Can you believe it’s been a year already? It seems like only yesterday I was ensconced in a conference room in Philadelphia listening to Jean Pajerek and Patricia Sayre-McCoy present on The RDA Decision and What It Will Mean for Me and My Library. But despite the feeling of familiarity, the July heat and the overenthusiastic air conditioning, it remains an undeniable fact that yes, an entire year has passed since then, and this time our conference room is miles away in Boston. Many of the faces are the same, from presenters to audience members, and the energy and excitement is still palpable as ever, but one thing was noticeably different - our answers finally outweighed our questions.
Last year, Pajerek and Sayre-McCoy described their experiences with the RDA testing process and training. This year, they have returned, proudly holding their decision to implement RDA before the U.S. national libraries do as one would a well-earned trophy – displaying battle scars and entertaining us and educating us with anecdotes and best practices learned during the last year. This program detailed their experiences transitioning from AACR2 to RDA, the impact on workflows, productivity, OPAC displays, information retrieval and more. In contrast to last year, dominated by theoreticals, this year both presenters chose to employ the use of PowerPoint to great effect, walking us through screen shots and image captures of the immutable ways RDA has played out in real life and is changing the face of our cataloging processes and procedures.
As always, I love both of these ladies’ sense of humor – a must when dealing with boring cataloging terminology and practices. For example, there is nothing more refreshing and comforting than hearing that you shouldn’t get bent out of shape about periods – it’s a fantastic change from the early stereotypes of punctuation Nazis at their typewriters with their stacks of catalog cards and their excruciating attention to the placement of every single space, comma and period. These days, while there are still rules about these sorts of things, it’s time to recognize that the world won’t stop turning if you accidentally mistype your transcription. This is what these ladies do – they make you feel your mass of overwhelmed confusion and your fear of doing something wrong is nothing but normalcy and that mistakes are commonplace and unavoidable. You have to be brave and deliberate and take a bold step forward into the new frontier and learn with everyone else – remember that there are no experts and there are very few “right” answers.
The program began with Sayre-McCoy giving her one year recap of the progress University of Chicago libraries have made in the RDA implementation adventure. The major cataloging changes such as “no more rule of three” and “no more abbreviations” were quickly reviewed, but this part of RDA programs now seems obligatory. Anyone who has been keeping up with RDA knows these like the back of their hand, especially since they’re some of the most tangible changes to get your head around. The baby steps of transition, I suppose. The best part is, now that we’ve stepped out of the world of impending and into the world of implementing, all cataloging changes discussed can now be supported with examples and real life tie-ins on how these changes will be useful for patrons.
The 3xx fields were reviewed and refreshingly enough, at this point the holy triumvirate that represents “printed material” appears proverbial as an old friend. Again, the fear of the newness is slowly waning and being replaced with something entirely different - a feeling of community and eagerness, a chance to smile at each other over the finer points of RDA and an opportunity to laugh and learn together. As a result, additional bits of information have begun soaking into my brain – for instance, the 3xx fields are a place to exercise caution as a cataloger. Although these fields offer you a chance to provide more detailed descriptions for your resources, the terms in these fields must be approved by the Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA (JSC) before you can use them. But it’s this ability to seek approval that is one of the most forward thinking things about RDA. It’s a living, breathing organism, able to change through the combined efforts and desires of our entire community, not by one or two people making arbitrary decisions.
With the PowerPoint medium, audience members were able to see RDA records live as well as screenshots from OCLC Connexion, demonstrating the incorporation of macros and drop-down menus to ease the strain and workload for original catalogers. However, even more interesting than the screen shots was learning step by step instructions on how to view RDA records in the Library of Congress catalog at http://www.loc.gov. Especially for catalogers just hopping on the RDA train, one of the biggest questions is always “how do they look?” – closely followed by “how can I find them?” With RDA records being added every day, simply clicking on “Basic Search”, selecting “Expert Search” and then typing in “040e rda” allows you to view RDA records in full or MARC format. During the question and answer portion of the program, we also learned that adding “AND k955 xg?” to your search terms will limit your results to law related records.
Sayre-McCoy then went on to training, reviewing some of her favorite sites such as the Catalogers Learning Workshop (http://www.loc.gov/catworkshop/), where all LC training materials and links on authority and bib records are held. You can learn at your own pace with these materials, able to train from the comfort of your own office or workspace – invaluable for those staffs with small budget lines for professional development. Another site worth its weight in gold, especially as a librarian in a smaller operation which subsists mainly on copy cataloging, is Cornell’s wiki on RDA (https://confluence.cornell.edu/display/culpublic/RDA+Documentation). This public wiki contains resources such as their copy cataloging policy and associated checklist for accepting and enhancing RDA records, one MARC field at a time.
At this point Pajerek, who hails from the Cornell Law Library, took over and began reviewing changes to the RDA Toolkit, authority records and OCLC Connexion that have taken place over the last year. Starting with a walkthrough of the Toolkit, Pajerek pointed out changes ranging from the simple, such as having icons in place of words and creative commons licenses being required for workflows, to those with higher impact, such as the inclusion of RDA update history. Yes, in the beast that is the RDA Toolkit, you can now find archived text and revision summaries, tracking the long, strange journey that is still in process. One of the biggest takeaways concerning the toolkit was the caution against using their workflows as a crutch, since you absolutely need context for the rules that make up these workflows. Also note that these workflows aren’t authoritative - while some catalogers have more experience than others, there are no experts in RDA, and there are no official best practices yet.
Excitingly enough, a small group of catalogers have begun enhancing their AACR2 authority records with some of the new RDA elements. Don’t fear the mix and match approach. All of the information you can enter using RDA turns these bland AACR2 records into upgraded, souped up uber-records that make exciting things happen in the linked data arena. Pajerek provided the eager audience with some of concrete examples of these enhanced records and then walked us through the use of two new OCLC authority indexes, one on Entity Attributes and one on Relationships, demonstrating the power of these indexes and all of the metadata in enabling retrieval of authority records based on the information supplied in the new MARC fields and subfields.
After bowling us over with the breadth and depth of their own knowledge and experiences concerning RDA, the question and answer portion began. Startlingly, and in direct contrast to all earlier RDA programs I’ve attended, not one concrete question emerged. The question and answer prompting created a conversation that turned into more of a community effort, with other members of the cataloging world stepping up and sharing their own knowledge, truly driving the point home that there are no experts. We are all learning and launching into this new frontier as a true community, not isolated parts of a whole. All in all, a delightful fact to behold.