RDA Tech Forum: 2017 Midwinter Meeting

The 2017 ALA Midwinter Meeting RDA Tech Forum held on January 23 was not a forum in the strict sense of the word. Rather it followed the format of a town hall-type meeting and was led by James Hennelly, Director of RDA Toolkit.

3R Project

The discussion focused on the RDA Toolkit Restructure and Redesign Project, also known as the 3R Project. Hennelly described the project, which will involve a full overhaul of the RDA Toolkit data structure to allow for greater modularity of the data and increased flexibility on how the Toolkit content can be displayed. The project will also include development of an all new user experience for the website, introduction of a responsive design, and commitment to meet established web content accessibility standards. Several groups have contributed to the planning for this project, including the RDA Steering Committee (RSC), the RDA Translation Working Group, and a six-person 3RProject User Group that was formed to provide user stories and feedback.

RDA Release Notes

While the discussion was as varied as you would expect for a town hall-type event, there were several topics that dominated. One was how to approach information regarding changes to the standard with each release. Presently with each release the Toolkit makes an announcement summarizing changes and linking to RSC documentation of changes. With the annual RDA Update the Toolkit provides a summary table of changes and an archive of the full run of instructions prior to the publication of the Update. 

At the Tech Forum it was proposed that the current practice be dropped in favor of an approach that better addresses the needs of the primary use case for revision information—the updating of training and local policy documents guidance. Hennelly put forward a “Release Notes” concept that would accompany each release and offer a list of the instructions that changed along with a “track changes” view of the instruction text and perhaps a very brief statement explaining the reason for the change.

Integration of Toolkit Documents

Another important topic of discussion was the variety of documents hosted on the Toolkit and the value of an integrated display of Toolkit documents. For example, a Toolkit window might be divided into three sections, one larger section displaying an RDA instruction and two smaller sections that display a policy statement and a personal note. The Tech Forum attendees supported feedback Hennelly had received from the 3R User Group that this sort of integration of documents and reduction in clicking within the Toolkit should be a priority for the site redesign.

Hennelly also described how the restructure of Toolkit data will make it possible to create unique arrangements, or “views,” of RDA instructions to meet specific cataloging needs. For example, RDA instructions can be filtered and integrated with MLA best practices to create a view of RDA tailored for music catalogers.

Transitioning to the New Site

The discussion remained focused on Toolkit issues. It did not go into changes to the RDA text related to the IFLA Library Reference Model (LRM), a topic that was discussed in depth by Kathy Glennan in the RDA Forum. However, several attendees raised concerns about their ability to immediately adopt the LRM with the rollout of the new site in April 2018 and requested that the current site remain in place. Hennelly agreed to keep the current site up for 6 months to a year. He clarified that the new site would become the primary Toolkit site after the rollout and local documents linking to the Toolkit would resolve to the new site.

Reported by James Hennelly, Director of ALA Toolkit