access (RDA). The speakers at this year’s Executive Briefing came from the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, Oxford University Library Services, COPAC and UCL.
Despite both the Library of Congress’s and British Library’s statements that they will adopt RDA for all original catalogue records from quarter 1 2013 and the British Library’s already having begun to accept RDA records for their data service (on 1 June 2012), many people seemed unsure whether or not their library would move from AACR2 to RDA any time soon. As various speakers pointed out, one of the issues with RDA is that people have to change their workflows (resulting in temporary productivity drop) today for benefits in the future. As one speaker put it in the Q & A, “We’re still expecting people to work hard today for jam tomorrow.”
The room was somewhat appeased to hear that the National Library of Scotland will not be in a position to adopt RDA for all its processes until the beginning of 2014. Obviously, as one of the six UK copyright libraries, it takes part in the shared cataloguing programme and so will have to partake of some RDA, but rolling it out across its entire service will have to wait, according to Neil Nicholson, until things have settled down from the current restructure. Neil’s paper garnered the most debate from the floor: there was something remarkably freeing for the rest of us in hearing that even one of our three national libraries was grappling with the same issues most libraries are: time and timing. Time insofar as the productivity drop necessary to learn and implement a new major standard has to be allowed for in senior management plans and timing, as always with RDA, in terms of working out when exactly is the right moment to make the move.
Indeed, several delegates shared that their libraries were still using UKMARC, having been unable to find the time to move to MARC21. The old format hasn’t been supported since 2001. So as we discuss the hybridization of the catalogue, we would do well to remember that some people moved away from shared standards a decade ago. And, of course, as students are always shocked to hear, there are probably more cataloguers out there working on non-MARC systems: the sales figures of Library Management Systems that don’t support MARC cataloguing indicate that there are many libraries out there not within the MARC fold.
Shirley Cousins’ presentation shared some data she has been gathering through a survey of COPAC members. These were only initial figures as the survey itself was open until last Friday, but it was clear that over half the respondents saw themselves moving to RDA in the next two years. Shirley has promised to post the full results on the COPAC blog in the near future. Personally, I found her results so far extremely helpful. My own paper this year updated my 2010 talk on the state of play in teaching cataloguing at library school. Year on year I’ve been increasing the RDA content in our core cataloguing and classification module at UCL, to the point that if I increase it this Autumn it will be 50/50 AACR2:RDA. I’m reviewing all my handouts this summer, in the light of having Practical Cataloguing as my core text instead of Bowman’s Essential Cataloguing. Working from my own book means that I can condense the number and length of the handouts, and I am toying with introducing more RDA content instead. This year I’m teaching three groups of students how to catalogue – two of those groups before the BL switch in 2013. It was useful to know that we’re looking at a 2-year timescale before COPAC libraries will be looking for cataloguers who know RDA as well as our students currently leave us knowing AACR2.
Of course, the BL presentations were the major draw for many attendees, and, yet again, Alan Danskin provided us with lots of facts, figures and advice. This year he was joined by his colleague Emma Rogoz, who spoke about their impressive large-scale training programme. Sitting at the front of the room in the chair’s seat, I think Emma’s presentation saw the most people scribbling down notes as she spoke not only about RDA itself (top tip: training on Name Authority and descriptive cataloguing separately has had many advantages in the BL experience) but also about training more generally: the need to use different teaching methods to accommodate different learning styles was highlighted.
Alan stressed that the BL switchover will not be a big bang, and that AACR2 records would still be accepted after quarter 1, but they would be edited to RDA. However, all AACR2 cataloguing on Aleph will cease by 31 March 2013. The BL is currently discussing a January 2013 switchover for its CIP records with supplier BDS, but these discussions are ongoing. The cataloguing trainers at the BL have been establishing workflows within the RDA Toolkit, and these will be shared once they are in a more ‘final’ version, to help the wider UK cataloguing community. However, Alan also pointed out a different kind of workflow – the workflow that decides when an item has to be dealt with by a cataloguer and when a paraprofessional will be able to deal with it. For any large library, this will be important to determine, in the light of RDA’s greater emphasis on cataloguer judgement.
Alison Felstead made many good, sensible points in her presentation, but the one that really stood out for me was that Oxford is going to maintain a couple of cataloguers with AACR2 expertise, in case there are issues with existing AACR2 records (and, although Alison didn’t say this herself, I assume also in case in the future there are reading room queries about the old AACR2 records). They are devising most of their training materials in-house, though using materials from the Library of Congress where relevant. Alison made the important point that at Oxford (as in many universities), there are people who catalogue all the time and people who catalogue perhaps only an hour or two every week (as in the case of college librarians), and the training needs to be tailored to suit these different markets. Oxford has a very strong success rate with new cataloguers, and it’s this kind of thinking on Alison’s part that lies behind some of that success.
As always, there is much else that could be said about the Executive Briefing, and these notes are simply the things that struck me in my quirky role of library school lecturer. As chair of the event, I am grateful to all the speakers, delegates and tweeters; to Jason Russell and the Cilip Events team; and to BDS who sponsored the event.