April 19, 2018

Library of Congress Officials Say MARC Transition, Implementation of RDA ‘On Track’

The American Library Association’s recent Midwinter Meeting in Dallas provided a number of updates on the immensely complex and significant transition away from the MARC communication format as well as the implementation of the Resource Description and Access (RDA) cataloging code.

Beacher Wiggins, the director for acquisitions and bibliographic access at the Library of Congress (LC) and a member of the U.S. RDA Test Coordinating Committee, said that both efforts were “on track,” and that, in the case of RDA, the three U.S. national libraries could implement it by the first quarter of 2013 provided recommendations made in the committee’s June 2011 report are met.

The coordinating committee issued its first quarterly update last week, and it is available on a new page LC has created to house all information about RDA.

For RDA, which will supersede the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd edition (AACR2), to move forward and yield the greatest benefits, the transition away from the underlying MARC carrier is crucial, as the test committee recommended.

“This is truly an international effort because MARC so permeates all that we do with millions, and indeed billions, of records,” Wiggins said. “So, we need to make sure that we get this right,” he said.

“The next steps include securing funding to be able to invite participants, particularly experts and stakeholders from various communities, not just the library community, to take part in the work that the Library of Congress wants to lead,” Wiggins said.

In the coming year, an advisory policy group, chaired by Deanna Marcum, who recently left LC to take a position at Ithaka S+R, and a technical group will both meet, he said.

Another key recommendation from the test committee was to reword RDA so that it is easier to read. This, too, was on track, Wiggins said, and he expects the committee will review five key chapters by June.

John Attig, ALA representative to the Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA (JSC), and Troy Linker, the publisher for ALA Digital Reference, which is a co-publisher of the RDA toolkit, also reported on updates to RDA content and the toolkit’s functionality.

“Our training plan involves our need to train an additional 420 people at the LC,” Wiggins said. “If we, the big elephant in the room, can lay out a plan that gets us from point A to point B and be ready for implementation that will help us,” he said.

As LC staff are trained they will begin applying RDA, and LC will establish “day one,” which “for us means a day after which everything we issue is done according to RDA instead of AACR2,” Wiggins said. He envisioned moving in a synchronized way (with international partners) toward that day sometime in the first quarter of 2013.

The Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA (JSC), the  DCMI Bibliographic Metadata Task Group  (formerly DCMI/RDA Task Group), and ALA Publishing announced today the publication of a second set of vocabulary terms as linked open data. The RDA Carrier Type, Content Type and Media Type vocabularies have been reviewed, approved, and their status in the Open Metadata Registry (OMR) changed to ‘published.’

Linda Barnhart, chair of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC), reported on efforts to ensure a smooth integration of legacy data, particularly the complex problem of making authority files reflect the new cataloging code as well as ensuring that the authority records support bibliographic records created under AACR2 and RDA.

Barnhart said that the vast majority of headings are RDA-acceptable and usable by both AACR2 and RDA catalogers, but there are still hundreds of thousands of records that will have to be altered and recoded in order to successfully migrate the LC/NACO Authority File.

“This really is a very big deal,” Barnhart said. “We’ve never made changes to the authority file of this magnitude,” she said.

The estimate is that 95 percent of the records (7,631,000 records) would be formulated the same as AACR2, 2.1 percent (172,000) could be updated by machine, and 2.8 percent (225,000) would have to be updated by humans.

PCC will also establish a “day one” for RDA authority records, which she defined as the
“point after which all new authority records entering the LC/NACO Authority File must be coded RDA, and all access points on bibliographic records coded ‘pcc’ must be RDA.”

“There’s a lot to be studied and a lot of work to do,” Barnhart said, and the effort will be led by Gary Stawn of Northwestern University who is chair of the PCC Acceptable Headings Implementation Task Group.

PCC has a page with numerous reports and FAQs about the implementation of RDA.

Michael Kelley About Michael Kelley

Michael Kelley (mkelley@mediasourceinc.com) is the former Editor-in-Chief, Library Journal.

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