a website for all New Zealand cataloguers

Introducing RDA: the new kid on the block

Amanda Cossham

A presentation developed for the RDA/FRBR Workshops presented by LIANZA, CatSig and the National Library in March 2009.


It’s an exciting time to be a cataloguing librarian. Change is a feature of our working life – substantial and fast change.  Not only are we faced with new digital formats and new challenges in cataloguing, there are new patterns of international cooperation, improved IT capabilities, new ideas about how the bibliographic universe is structured and how it should be managed. Even the introduction of AACR2 in 1978 did not involve a rethink of the basic models underlying cataloguing.

The major change at the moment is RDA: Resource Description and Access – the replacement for AACR. It’s new and its different, it comes with a strange creature called “Furbur”.

On the other hand, it is closely related to AACR. RDA is very much a ‘next generation’ AACR, not an intruder; genetically modified through cross-breeding rather than  created in a laboratory by mad scientists.

Built on foundations established by the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR), RDA will provide a comprehensive set of guidelines and instructions on resource description and access covering all types of content and media. The new standard is being developed for use primarily in libraries, but consultations are being undertaken with other communities (archives, museums, publishers, etc.) in an effort to attain an effective level of alignment between RDA and the metadata standards used in those communities. (Joint Steering Committee for the Development of RDA, 2008.)

So, where does that leave us? Coping with change and difference, learning a new set of rules and the fundamental principles upon which they are based, and moreover in a position of having to teach our non-cataloguing colleagues about this new tool that will bring description of and access to resources into the 21st century. 

We may still be coming to grips with it ourselves; we don’t quite know exactly when it will be finalised; we don’t know to what extent it will be adopted profession-wide, nor what impact it will have on what we do on a day to day basis. We may not be sure how our catalogues will change, or whether authority control will be quite different, and the sheer amount of new terminology can make it challenging to come to grips with anything written about this.

RDA and AACR2 – a very brief history

RDA has evolved out of AACR, the Anglo-American cataloguing rules, which were themselves based on ‘cataloguing traditions’: Panizzi’s Rules for the Compilation of the Catalogue (1841), Cutter’s Rules for a Dictionary Catalog (1876, rev 1904) The Paris Principles of 1961, and Lubetzky’s Principles of Cataloging (1969). (RDA, 2008, 0.2).

Additionally, the International standard for bibliographic description, which was produced in 1971, provided the eight areas of description we currently have in part 1 of AACR2, and the AACR2 punctuation.

In fact, in many respects there is a huge degree of similarity between AACR2 and RDA.

  • ·        Panizzi 1841
  • ·        Cutter 1876 (rev 1904)
  • ·        Paris Principles 1961
  • ·        AACR 1967
  • ·        Lubetzky’s Principles of Cataloging (1969)
  • ·        ISBD 1971
  • ·        AACR2 1978, 1988, 1998, 2002

AACR was originally published in 1967 in two versions (British and North American), and was based on the Paris Principles of 1961.

Its second edition – the AACR2 we know so well – was published in one unified version in 1978, and incorporated the General International standards for bibliographic description (ISBD(G)) to ensure that both schemes were unified and consistent.

Further revisions in 1988, 1998 and 2002 reflect changes in formats and with e-resources, serials and integrating resources generally.

AACR2 was updated regularly by a Joint Steering Committee for the Revision of AACR (JSC), which  includes representatives from the major library associations, and Library of Congress.  At the next level down, there are a huge number of groups involved in providing feedback and opinion to the JSC via their library associations as well as directly in some cases, enabling it to have a wide representation and broad perspective.

It was the JSC that initiated the move towards first AACR3 and then RDA, and it is worth noting that they have sought feedback from the wider profession, and consulted with a very large number of library and cataloguing groups.

The Joint Steering Committee moves began in 1997, when they sponsored an international conference in Toronto (International Conference on the Principles & Future Development of AACR (Toronto, 1997), to consider calls for  revision of AACR, to examine the underlying principles of these cataloguing rules, and to evaluate the need for fundamental change (Huthwaite, 2008, slide 3). 

