Thursday, June 17, 2010

Webinar - "Making the Most of RDA Toolkit's Open-Access Period"

I just finished watching the newest RDA Toolkit webinar, "Making the Most of RDA Toolkit's Open-Access Period." I missed out on some of it, because Donna and I were talking about RDA and what we might be doing about it (and lamenting that you can only get the best deal on RDA Toolkit before it's clear whether the Library of Congress and large universities will even be adopting it). However, I don't think I missed too much - honestly, a lot of it was the same as the previous RDA webinar I went to (except for updated pricing info, areas of the RDA Toolkit that used to not work now do) and, for the most part, it felt like a marketing presentation (because it was). Troy Linker, the guy who did the presentation, isn't a cataloger, and this presentation wasn't about using the RDA Toolkit to catalog something, it was about using the RDA Toolkit, period.

I'm still not pleased that there's no index, by the way. The RDA Toolkit uses some terminology that's going to be new to me, and it would be nice to be able to turn to an index and find cross-references from the terms I know to the terms RDA is now using, i.e. FRBR terms. I don't have AACR2 rule numbers memorized, unlike some catalogers. I just know that, if I have a question about something, I need to flip to the appropriate chapter. RDA Toolkit lets you find rules via keyword searching, via looking through the table of contents (which uses an organization system that is alien to those who actually catalog), and via looking up AACR2 rule numbers (if there is a correlation between the rule and RDA). I like being able to flip through a physical book, though. Yes, RDA will be released in paper form, but it is so not meant to be used in paper form. And. There. Is. No. Index. Those who saw the draft will remember that the table of contents alone was 70 pages. The print version would be unwieldy enough with an index. Without one, it will be an exercise in self-torture.

During the first few minutes of the presentation, Mr. Linker made sure to say that RDA will better help library users "find, identify, select, and obtain" the information they want. You know, right, that saying something doesn't automatically make it true? First, from what I've heard, RDA isn't really all that different from AACR2 - it's just that the way it's being presented (complete reorganization of the rules, best used online, etc.) is completely different. Second, nothing RDA says will change anything unless a library's ILS can actually make things happen. Our ILS may have its...issues, but it's still better than some I've heard about, and even our ILS can't seem to manage to effectively link different editions, translations, etc., even when fields that should link them are provided. If there's a problem, that problem lies either in how a library's ILS is interpreting MARC, or that problem lies in MARC itself. Or both. I don't know enough about programming to really know the answer to that one.

Well, that's it for now. More on RDA the next time I go to another webinar. Or after I actually get to try it out. Maybe there will eventually be a webinar just about using RDA to actually catalog something - I'd rather have one of those than another marketing webinar.


  1. Hi Melissa

    I am currently studying to be a 'proper' librarian and getting to know this new approach to cataloging has been one free fall of a ride.

    I understand that whilst it is generally thought of as opening a door to a whole new digital environment, the technical issues together with intepreting entities to one's best ability are going to be the biggest hurdles. I may be wrong, but this is what I see as a newbee to this whole domain.

    My question is, how is RDA going to help a child find a book in a school library any better than what it is at the moment ???

    Any thoughts and/or examples would be very much apprecited.

  2. "My question is, how is RDA going to help a child find a book in a school library any better than what it is at the moment ???"

    As things currently stand (and as I currently understand RDA), the simple answer is "no." A comment field is probably not the best place for me to expand upon my answer, since I could write quite a bit about this - it's kind of a huge question. I can say that RDA doesn't stand a chance of improving anyone's users' searching success if it's not combined with corresponding improvements in MARC and ILSs, based upon my own experience of working with my library's Systems Librarian to try to get our ILS to do what we want it to do.

    Have you been keeping track of the discussions about RDA on AUTOCAT and the RDA listserv? If you haven't been, I highly suggest looking through the archives for those - lots of interesting stuff has come up. None of it has made me any more confident about actually using RDA (I don't know if you've used the RDA Toolkit, but I still can't imagine using that to catalog something), but it's been helpful for me, reading the posts of people who have a better grasp of RDA than I do.