This is a bit of a rambling post, but the general topic is RDA. That seems to be all anyone ever talks about in the cataloging world anymore. Not surprising, really.
There are a lot of complaints about RDA being voiced on the OCLC-CAT listserv, of all places. Why OCLC-CAT? I'm pretty sure it started because of the way OCLC has been allowing RDA data (authority and bibliographic) to be added to the WorldCat database.
When I originally heard that RDA would be tested before the Library of Congress made any decisions about it, I assumed that that test would take place outside of the live cataloging environment. This has not been the case. The word "test" in OCLC Land sounds an awful lot like "the rules have officially changed, deal with it." OCLC has instructed catalogers to treat RDA bibliographic records vs. AACR2 bibliographic records the same as they treat AACR2 vs. AACR bibliographic records: if an RDA record already exists, an AACR2 record would be considered a duplicate and is therefore not supposed to be entered. Catalogers not using RDA may edit the record back to AACR2 locally.
How exactly does this make sense? I would understand if RDA were the official new rules, but they're not, at least not in the U.S. I know that there are countries that have decided to implement RDA already, and WorldCat is an international database. However, couldn't OCLC just instruct catalogers to treat RDA vs. AACR2 records as parallel records? For instance, if an RDA record already exists, catalogers still using AACR2 (which is most of the U.S.) could enter an AACR2 record, thereby giving other AACR2 users the ability to share the work rather than having every AACR2 user edit the RDA record locally. When/If RDA is implemented by the Library of Congress, OCLC could set their deduplication software to consider RDA and AACR2 records for the same title as duplicates, but it makes no sense to do so before the end of the supposed test.
The bigger uproar on OCLC-CAT right now seems to be focused on authority records. I will admit to not understanding everything everyone is saying - the complaints seem mainly focused on the way RDA information is being added to authority records (RDA name headings live in 700 fields right now, with the AACR2 name headings still in 100 fields - no information has been given on what will be done to these records if RDA is implemented). Having RDA name headings in 700 fields doesn't hurt DSL, but, from what I've heard, there are libraries whose authority control systems choke on this. What does worry me about all of this is that, like the bibliographic records, these changes are all happening to live records: this is not a separate authority file just for the use of those testing RDA, but rather the authority file used by everyone, regardless of whether or not they are test libraries. In effect, non-test libraries are being forced to take part in the test. How can this still be considered a test if everything is happening in a live environment?
The uproar about the way OCLC has been handling the RDA test resulted in Memorandum Against RDA Test, a petition that has so far been signed by 312 people. Although I agree with the petition, I don't always agree with the strong wording that Wojciech Siemaszkiewicz, the person who I believe started the petition, has been using on the OCLC-CAT listserv when talking about RDA. Siemaszkiewicz has an unfortunate tendency (unfortunate because it immediately gets RDA supporters backs up and occasionally even alienates those who oppose RDA) to phrase complaints about RDA in ways that bring war protests and the rhetoric of revolution to mind.
Siemaszkiewicz isn't the only one stirring things up - Deborah Tomaras, on the OCLC-CAT listserv and others, has encouraged those who are against RDA to send their concerns to the personal emails of the members of the RDA Coordinating Committee. She even provided all the email addresses in case the website with those email addresses is taken down. While I can understand the frustration that resulted in this particular call to action, since it feels as though complaints and concerns about RDA and the RDA test have fallen on deaf ears, I'm also not comfortable with what Tomaras is asking catalogers to do. I don't really know what catalogers who are against RDA should be doing, since going through the proper channels has so far seemed ineffective, but spamming/harassing the individuals on the RDA Coordinating Committee isn't, to my mind, the way to go. Can we all just please remember that we're supposed to be professionals?
I may not be sure how I should be communicating my concerns about RDA, but I do have concerns, and one of them is whether or not a drastic reorganization of cataloging rules is even necessary. I recognize that there are problems with AACR2 - I rarely catalog any of the formats (such as databases and websites) that are difficult to catalog with AACR2, but, when I do, it's painfully clear that something needs to be done. At least, something needs to be done to the rules for electronic resources and other things with similar cataloging problems. As far as I'm concerned, the cataloging rules are fine for most physical materials.
Let's be clear about this: the cataloging rules are different from the encoding standards, which are different from ILSs. One of the things that consistently frustrates me about the RDA arguments is that there seems to be an assumption on the part of those who are most in favor of RDA that most of our cataloging problems reside in our cataloging rules. I would argue that this is not the case.
Maybe I need to keep a list of every catalog wish list item I am asked to implement that I can't, in addition to the reason why I can't. I'm pretty sure that, most of the time, when I can't implement something it's because of the way MARC is set up or the way our ILS works, not because of AACR2. If AACR2 is the reason why something can't be done with MARC or something in our ILS is not doing what our users (whether they're students, faculty, or librarians) want, and if that were plainly stated to the cataloging community, I would happily accept a change to the rules. However, I don't agree with change for change's sake, and that's what RDA feels like. On the one hand, RDA is supposed to make everything better. On the other hand, it's supposed to not change things so much that AACR2 records can't live side by side with RDA records. I don't see how both of those statements can be true.
So, that's it from me for now. I don't know if those who are most against RDA will ever be able to reconcile with those who are most for it - neither side really seems to understand the other, or maybe they're just not willing to listen to each other. Or even talk to each other (it seems like pro-RDA talk may be happening on Twitter a lot - I wouldn't know, since I don't use Twitter, but I may have to start just to see what's going on - while anti-RDA talk is concentrated on listservs). Another problem seems to be that not all ILSs are created equal and that not everyone understands this. But then, I may just think that because I'm in the camp that believes our largest problems lie in our ILSs and MARC 21.