This set the revision of AACR2R in motion, with a third edition, AACR3, as the proposed outcome. An editor (Tom Delsey) was appointed in 2004, and the first draft of AACR3 appeared in late 2004. However, feedback from the wider library community showed that the changes in AACR3 did not go far enough, and the first draft of RDA appeared in 2005.

We now have the final draft (as of November 2008) and the final version is due to be published late 2009.

Why do we need RDA?

AACR2 has stood us in good stead for the past 30 years, and is one of the major influences on RDA. So, why do we need RDA at all? Why DO we need to change?

There are a number of reasons:

The current rules are outdated. This is probably the most obvious point. AACR2 was published in 1978, based in a card catalogue environment. While some libraries do still use card catalogues (a colleague now working in Fiji has pointed this out emphatically), predominantly we function in an electronic environment, with different functionalities, formats.

The digital environment has expanded massively, with the introduction and facility offered by the WWW, and sharing of catalogue records – a major feature of cataloguing in the 20th century – continues to expand with the easy availability of catalogues and the ever-increasing size of bibliographic utilities such as WorldCat.

There are now a set of principles – FRBR and FRAD – that provide an underlying basis for cataloguing rules.

Imagine an outfit that you bought in 1978. Would you still want to wear it today? Would it look as good, would it meet your needs, would it be the best it could be for you? Would it still fit?


You’re older (perhaps you weren’t even born then), and unlikely to be the same size; your tastes will have changed, different colours will suit you, you will be doing different things. You probably expect different things from any outfit, and no matter how much you love that old 1978 version, no matter if you’ve changed the buttons, or added a belt, no matter what accessories you add, it’s still a 1978 garment.  We have new fabrics, new styles, different colours, new technologies used in manufacture, even different washing powders.  In the same way there are new ideas about cataloguing. The retro look is not a good one for a library catalogue!


The resources themselves are far more varied than in the past. There is a proliferation of new types and formats of digital resources.  The more traditional formats are not reducing in number, new ones are being added all the time. A resource is often a stream of information, changing, and not a fixed and concrete thing. 

Works are more often published in many different manifestations (print, html, pdf), and this causes problems for both catalogue users and cataloguers when ensuring that all manifestations are found and linked in the same search.  And, there is far, far more information than we could have conceived of.


Technology has improved considerably since 1978. IT systems now have the capacity both to hold these resources, AND to manage them in different ways.  Catalogues and cataloguing rules and indexes have enabled the better management of information encompassed in physical items (books, serials, video, etc).

Our users have different expectations of what a library catalogue is and can do. The growing familiarity with search engines, and the apparent ease of use and apparent success when searching mean that catalogue functionality must be improved and coverage expanded. Users also want the ease of a Google-style search interface that retrieves everything with the one search.

There are multiple metadata standards that are attempting to define the various new formats and resources (MARC, Dublin Core, ISBD, EAD, MARCXML, etc). AACR2 and RDA are metadata standards as well. Using RDA will help to ensure a consistency and interoperability that will only improve and strengthen a library’s position in the information environment.

Additionally, AACR was perceived to have a strong Anglo-American bias (despite being translated into many other languages), and so another aim was to base a cataloguing code on internationally agreed principles and remove this bias (Chapman, 2006).  The drive was to create something completely international, and to extend it beyond the library world to others (museums, archives, publishers in particular).

There are some basic problems with the current rules – as can be seen by the regular revisions, existence of the Library of Congress Rule Interpretations, and I’m sure your own experiences will fill in some of the gaps. The regular updates to AACR2R are a good example of this too. Huthwaite notes as examples: “the class of materials concept and the shortcomings of the rules for GMDs and SMDs (general and special material designations), outdated and complex terminology, deficiencies in the rules for cataloguing digital resources, retention of a card catalogue focus. (Huthwaite, 2008, slide 6).

They are also complex, and need simplification if they are to work as an international content standard for metadata

Desire for a principle-based set of guidelines. AACR is case-based; RDA aims to be more principle-based, so that cataloguers can use more judgment rather than learn so many different rules. (Huthwaite, 2008).

