Resource Description and Access (RDA)

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Many libraries began to implement RDA in 2013-2014
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  • Updated.jpg This entry is out of date, and will not be updated, August 2018


See also Data management portal | Digital libraries | Dublin Core | Semantic web | Unified Medical Language System® (UMLS) | Web 3.0

"...Resource Description and Access (RDA) is a standard for descriptive cataloging initially released in 2010, providing instructions and guidelines on formulating bibliographic data. Intended for use by libraries and cultural organizations such as museums and archives, RDA is the successor to Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, Second Edition (AACR2), [which was] the prevailing standard for English language libraries since 1978..." — Wikipedia

Resource Description and Access (RDA) is the new cataloguing code and bibliographic standard for libraries, archives, museums and other information organizations. Implemented in a soft launch in 2013, RDA is not completely new but a major improvement over former standards embodied in AACR (the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules). The second edition of the AACR was developed for the card catalogue and its use of terminology such as heading, main entry and added entry (see here) clearly reflect the print-only era. As new guidelines for description and access have emerged, RDA aims to cover all digital media. RDA was developed by the Joint Steering Committee (JSC) and overseen by the Committee of Principals representing the American Library Association, Canadian Library Association, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), Library of Congress, Library and Archives Canada, the British Library and National Library of Australia. For more information on the history of resource description, see Chandel, 2013.

Basis of RDA

RDA is based on three conceptual models developed by the International Federation of Library Associations: the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) and its counterparts Functional Requirements for Authority Data (FRAD) and Functional Requirements for Subject Authority Data (FRSAD). Among the many benefits of RDA are the following:

  • "a new standard designed for the digital world"
  • a more flexible, extensible framework for description of digital resources, documents and those with "multiple characteristics"
  • RDA was developed with end-users firmly in mind
  • better fit with emerging databases and search engines
  • more compatibility with metadata standards and encoding systems used by other resource description communities
  • better use of the catalogue as an online working tool

It will be important to ensure that RDA is usable in the web environment in which our users operate. The library community will need to define the data elements of materials so that they can be usable online and in the future semantic web.


Various reports

Technical benefits of RDA

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For library professionals who describe information resources, the future challenge is to create metadata that will meet the needs of users while also making it possible to search and display content on library OPACs. To assist in these important functions, RDA is one building block in creating better catalogues and resource discovery systems. The shift to RDA requires a fundamental re-thinking of how we catalogue and describe resources and provide access to them.

Technical benefits: of RDA are:

  • RDA is compatible with several encoding schemas, such as MODS, Dublin Core, ONIX and MARC
  • blended conceptual models of FRBR (functional requirements for bibliographic data) and FRAD (functional requirements for authority data) to help users find information more easily
  • flexible framework for content description of digital resources that serves needs of libraries
  • fit with emerging database technologies enabling institutions to introduce efficiencies in data capture and storage retrieval
  • evolving cataloguing principles from AACR2R with rules carried over or adapted to RDA

The emerging digital age requires libraries to respond to the new structure and flow of information. Subject cataloguers, indexers and information specialists are now required to describe many types of information resources that are made available in library collections but the relationships that can be drawn to connect resources require new descriptive approaches. The primary goal of RDA is to facilitate resource discovery within catalogues in a more consistent and powerful way that started with the various cataloguing standards many decades ago. In this new environment, traditional cataloguing processes need to be put into a broader context of folksonomic and social cataloguing and tagging -- which is an additional challenge.

Towards the semantic web

The new cataloguing standard for libraries is a kind of first step towards the creation of the semantic web. The semantic web needs a unifying mechanism, however, such as the resource description framework to assist in the integration of traditions and practices of knowledge organization. Uniquely, RDF covers domain specific traditions and the practices of the ‘metadata movement’ through a unified view – that of resource description in the broadest semantic web sense. Tools and standards such as the resource description framework (RDA) should help to integrate the sources of metadata on the web and embedded within library catalogues. RDF should also be able to accommodate the RDA cataloguing standard in order to move subject and descriptive cataloguing to the centre of the (semantic) future web.

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