RDA – Not Everyone is a Fan…

The Bib Blog has a recent post up concerning RDA and what James Weinheimer thinks about it. The article provides some of his arguments against RDA, and has links to his conference speaking notes.

Are some of his points valid?


3 thoughts on “RDA – Not Everyone is a Fan…

  1. I’ll comment on this here, since it seems I would have to set up a separate account on “Bib Blog” and I don’t see how to do that immediately. As preliminary remarks, my paper also appears in my own blog at http://blog.jweinheimer.net/2012/02/is-rda-only-way-alternative-option.html. Also, to continue my argument, there is a paper I gave in Oslo in February http://blog.jweinheimer.net/2012/02/revolution-in-our-minds-seeing-world.html, and finally a podcast on the Linked Data universe at http://blog.jweinheimer.net/2012/03/cataloging-matters-podcast-no-14.html. These all kind of go together. There has also been discussion on various lists about all of this, and my postings are on my blog.

    Again, the pro-RDA people believe, “RDA represents a transitional phase leading the cataloguing community to something like linked data where our bibliographic data will be able to more easily connect up with other data already on the web instead of trapped in traditional catalogue records and library information systems” (from the Bib Blog posting). I agree with this to a point, but the simple fact is, neither RDA nor FRBR are needed if the purpose is to get into the Linked Data universe. All we need are either RDF or various microdata formats, but we do not need to restructure our records fundamentally, or adopt the tiny updates to our catalog rules that RDA envisions.

    But yet again, it must be demonstrated that going into the Linked Data universe actually will accomplish something useful for libraries. Right now, no one–and I want to emphasize NO ONE–knows if our records in the Linked Data universe will indeed be useful. It is only an article of faith. Having faith is fine, and I have nothing against it, but faith is not a lot to rely on when you are making substantial bets.

    Once again, my suggestion has been to get into the Linked Data universe as quickly, as easily, and as cheaply as possible to get at least some kind of an idea whether it would be worth the additional effort to restructure our records, which RDA and FRBR foresees. Personally, I have serious doubts as to how useful our records will be to the public if and when they are in the linked data universe, but I am very willing to be proven wrong. Of course, such a demonstration would have been an important part of a genuine business plan to argue in favor of RDA, but creating a business plan has been ignored and apparently discarded as superfluous and unnecessary(!).

    Finally, in Bib Blog, he mentions “No matter what the size of your library I don’t think the commitment to implement RDA should be as economically challenging as Weinheimer suggests in this presentation. Although the situation would be so much better if RDA had been offered openly free for all to use.” I respectfully disagree, and have seen that there are many small libraries literally on the edge. It is my suspicion that many administrators will take advantage of their inability to fund training and access to the rules, along with the lack of any business plan that demonstrates any tangible desirable outcomes, as an opportunity to “save money” by shutting down local technical services, and just outsource cataloging and as much of their technical processing as possible, since that is a genuine possibility today.

    At the same time, there is so much for librarians to do, if we would only have a “Revolution in Our Minds: Seeing Things Anew” as the title of my paper in Oslo put it. The future *could be* very bright.

  2. Thank you very much for your thoughtful comment. In our Cataloguing 2 class we have been learning about RDA and discussing its implementation, and you have brought up some really great points that we did not think about in class.

    I agree that small libraries have the most to be concerned about, as it seems like now they have no choice in the matter as LoC has made public its strategy to implement RDA next year.

    Thank you for the further links to discussion, I look forward to reading them.

  3. I think an important point to consider is something alluded to in one of the comments above, and this is that we don’t really have a good understanding of how people interact with our catalogue records. There have been a few (not enough) studies that have focused on how people interact with the library catalogue, but emphasis was upon matters such as interface, search results, relevance, and so forth. What has been lacking are studies that look at how people actually interact with the records themselves, e.g., how useful is the content of the records? How accurate? How relevant? Is the display of the content intuitive and useful, and so forth? As we move into RDA, I think it is even more important that we examine clients’ satisfaction with catalogue records since, as I’ve said before, I think that we design these records more for cataloguers sometimes, than for our clients.

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