So, why base RDA on AACR if it is outdated

  • AACR has been very successful internationally. It is used throughout the English-speaking world, and has been translated into 24 other languages.
  • It can be used to catalogue all types of resources.
  • Its development has been controlled and regulated, and any changes are adopted by the library community broadly.
  • It has enabled the worldwide sharing of records, shared expertise
  • It is very precise, and this means that it can be used to generate very precise results when searching.
  • It’s a content standard – that is, it defines and determines what should go into each of the data elements in a record. (Huthwaite, 2008, slide 5).
  • Additionally, to toss out, completely, one existing set of rules that is so widely used would lead to major incompatibilities and inconsistencies within library catalogues. That is, legacy records and systems are important.

The influences on RDA

Huthwaite identifies four main influences that have shaped RDA:

  • AACR and the traditions behind it
  • International cataloguing principles IME ICC (IFLA Meeting of Experts on the International Cataloguing Code) – replacing the Paris Principles of 1961
  • FRBR (the functional requirements of bibliographic records)
  • FRAD (the functional requirements for authority data)

(Huthwaite,  2008)

To understand these influences and what they imply for RDA, it helps to look into them in more detail. 


AACR we have covered briefly already, and we can see it’s closely related to RDA.


The IFLA Meeting of Experts on an International Cataloguing Code developed a Statement of International Cataloguing Principles. This international cataloguing  code, based on the 1961 Paris Principles, has recently undergone a own revision (finalised February 2009).

As AACR was based on the 1961 code, RDA could base its objectives and principles on this code. The goal of this code was to create a common set of principles to cover the content of bibliographic and authority records used in library catalogues.


Several principles direct the construction of cataloguing codes. The highest is the convenience of the user.
2.1 Convenience of the user. Decisions taken in the making of descriptions and controlled forms of names for access should be made with the user in mind.
2.2. Common usage. Vocabulary used in descriptions and access should be in accord with that of the majority of users.
2.3. Representation. Descriptions and controlled forms of names should be based on the way an entity describes itself.
2.4. Accuracy. The entity described should be faithfully portrayed.
2.5. Sufficiency and necessity. Only those data elements in descriptions and controlled forms of names for access that are required to fulfil user tasks and are essential to uniquely identify an entity should be included.
2.6. Significance. Data elements should be bibliographically significant.
2.7. Economy. When alternative ways exist to achieve a goal, preference should be given to the way that best furthers overall economy (i.e., the least cost or the simplest approach).
2.8. Consistency and standardization. Descriptions and construction of access points should be standardized as far as possible. This enables greater consistency, which in turn increases the ability to share bibliographic and authority data.
2.9. Integration. The descriptions for all types of materials and controlled forms of names of all types of entities should be based on a common set of rules, insofar as it is relevant. 
(IFLA Meeting of Experts on an International Cataloguing Code, 2009).


This is the major change underpinning RDA, and indeed, one of the major conceptual changes in the way we think about the bibliographic universe. This means, it deals with the way we think about publications that end up in our collections.

‘FRBR is a conceptual model with the primary purpose of improving cataloging records (a product), cataloguing (a process), and catalogs (a technology).’  (Carlyle, 2006, p. 265)

Many of you may be familiar with FRBR by now, but it’s easy to read about it and not understand how it can be applied or used in practice. However, we do need to understand this if we are to use the concepts as part of RDA.

 FRBR is set out in a report by IFLA Study Group on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (1998). It is best described as a conceptual model although it may also be called a theoretical model (and these are taken to mean the same thing). That is, it’s not rules or practices or guidelines, but rather, a way of thinking about the bibliographic universe. It simplifies a complex situation, and presents a way of thinking about that complex situation that makes it easier to understand. It is the principles that underlie RDA.

Along with FRBR goes FRAD: Functional requirements for Authority Data. This is an extension of the basic FRBR model and is implied by that model. FRBR defines the basic relationships that exist between and/or among the entities. FRAD adds the relationships that exist between and/or among the names of those entities, and between and/or among the access points based on those names Huthwaite slide 20

As a model, FRBR discusses abstract things, and this can be somewhat off-putting. However, we are familiar with abstractions: love, for example, is an abstract thing. We all know and recognise love. But, you can’t see it or touch it or explain it without using concrete images. We will try to use concrete images today. FRBR also introduces a new range of terminology, and this terminology has been adopted and used in RDA. So, we will try to use the new terminology as much as possible.

