Resource Description and Access: A Project Manager’s Perspective

Marjorie E. Bloss, RDA Project Manager

Resource Description and Access ( RDA) will supersede Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd edition ( AACR2) in the first quarter of 2009. While RDA is being created for the digital environment, those developing RDA cannot lose sight of the fact that we live and catalog in a hybrid world. Consequently, RDA will include instructions for descriptive cataloging and access for digital materials as well as for our analog materials that are still being published. As well as looking towards the digital world in its instructions, RDA as a product will be released online.

Much of the information that has been disseminated about RDA has focused on its content—the instructions catalogers will need to follow when creating records for resources, and the conceptual models that serve as its foundation. I come to RDA from a different perspective—that of project manager, i.e., one whose role is to coordinate the activities of a number of different groups who are collectively contributing to the creation of RDA.

To begin with, what is a project? Basically, it is a defined activity with a beginning, middle, and an end. An appropriate library analogy would be to compare it to a multi-volume set rather than a serial. A project is something that does not continue indefinitely. It does not have limitless resources, either financial or human. Lastly, there is some sort of product at the end of a project, be it conclusions from research, a finalized activity, or something more substantive—like an online product.

From a project manager’s perspective, therefore, the goals of the RDA project are:

  • To coordinate the activities of the committees directly involved with the project
  • To ensure that the content of RDA is developed within a specific time frame and within a specified budget so that
  • RDA as a product will be ready for release in the first quarter of 2009, and will meet the needs of its market.

So who is responsible for RDA? People who are aware of the mechanisms for handling AACR2, its updates and the creation of RDA are most likely familiar with the Joint Steering Committee for the Revision of AACR (the JSC). The JSC is comprised of six individuals representing the American Library Association’s Committee on Cataloging: Description and Access (CC:DA), the Australian Committee on Cataloguing, the British Library, the Canadian Cataloguing Committee, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP, in the United Kingdom), and the Library of Congress. The JSC and the RDA Editor are responsible for creating RDA content.

As illustrated in the organizational chart, there are three other committees that play instrumental roles in RDA’s development. The first is the Committee of Principals (CoP) whose membership includes representatives from the American Library Association, the British Library, Canadian Library Association, CILIP, the Library of Congress, and the Library and Archives Canada. The CoP has overall administrative responsibility for the RDA project. The second is the Fund Trustees, the committee responsible for administering and providing financial support for the project. The third is the Co-Publishers representing ALA, the Canadian Library Association, and CILIP. The Co-Publishers hold the copyright to RDA. Most recently, these four groups worked closely together when considering the JSC’s proposal to extend RDA’s time line in order to include a final constituency review.

flow chart depicting workflow of groups responsible for rda

Providing communication about RDA to those interested in tracking its progress is essential. As project manager, I work closely with the RDA Outreach Group in developing channels of communication. (The Outreach Group is a separate committee and is comprised of representatives from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.) Communication can take a number of different forms: e-mails, monitoring the RDA listserv (RDA-L), developing and revising the RDA FAQs found on the JSC website, and arranging and coordinating presentations for various organizations.

In addition to comments about RDA content, the comments we have heard primarily concern the online product, its cost and functionality, the desire for an RDA print product in addition to RDA Online, and RDA orientation and training. Because the JSC is still writing RDA, answers to these issues are in the formative stages. For instance, the request for proposal (RFP) for RDA Online software will be submitted to vendors in April 2007. As a result, the institutional or personal price of RDA is unknown at this time. However, we can say that there will be different pricing structures for different size institutions and types of users.

Understandably, many institutions anticipate adopting RDA and want to know how training and implementation activities will be handled. Again, it is difficult to develop specific training sessions at this point because RDA has not yet been finalized. There is no question, however, that all libraries from the national libraries on down will need a period of time after RDA’s release for orientation and training. The CoP and JSC in particular are very much aware of users’ concerns and have already begun to plan for RDA implementation. This topic will again be discussed in April 2007 when the CoP and JSC meet jointly.

There is no question that working on the RDA project is both exciting and challenging for everyone directly involved. A number of organizations in addition to those previously identified have a high level of commitment to see RDA succeed. These include the British Library, the Library of Congress, the Library and Archives Canada, and the National Library of Australia. A reality that is often lost in the heavy discussions and articles issued on the RDA process is that the group with the most time-consuming responsibility, the JSC, is composed of volunteers who are making an extraordinary commitment to ensure that RDA succeeds—in spite of their full-time day jobs.

Two URLs can be useful to you in keeping informed of RDA activities and drafts.

Have a look at a prototype of RDA Online (www.rdaonline.org).

Review detailed information about RDA, RDA drafts, and RDA-L on the JSC web site (www.collectionscanada.ca/jsc/).