Presenters: Paul Frank, Library of Congress, George Prager, NYU Law Library, Lia Contursi, Columbia Law School Library, John Hostage, Harvard Law School Library, Melissa Beck, UCLA Law Library, and Pat Sayre-McCoy, University of Chicago Law Library

The presenters designed this all-day workshop to introduce law catalogers to Resource Description and Access (RDA) cataloging instructions and to specifically cover those specialized instances of cataloging legal materials. Knowing that RDA implementation arrives just around the corner and that I will soon be participating in an intense series of training sessions with my university’s library system, I wanted to gain a leg-up on knowing how to navigate the new standards and how to best find those instructions that pertain to legal materials. The staff at Library of Congress have already been training and practicing RDA and full implementation of the standard begins early next year. Thus, it is important that all catalogers begin their education in this new and exciting theoretical practice within our profession.

The morning began with check-in and breakfast at which time participants received a handbook of PowerPoint slides, useful “cheat sheets,” and learning exercises. Laptops were also set up to accommodate two participants sharing a computer to access the RDA Toolkit. Prior to attendance we completed a bit of homework, which included registering for a free 30-day trial of the RDA Toolkit and reading the Introduction through Chapter 3.5 of the standards. Many attendees experienced problems logging into the RDA Toolkit at the beginning of the workshop; however, technical support was called in and most were able to find alternative methods of reaching the instructions for following along with presentations.

The workshop kicked off with a skit by Paul Frank and George Prager portraying a typical reference encounter in the law library. This demonstration exemplified all four user tasks as defined by the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR): find, identify, select, and obtain. We also found within this demonstration an opportunity to discuss FRBR’s Group 1 entities of work, expression, manifestation, and item, Group 2 entities of person, corporate bodies, and families, and Group 3 entities of concepts, objects, events, and places. In all cataloging instances one finds attributes and relationships of and between these three groups of entities. FRBR, along with the user tasks defined by Functional Requirements for Authority and Data (FRAD), (find, identify, contextualize, and justify), serves as the foundation of RDA in which recorded attributes and relationships strive to reach the goal of meeting both sets of user tasks. This portion of the presentation proved a humorously effective introduction by defining the new cataloging lingo and theory. I found it a great recap of the concepts first introduced in graduate school and I imagine that audience members who previously had minimal interaction with the concepts now have a good enough grasp of them to begin thinking in terms of RDA theory.

Mr. Prager continued with his discussion, “Identifying and Relating Resources and Entities.” After the introduction to RDA foundational theory this presentation smoothly transitioned the audience into the RDA instructions and alternatives. The focus of this portion of the workshop centered on differentiating works, constructing authorized access points, identifying different expressions of the same work, and relationships between resources and entities. After lunch Mr. Prager again took the stage to discuss the RDA instructions governing the cataloging of new editions of monographs. We covered various instructions and were shown examples of how one might handle new editions and expressions of the same work.

An audience member raised an interesting question during Mr. Prager’s discussion concerning the extent to which authority records will be created for works under RDA standards. This question provoked a conversation about RDA instructions being based on a three-dimensional theory, but our records still being recorded in the flat, MARC format. This is one of the ongoing topics underlying the implementation of RDA and many believe that the practice will evolve and change as more catalogers begin working through the various new issues.

Next, Lia Contursi introduced us to the RDA Toolkit, the online version of RDA standards. We covered various ways of accessing this essential guide, including the toolkit itself, Cataloger’s Desktop, and OCLC Connexion 2.40. Ms. Contursi explained the benefits of having one’s own subscription to the toolkit, such as creating workflows, performing searches, filtering documents, and adding bookmarks. We also went through the various sections of the toolkit and what each one covers. Interesting discussions generated by this portion of the workshop included the frustration of forcing the new RDA content standard into the current MARC code standard and the need to practice RDA in order to best make sense of the new instructions. Ms. Contursi then took us through Toolkit navigation exercises in our handbooks. Although we were unable to get through all of them I am glad to have worksheets to take home and practice in the office.

The workshop delved into the heart of legal cataloging when John Hostage used his portion of the session to discuss using RDA instructions to record law, constitutions, treaties, and court reports. He also provided us with thoughtful examples and exercises steering our minds toward thinking in RDA terms. RDA standards provide a great amount of detail specific to the cataloging of legal materials and it was very helpful to be shown where we can find that information. This topic is essential to law catalogers and led to thought provoking discussion among audience members. One of the major points expressed by this presentation was that cataloger’s judgment will be an integral part of cataloging legal materials, but we are able to find guidance when time is taken to look up the instructions.

Melissa Beck discussed the cataloging of serials and integrating resources under the new RDA instructions. With limited time left in the day she shortened her presentation, but was still effective in pointing out the pertinent sections of RDA to be studied when dealing with these tricky materials. She also emphasized the importance of practicing the new cataloging standard in order to learn how to best create effective records. As with other portions of the workshop Ms. Beck’s materials will be made available which will serve well for any serials cataloger.

To wrap up the workshop Pat Sayre-McCoy presented the audience with beneficial resources for continued learning and training. The Library of Congress provides training as does RDA and the Name Authority Cooperative of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging (NACO). She also emphasized the importance of practice and allowing one’s self to make some mistakes. Mr. Frank closed the workshop by asking, “What comes next?” As other presenters had mentioned, the point was again asserted that practice is imperative to best learn RDA and build confidence in implementing its practice.

The handouts and PowerPoints for this presentation proved very helpful and easy to follow. If you have an inclination to collect additional RDA training materials I recommend accessing and following along with these handouts, available at the TS-SIS site, and audio recordings as available. Mr. Frank and Mr. Prager’s opening presentation is very much worth the listening. Librarians from all departments will benefit from this clear breakdown of the new theories underlying RDA implementation and how they impact not only technical, but public services as well. Listeners may also find humor in the skit on a topic that to non-catalogers may seem a mundane subject. Although Ms. Contursi’s portion of the presentation used many online demonstrations she effectively vocalized her steps in accessing the Toolkit documents making this a reasonable portion for listening. Any cataloger who deals with legal materials will be well served by listening to audio recordings of Mr. Hostage’s presentation. In addition to the information and instructions provided by the presenters the discussions raised by audience members concerning everyday cataloging practice will help to get the wheels turning in the minds of those who tune in. All of the presenters emphasized that practice is key and that RDA is not yet a finalized product. RDA is a fluid set of standards and catalogers have the opportunity to keep the discussions going on issues and best practices allowing for continued improvement. The workshop served well to demonstrate that this is an exciting time to be a cataloger in that we have the opportunity, through training and practice, to influence the new RDA standards. Let’s get cataloging!