Coming to grips with FRBR

So, what exactly does this conceptual model say and what does it cover? It focuses on three aspects: entities, attributes and relationships, and apply them to the bibliographic universe. 

  • ·        An entity is a “being”, or a ”thing with a distinct existence”.
  • ·        An attribute is a quality, something that describes an entity.
  • ·        A relationship is the link between different entities.


There are three groups of entity in FRBR.

Group 1: first group comprises the products of intellectual or artistic endeavour that are named or described in bibliographic records: work, expression, manifestation, and item:

  • ·        Work – a distinct intellectual or artistic endeavour. Abstract.
  • ·        Expression - realization of a work in the form of alpha-numeric, musical, or choreographic notation, sound, image, object, movement, etc., or any combination of such forms. Abstract.
  • ·        Manifestation – the physical embodiment of the expression of the work. Concrete
  • ·        Item – a single example of a manifestation. Concrete

Group 2: entities responsible for the intellectual or artistic content, the physical production and dissemination, or the custodianship of such products: person and corporate body.

NB: family was not included in the original FRBR model, and has been added more recently.

  • ·        Person
  • ·        Family
  • ·        Corporate body

Group 3 entities are those that serve as the subjects of intellectual or artistic endeavour. That is, they can be ABOUT concepts, objects, events, and places, plus ABOUT any Group 1 and 2 entities.

  • ·        Group 1 and 2 entities
  • ·        Concept
  • ·        Object
  • ·        Event
  • ·        Place


Group 1 entities involve the things we catalogue. This can be expressed in the following diagram. 

(IFLA Study Group on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records, 1998, Figure 3.1 Group 1 entities and primary relationships)

For example, a work (The Hobbit) is created and realised (made real) as an expression and manifest (i.e. published, let’s say in hardback).

A second publisher picks it up, issues it in paperback and a second manifestation is created. They might also hire a new illustrator (new expression and new manifestation)

Then, it’s translated – another new expression.  A publisher may take that expression and republish it. More translations are created (German, Spanish, Dutch, Russian, French – 22 that I could easily locate).

Finally new works are generated, based on that work, and these are works in their own right. They include things in different artistic formats (movies, plays, etc) as well as works about that work. There are several movie cartoon versions, Peter Jackson is still planning to make it into two movies. Additionally there are related works: critiques of the book, guides to it, theses, etc.

Allison Carlyle puts it like this:

As a cataloger, what I see and hold in my hands is an item, but when I see or hold an item, I am also seeing and holding a particular manifestation of a particular expression of a particular work.

To create a cataloging record, I determine a main entry (work) citation, usually consisting of a creator’s name and a title or uniform title or a title or uniform title by itself—attributes describing the work.

I also transcribe information about translators of texts, scales of maps, playing times of CDs—attributes describing expressions. I transcribe places of publication, publisher names, and dates of publication—attributes describing manifestations.

I create call numbers and add holdings information— attributes describing items. In creating a cataloging record, I encounter and describe each entity, because the item represents each entity simultaneously.
(Carlyle, 2006, p. 271)

The numbers of different expressions and manifestations varies quite considerably, and it’s usually only good works that generate lots of these. Poor works are not republished, nor translated, illustrated etc. and so there is only one expression and one manifestation of that work. Good works end up in multiple expressions, multiple manifestations.

Group 2: This shows who has created the content, produced the item, or has custodianship of it:

(IFLA Study Group on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records, 1998, Figure 3.2: Group 2 Entities and "Responsibility" Relationships)

NB: family was not included in the original FRBR model, and has been added more recently to sit with Person and Corporate body.

Group 3 covers the subjects that a work may be about:


(IFLA Study Group on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records, 1998, Figure 3.3: Group 3 Entities and "Subject" Relationships)


Attributes are characteristics or properties. These enable the users to find the entities they need. Each of the entities defined in the model has associated with it a set of characteristics or attributes.  Attributes are the elements that describe each entity. There are lists of terminology for attributes in RDA.

