Wednesday, March 19, 2008

RDA, FRBR, and other acronyms

I am SO GLAD that Karen Coyle gave her talk at Code4Lib on RDA. I myself have been asked to do a powerpoint presentation on RDA/FRBR for the cataloging department, and the points she’s raising are insanely useful (although also scary). She makes a good stab at talking about weaknesses and strengths of RDA without coming down on one side or the other.

Of course, in this blog, I don’t really feel like being unbiased. I will be for the powerpoint presentation, but not here! One of the useful things about being a nobody.
The thing that really gets me (and I commented on the FRBR blog about this), is that the RDA creators seem to be getting farther and farther away from what they said they would be doing, and that may force librarians to dislike RDA.

Some of the professed goals of RDA:

1. Create a more streamlined standard.
800 pages later, I’m questioning that one.

2. Hold true to the FRBR ideal.
They don’t use the attributes in FRBR to describe things in RDA. Why, I don’t know.

3. Make things easier for the user to find what they need, in the context of all knowledge.
RDA doesn’t address subject headings. And no one has ever heard of FRAD except the people on the RDA/FRBR/FRAD groups. And FRAD doesn’t do anything, anyway. It’s conceptual, just like FRBR.

4. Make the focus the content of the record, not the display of the record.
This is all well and good, but telling a cataloger not to standardize their records is like asking a fish not to swim. We’re trained this way! Taking the display rules out won’t automatically make us stop thinking about it.

5. Create a standard that archives, libraries, museums, and creators of digital materials can use.
No one except librarians is talking about RDA. I don’t see a lot of discussion (well, ANY discussion) from archivists or curators about RDA. Is this one of those “it’ll be for their own good” kind of initiatives? I think we all know how well MARC for archives turned out.

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"Wicked people never have time for reading. It's one of the reasons for their wickedness." —Lemony Snicket, The Penultimate Peril.