Cataloging, Gender, and RDA Rule 9.7

Wednesday, 3/15/2017
  • 2:00 PM (Eastern)
  • 1:00 PM (Central)
  • 12:00 PM (Mountain)
  • 11:00 AM (Pacific)
This webinar was presented on March 15, 2017.  Access the recording and presentation slides here:
One of the paradoxes at the heart of library cataloging and classification is the demand to fix in place elements of a record even when those elements are in flux. We have to name things in order to locate them, which means we can’t escape encounters with the politics of naming. This webinar will discuss the particular example of RDA rule 9.7, a rule that, if recorded, required gender to be fixed in RDA-compliant name authority records until a group of catalogers fought to make it optional.
Prior to January 2016, rule 9.7 directed catalogers to record gender when identifying persons. Although RDA gave catalogers the flexibility to record more than two gender labels, RDA rule 9.7 limited Name Authority Cooperative Program (NACO) catalogers to a binary controlled vocabulary: male, female, or not known. Queer theory tells us that gender simply doesn’t work this way. Gender is socially constructed and contingent. Requiring a binary label meant requiring that catalogers ignore the wishes of many trans- and gender-variant authors, as well as authors who simply did not wish to disclose their gender. With this problem in mind, a group of catalogers lobbied the international RDA Steering Committee for a rule change and ultimately succeeded. Additionally, after the rule change a PCC Ad Hoc Task Group was formed to recommend best-practices for recording gender in name authority records. 
The product of both theorizing and activism, the RDA rule change also represents a powerful moment of praxis, reminding librarians that thinking and working together can change the profession for good.

Learning Outcomes

During this webinar, participants will:
  • Learn the basic concepts of queer theory in order to understand thinking about gender outside of the male/female binary.
  • Review the development of RDA and the shift in cataloging practice for name authorities in order to understand the need for an intervention in RDA Rule 9.17.
  • Learn about the process of changing RDA Rule 9.7 in order to understand how catalogers can intervene to make positive change on behalf of authors and users.
  • Discuss the implications and best-practices for recording gender of a person in an RDA Authority Record in order to develop ethical description practices for gender in authority files based on the recommendations of the PCC Ad Hoc Task Group on Gender in Name Authority Records.

Who Should Attend

General library professionals who have some background in cataloging


Amber Billey is the Metadata Librarian at Columbia University Libraries and is a visiting instructor at Pratt School of Information. Amber is Chair of the ALCTS Creative Ideas in Technical Services Interest Group. She is the Co-Chair of the PCC BIBFRAME Task Group, and serves on the PCC NACO Task Group on Identity Management. She is also on the Advisory Board for the Digital Transgender Archive and the editorial board for the Homosaurus - a linked data thesaurus for the LGBTQ community. 
Emily Drabinski is an academic librarian, author and teacher working in New York City. She holds the position of Coordinator of Library Instruction at Long Island University, Brooklyn and is a part-time faculty member at Pratt Institute's School of Information. She was a 2014 Library Journal Mover & Shaker Advocate,and winner of the Ilene F. Rockman Instruction Publication of the Year in 2015 for her article "Towards a Kairos of Library Instruction.” 



All webinars are recorded and the one-time fee includes unlimited access to the webinar recording. All registered attendees will receive the link to the recorded session so if you are unable to attend the webinar at the time it is presented, you will have the opportunity to listen to the recording at your convenience.

How to Register

No registration required.

Tech Requirements

Computer with Internet access (high-speed connection is best) and media player software. Headphones recommended.

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For questions about registration, contact ALA Registration by calling 1-800-545-2433 and press 5 or email

For all other questions or comments related to the webinars, contact Megan Dougherty, ALCTS Events Manager at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5038 or


Duke University Press

This web course is generously sponsored by Gender Studies Collection from Duke University Press.