Attributes, as defined in the FRBR model, generally fall into two broad categories:

  • Inherent: includes not only physical characteristics (e.g., the physical medium and dimensions of an object) but also features that might be characterized as labelling information (e.g., statements appearing on the title page, cover, or container)
  • Externally supplied (imputed): includes assigned identifiers for an entity (e.g., a thematic catalogue number for a musical composition), and contextual information.

Attributes inherent in an entity can usually be determined by examining the entity itself; those that are imputed often require reference to an external source.  (IFLA Study Group, 1998)

  • ·        Attributes for a work may include: title, form, date, intended audience, context, medium of performance, etc.
  • ·        Attributes for an expression may include: title, form, date, language, extensibility, revisibility, extent, etc.
  • ·        Attributes for a manifestation may include: title, statement of responsibility, edition, date, place of publication, publisher, series statement, carrier, physical medium, mode of capture, etc.
  • ·        Attributes for an item may include: identifier, provenance, marks/inscriptions, etc.

When we catalogue something, we use an item to give us the details about a particular manifestation.


Relationships: Various terms are used by creators and publishers of intellectual and artistic entities to show or indicate relationships between those entities. For example, edition, translation, version, ‘based on’, etc.

In the model, relationships are the means of indicating the link between one entity and another, and thus as the means of assisting the user to "navigate" the universe that is represented in a bibliography, catalogue, or bibliographic database. The relationships reflected in the bibliographic record provide additional information that assists the user in making connections between the entity found and other entities that are related to that entity. (IFLA Study Group on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records, 1998).

There are two types of relationship in FRBR:

  • High level: these are at the most general level (for example, works connected to expressions, works connected to persons and corporate bodies)
  • Additional: these function between instances of the same type of entity and between different instances of different entity types (for example, work to work (sequels, supplements, adaptations, etc) or expression to expression (versions, abridgments, revisions), or person to person (e.g. two different names for one person)

User tasks

Just to add to the picture, FRBR and FRAD also identify user tasks – what the user might want to do with the resources in this bibliographic universe. Remember, this is a key factor in terms of the international cataloguing code.

These tasks these have been mapped to RDA as:

find—i.e., to find resources that correspond to the user’s stated search criteria

identify—i.e., to confirm that the resource described corresponds to the resource sought, or to distinguish between two or more resources with similar characteristics

select—i.e., to select a resource that is appropriate to the user’s needs

obtain—i.e., to acquire or access the resource described. (RDA, section 0.0).


There is a parallel set of user tasks for FRAD that have also been mapped to RDA as:


find—i.e., to find information on that entity and on resources associated with the entity

identify—i.e., to confirm that the entity described corresponds to the entity sought, or to distinguish between two or more entities with similar names, etc.

clarify—i.e., to clarify the relationship between two or more such entities, or to clarify the relationship between the entity described and a name by which that entity is known

understand—i.e., to understand why a particular name or title, or form of name or title, has been chosen as the preferred name or title for the entity. (RDA, Section 0.0)



FRBR expresses the way many library catalogue users actually THINK about the bibliographic universe.  While some want just ‘a copy of Northern lights’ to read and don’t mind which edition, nor whether it’s called The golden compass, others may require the large print edition of  84, Charing Cross Road, or the Donald Walsh translation of Pablo Neruda’s Love poems. (cf. Carlyle, 2006, p. 266)

‘FRBR’s terminology, relationships, and user tasks are already assisting us to review our traditions in cataloguing in light of today’s digital environment.’ (Tillett, 2004). FRBR is seen as a way to facilitate international standardisation and reduce costs for cataloguing globally (Tillett, 2004).

Gonzales notes that: ‘FRBR extends upon past practice to take advantage fully of the capabilities of digital technology to associate bibliographic records in ways a card catalog cannot.’ (Gonzales, 2005).

‘In some ways FRBR clarifies certain cataloging practices that librarians have been using for over 160 years. … Sir Anthony [Panizzi] believed that patrons should be able to find a particular work by looking in the catalog, that all of an author’s works should be retrievable, and that all editions of a work should be assembled together.’ (Gonzales, 2005.)

A bit more about RDA itself

RDA – means resource description and access. AACR2 part 1 is description, part 2 is access, so the fundamental basis is the same.

