Training for Resource Description and Access

The e-forum discussion of RDA training needs focused around four poles:

  • large libraries with more resources
  • small libraries with fewer resources
  • training needs of professional staff/original catalogers
  • training needs of nonprofessional staff, copy catalogers, noncataloging staff

In many larger libraries staff members are:

  • forming task forces to handle RDA implementation (training issues, OPAC issues)
  • training themselves (self-study)
  • creating their own training materials and training their own staff members
  • using free online resources (see attached list)
  • using the LC RDA training materials (often customizing them for a better institutional fit)
  • receiving additional training through cooperative programs like BIBCO and CONSER
  • attending conference sessions on RDA
  • using MarcEdit 5.8’s new enhancement, RDA Helper
  • using OCLC Connexion macros to convert AACR2 to RDA or create a framework for new RDA elements
  • creating local constant data record that contains all of the RDA elements

In addition to doing many of the things listed above, many smaller libraries (or consortia of smaller libraries) staff members are:

  • attending external training
  • hiring trainers to run sessions on site
  • enrolling in for-fee online courses (like those offered by Lyrasis)
  • joining professional listservs to pose questions
  • taking advantage of RDA Toolkit trials to get comfortable with the Toolkit or use a paper copy for libraries on a tight budget

Training tips for professional staff and original catalogers:

  • identify (or create) format-specific documentation. Although RDA is not arranged around format, many catalogers need format-specific information, e.g., how to catalog continuing resources, streaming media, scores, and cartographic material
  • take advantage of professional electronic discussion lists to pose questions
  • use Mappings in the RDA Toolkit to help transition staff members used to AACR2
  • allow time to catalogers to assimilate the major changes presented in RDA and FRBR. FRBR is complex and presents a radical shift in record creation. Unfortunately, most systems don’t yet adequately represent FRBR
  • acknowledge the stress that “not feeling like experts” causes as catalogers get used to new rules, new tools, and face an uncertain future

Training tips for nonprofessional staff, copy catalogers, and noncataloging staff:

  • provide training across a wide spectrum of material: copy catalogers need to know all the valid options in RDA, not just the locally preferred one (especially relevant for hybrid records that contain RDA elements in non-RDA records)
  • provide training to point-of-receipt cataloging (including vendor records), which is often done by acquisitions staff members
  • develop specialized documentation for non-cataloging staff, especially that which relates to display of RDA elements
  • collect a critical mass of items/existing RDA records so that, once training is completed, staff members will have materials to work on right away
  • hold follow-up meetings to answer questions and provide support for staff members
  • use spot checking of RDA records in the catalog to help tailor follow-up training
  • offer refresher training for staff members who missed earlier sessions or need clarification

Some institutions are providing identical training for original catalogers and copy catalogers as all staff will perform better with a grounding in theory. Some institutions are also doing a phased-approach to converting to RDA: first accepting copy, and then requiring members to convert original cataloging to RDA after the library becomes more comfortable with it. FRBR presents its own special challenges because of its theoretical nature and complexity. Some libraries have chosen to provide more in-depth training on FRBR to all staff, including copy catalogers and non-catalogers, especially because RDA’s terminology and organization are based on FRBR. Others have found it to be too confusing, impractical, and unrelated to records in the catalog, so have focused on more practical issues, such as the end of the Rule of 3 and changes in capitalization and abbreviation.

Discussion also centered on the training materials available from the Library of Congress. The LC material is comprehensive, but geared toward a specific audience, and many libraries (especially smaller libraries) found it to be too detailed or time consuming. However, larger libraries that are part of cooperative programs (i.e., PCC) are expected to train their original cataloging staff using LC’s materials, and also to complete separate PCC training. Some trainers used the LC materials as the basis for developing customized training materials for their own library. Ultimately, LC’s materials do serve as a sort of standard against which others compared their training, and almost all e-forum participants were aware of and had reviewed the materials at least to a certain extent. 