 ‘RDA provides a flexible and extensible framework for the description of resources produced and disseminated using state of the art digital technologies, while also serving the needs of agencies organizing resources produced in non-digital formats’. (RDA, 0.1) So, its primary focus is digital.

RDA is not tied to one communication standard (e.g. MARC), but is explicitly designed to work with any standard, including XML, MODS (Metadata Object Description Schema) and DCMI (the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative), etc. It is seen as a plus that while such communication standards may specify the title of a field, RDA is able to determine and define what should go into that particular field.

RDA is an online tool, created for dealing with (in particular) digital resources, and in a digital, online environment. It is not designed to be read or used in print, and its structure and the way it will be used means that a printed copy of it will be notable for its repetition.

RDA still provides us with cataloguing rules, but these are now based on concepts (FRBR etc), and thus centred on principles, not on practices.  (In contrast, AACR is based on cases and examples.)

This is the first release of RDA. It is incomplete, and will be updated, just as AACR has been updated. Additionally, the JSC was committed to not moving too far from existing standards, so records  can still be used. That is, it would have been possible to completely redo the rules, based on FRBR, but there is far too big an investment in AACR and MARC to make this possible.

Legacy data is very important – there are hundreds of millions of records in hundreds of thousands of catalogues worldwide, so it’s not feasible to make too much change too quickly.  See RDA as “a step in the right direction” but not the destination. We’re still on the journey, and RDA is not the final destination.


Of course, not everyone is enthusiastic or even happy about RDA. You may not be either.

The Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control (2008) called for the JSC to

 Suspend further new developmental work on RDA until a) the use and business cases for moving to RDA have been satisfactorily articulated, b) the presumed benefits of RDA have been convincingly demonstrated, and c) more, large-scale, comprehensive testing of FRBR as it relates to proposed provisions of RDA has been carried out against real cataloging data, and the results of those tests have been analyzed… . ( p. 29 section


Michael Gorman’s 2007 article on RDA refers to the ‘imminent debacle’, a ‘calamity’, and criticises the approach to the new rules as an inappropriate way of providing bibliographic information, including using it as metadata to deal with electronic resources, which he sees as no different.

It is as thought a school of cuisine … arose that prescribed only 17 ingredients, used randomly in random proportions, mixed by people with no knowledge of cooking, using random temperatures.’ (p. III) He also believes that ‘FRBR may have some merit as a way of looking at the theory of cataloging; it has little as a foundational document for creating a cataloging code. (Gorman, 2007, p. III)

Coyle and Hillmann (2007) refer to RDA as ‘cataloging rules for the 20th century’ when of course, the aim of the rules is to be rules for the 21st century. They believe that ‘RDA cannot be successful without addressing the key changes in the information environment that have caused libraries to fall behind as primary information providers.’

Those of you following discussion on AUTOCAT and other electronic mailing lists will have seen and possibly participated in the discussion of both the broader approach and the fine detail of RDA.

However, as change does need to happen, and as there is, currently, nothing better, the main bodies within our profession have decided to go with RDA. You will notice too, that the above were comments on earlier drafts of RDA.

So, how will RDA affect us?

We need to learn how to use the new rules. Note that I did not say ‘learn the new rules’, but rather, learn how to use them. Those of you who have printed the pdfs made available last November will know how large it is, and it isn’t even complete yet. RDA is not primarily a print resource – which makes sense as it is aimed at managing resources in a digital environment (how we deal with updates to it as cataloguers might itself be a profitable topic of discussion!).

We need to learn to think using the new terminology, and try not to mentally convert to the old each time.

We need to understand FRBR – at least the basics.

Vendors need to buy-in to the new rules – or at least manage their approach. This is happening, although until the library community embraces RDA there is a realistic ‘wait and see’ attitude.

There will be costs, both financial and personal.

  • ·        We need to purchase access to the RDA tool – and as yet, pricing has not been determined
  • ·        Training of both cataloguers and other staff
  • ·        Systems may need to be updated, altered, rejigged
  • ·        Bibliographic networks will have changes to make, both behind the scenes, and in terms of public interfaces (see Moore, 2006).

There will be some changes to MARC, although there are unlikely to be very many.

For a while, it’s going to be a little chaotic.  Some libraries will move to RDA straight off. Others will likely wait and see, especially as AACR2R and RDA records are compatible within a system. Some will not have the financial ability to move to the new rules (although we would hope that won’t be many), and others will not have the staff prepared to take on the challenge, nor will they be large enough to have to allow for training in such depth as will be required.

How can we prepare for RDA?

  • ·        Read what you can
  • ·        Read about RDA and try out the online product
  • ·        Subscribe to the NZ/Australian RDA discussion list
  • ·        Talk to management about the change, and indicate that there will be direct costs, even if these are not predictable yet. You’ve probably already done that if you’re here today.
  • ·        Review the MARC changes
  • ·        Keep up with Te Puna and WorldCat changes
  • ·        Evaluate the likely implications for your library system, and look at what the vendor is doing/changing (if anything)
  • ·        Consider the implications for shelf-ready books
  • ·        Set a budget – for training, if nothing else.
  • ·        Talk to other cataloguers and other libraries
  • ·        Consider workflows and how they might change
  • ·        Develop an implementation schedule

(Argus, Todd, 2008)

In conclusion

As in a game of hide and seek, RDA is “coming, ready or not!” We’ve seen that it is a sequel to AACR2, and that it has a  major new influence – FRBR – that is changing how we think about cataloguing. We’re not wearing that 1970s outfit any more, we’re looking at the latest and most up-to-date outfit, suitable for 2009 and beyond.


FRBR provides us with the theoretical framework that we use with RDA.

For example, Roger Vivier’s latest collection of shoes, shown at Paris Week 2009. The collection is called "One is Too", for each pair can be inserted into and buckled onto matching crocodile or snakeskin protective "platforms", based on the "pattens" of the Middle Ages.

They add height and save the expensive, fragile works-of-art for the feet from actually making contact with anything as rugged, commonplace and downright dirty as the pavement.   Each pair comes in at between £9,000-30,000

If FRBR and FRAD are the couture garments, the perfect confections (like the shoe on the right),  the ones that are impossible to walk in or wear on the streets but that provide high level inspiration and model, then RDA takes that high level inspiration and model and turns it into something practical and up to date outfit that suits our needs in 2009.

ANDREA MOORE, Winter 2009 Collection



Anglo-American cataloguing rules

Bibliographic universe

The realm related to the collections of libraries, archives, museums, and other information communities. [Source: IME ICC]


Dublin Core / DCMI

Dublin Core Metadata initiative:  interoperable online metadata standards that support a broad range of purposes and business models


Encoded Archival description: a non-proprietary encoding standard for machine-readable finding aids such as inventories, registers, indexes, and other documents created by archives, libraries, museums, and manuscript repositories to support the use of their holdings.


FRBR term indicating a thing with a distinct existence. See Group 1, 2, 3 entities

Something that has a unitary and self-contained character; something that has independent or separate existence; an abstraction, ideal concept, object of thought, or transcendental object.

[Source: Webster’s 3rd]

 via IME ICC


The intellectual or artistic realisation of a work


Functional requirements for authority data


Functional requirements of bibliographic records


Functional Requirements for Subject Authority Records


Same as FRBR

Group 1 entities

These are the products of intellectual or artistic endeavour – stories, pieces of music, poems, plays,  etc

Group 2 entities

These are responsible for the intellectual or artistic content (the writer, composer etc), the physical production and dissemination (e.g. publisher, university, government department, etc), or the custodianship of such products: that is, person and corporate body

Group 3 entities

These are the subjects of intellectual or artistic endeavor.

Anything in group 1 or group 2 can be a subject (that is, works can be about other works, and they can be about people or corporate bodies). They can also be Concepts, Objects, Events, or Places


International Cataloguing Code (2009). Published by IFLA. Supersedes the Paris Principles of 1961


IFLA Meeting of Experts on International Cataloguing Code


International standard bibliographic description. A series of rules produced by IFLA to describe materials found in a library catalogue. Consolidated edition published in 2007. Determines the eight areas of description and punctuation in AACR2.


Joint Steering Committee. The organisation that has developed RDA.

Originally established as the JSC for Revision of AACR, and renamed to JSC for Development of RDA. Members are from Library of Congress, ALA, CILIP, ACOC (Australian Committee on Cataloguing), Canadian Committee on Cataloguing, British Library. The ACOC representative is Deirdre Kiorgaard of National Library of Australia.