Regardless of how a library approaches the training, most libraries will benefit from developing an implementation plan, and for larger libraries, an implementation team. This team can develop a training plan, determine the resources needed, and lay out the training schedule and goals for each training session. Sole catalogers may wish to join colleagues at other libraries to compare notes, share resources, and generally provide support for each other. Unfortunately, the reduction of the regional OCLC networks has taken away a training option that used to formerly be available, and rural areas and smaller libraries may be the ones to feel this change the most.

General suggestions for trainers:  

  • “drip-feed” FRBR/RDA information as early as possible so that staff members are aware of approaching change
  • decide who needs what type of FRBR/RDA training
  • have the support of your director to give the trainers and trainees the time and materials they need to successfully make the transition
  • create and distribute a schedule listing assignments, presentations, discussion meetings, homework; consider deciding on a Day 1 for implementation and working backward from that
  • hold casual show-and-tell session (Brown bags, etc.) to introduce FRBR/RDA to Reference and Systems librarians (sessions can focus on descriptive changes, access point changes, or both)
  • include catalog-display-related staff members in RDA discussions
  • be creative when you train (ice-breakers, games, etc.)
  • remember that learning styles differ so vary your method of presenting material; mix up self-study with group work, presentations, documentation, etc.
  • aim for a positive, team-building, experience for all; create a community of learners
  • be creative when seeking opportunities for a community of learners; in small libraries/single cataloger environments, form peer review groups, or find a mentor, online
  • use content collaboration tools (Sharepoint, Confluence, etc.), staff blogs, and wikis to post documentation, share information and interact with one another
  • customize LC’s (or other) RDA training materials for local use
  • be prepared to manage expectations (‘When will the OPAC be fully FRBRized?’)
  • decide, and document, local policies
  • have confidence

ALCTS Training for RDA e-Forum Resource List

These resources are free unless otherwise noted.

LC RDA Training materials:

What is FRBR? (Barbara Tillett (LC)):

PCC website:

BIBCO Standard Record Metadata Application profiles:  

CONSER RDA handouts:

ALCTS Cataloging and RDA webinars (long list; archived):; YouTube version:]

OCLC’s Learning About RDA page (free OCLC-related information; fee-based online courses):

RDA Toolkit Essentials webinar:

RDA Toolkit free trial:

RDA Toolkit free post-event trial:

*   *   *

J. Baga, L. Hoover, and R. E. Wolverton, “Online, Practical, and Free Cataloging Resources: An Annotated Webliography,,” Library Resources & Technical Services 57, no. 2 (April 2013): 100–17. Annotated bibliography of free, online cataloging resources (AACR2, RDA, MARC), including websites, databases, workshop presentations, streaming media, and local documentation; fee-based subscription.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s RDA training website:

University of Colorado at Boulder FRBR Discussion blog:

University of Cambridge’s RDA Training materials:

Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals Practical RDA Cataloguing e-forum (archived messages):

Sample Content, Media, and Carrier (CMC) Types (Examples of CMC type combinations for the more popular monograph formats, with variations based on RDA's alternative instructions; Mark K. Ehlert):

RDA in Brief (A distillation of RDA, at least for copy catalogers (work in progress); Mark K. Ehlert):

Sample RDA and AACR2 records (RDA cataloging for some of the more popular monograph formats; includes AACR2 versions of the same records; Mark K. Ehlert): page (papers and short presentations (Susan Wynne; some older material may be obsolete):

Lyrasis Cataloging and Metadata online courses (fee based):

FRBR tutorial: Bram Stoker's Dracula in FRBR terms:;   SlideShare version:]

Pinterest board for collecting RDA information (Cynthia S. Wetzel):

MarcEdit (with RDA Helper):

—Moderated by Jennifer Erica Sweda, University of Pennsylvania Libraries and Dr. Sylvia D. Hall-Ellis, University of Denver. Kristin E. Martin contributed to this report.

This e-Forum was held May 14 and 15, 2013.

Event description.


ALCTS e-Forums are two-day, moderated, electronic discussion forums that provide an opportunity for librarians to discuss matters of interest on an ALCTS electronic discussion list. These discussions are free-of-charge and available to anyone who wishes to subscribe to the list.

ALCTS News publishes wrap-ups of e-forums in each issue. To see the schedule of upcoming forums and to sign up to participate, visit Previous sessions are archived at