The physical embodiment of an expression of a work.


Machine Readable Cataloguing


Resource description and access – the new cataloguing rules.


Resources for further reading

NB: in using any of these resources, bear in mind that RDA has changed considerably during its development. Therefore, resources have been arranged in reverse date order. As yet, there is very little published about the final draft, which was issued in November 2008 All the 2008 publications, therefore, are based on what RDA looked like before the final draft.. Note also: Some of the URLS no longer work! 2015


IFLA Meeting of Experts on International Cataloguing Code (IME ICC). (2009, February). Statement of international cataloguing principles. Available at


Getting Ready for RDA: What You Need to Know (2008, June). Presentations at the ALA annual conference in June 2008. Available at

ACOC: Australian Committee on Cataloguing. (2008). RDA: Resource description and access. Available at
Includes presentations and articles, information about the RDA electronic discussion list, and various other resources.

Argus, C., & Todd, C. (2008). Implementation, documentation and training: What happens now? Presented at Presented at RDA: Next Generation Cataloguing Standard: ACOC Seminar, Sydney, 24 October, 2008. Available at

Huthwaite, A. (2008, October). RDA: History and background. Presented at RDA: Next Generation Cataloguing Standard: ACOC Seminar, Sydney, 24 October, 2008. Available at

Kiorgaard, D. (2008). Setting a new standard in resource description and access. Presented at Deutscher Biblioghekartag, June 2008. Available at

IFLA FRBR Review Group. (2008). FRBR bibliography. Available at
Provides a large number of other FRBR resources for the enthusiastic.

IFLA Satellite Conference on RDA. (2008, August). Presentations available at

Joint Steering Committee for the Development of RDA. (2008, October).  RDA: Resource description and access: A prospectus. Available at

Library of Congress Working Group on The Future of Bibliographic Control. (2008, January 9). On the record: Report of the Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control. Available at

Maxwell, R.L. (2008). FRBR: A guide for the perplexed. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

Patton, G.E. (2008). An introduction to FRAD: Getting ready for RDA and FRBR: What you need to know. ALA Annual Conference, June 2008. Available at

Tillett, B.B. (2008). Resource description and access: Overview: History, principles, conceptual models.  IFLA Satellite Meeting on RDA, Quebec, August 8 2008. Available at


Special section. (2007). Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 33(6), 1-43. [Whole of the special section is on Functional requirements for bibliographic records. Authors include Yin Zhang, Pat Riva, Allyson Carlyle, Athena Salaba, Shawne D. Miksa, Maja Zumer]

 Coyle, K., & Hillmann, D. (2007). Resource description and access (RDA): Cataloging rules for the 20th century. D-Lib Magazine, 13(1/2). Available at

Danskin, A. (2007). RDA:  Implementation. CIG Standards Forum, CILIP,  26 September 2007. Available at

Gorman, M. (2007). RDA: The coming cataloguing debacle. Available at . (Also published as
Gorman, M. (2007, December). RDA: Imminent debacle. American Libraries, 64-65. Available at

Taylor, A.G. (Ed.). (2007). Understanding FRBR: What it is and how it will affect our retrieval tools. Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited.


Carlyle, A. (2006). Understanding FRBR as a conceptual model: FRBR and the bibliographic universe. Library Resources and Technical Services, 50(4), 264-273.

 Chapman, A. (2006, October). RDA: A new international standard. Ariadne, 49. Available at

Calhoun, K. (2006, March 17). The changing nature of the catalog and its integration with other discovery tools: Prepared for the Library of Congress. Available at

Moore, J. R. (2006). RDA: New cataloguing rules coming soon to a library near you. Library Hi Tech News, 23(9), 12-16.


Gonzales, L. (2005, April 15). What is FRBR? Library Journal, 130(7). Available at

Tillett, B. (2004, February). What is FRBR?: A conceptual model for the bibliographic universe. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress Cataloging Distribution Service. Available at

IFLA Study Group on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records. (1998). Functional requirements for bibliographic records: Final report. Available at


© Amanda Cossham 2009