Beyond the Record with RDA
By: Karen Calhoun and John Chapman
Staff from OCLC's WorldCat and Metadata Services Division just finished two well-attended webinars regarding RDA (Resource Description and Access). The webinars--consisting of similar content delivered on October 27 and October 30--were designed to let the community know what we are thinking about RDA and also to gather information about what our members are doing or thinking about in relation to RDA.
OCLC has been actively participating in the process that is producing RDA through a variety of groups and task forces. In addition, cataloging staff in OCLC's cataloging services division will be participating in the testing that has been organized by the three U.S. national libraries. Hosting the webinars was a way to share ongoing work at OCLC that relates to RDA as well to gauge the level of awareness and learn about the interests of OCLC members in aspects of the new code as it emerges.
One thing that can be said with certainty: there is a huge amount of interest in RDA. These were the most widely-attended webinars that OCLC has ever held. There were 1017 webinar logins at the October 27 webinar and 832 webinar logins on October 30. Attendees--largely practitioners in U.S. libraries, doing cataloging and technical services jobs--also included staff from other types of institutions such as governmental agencies, publishers, archives and museums. Our sense is that webinar participants included not only some who frequently travel to conferences where RDA is discussed, but also many who do not generally get to travel to these events. For some, the webinar appeared to be their first exposure to RDA.
During the two webinars--to which Ted Fons, Jean Godby, Glenn Patton and I contributed content--we asked a few polling questions. Based on the webinar chat at the October 27 webinar, we revised the questions and slides somewhat for the October 30 presentation.
At the October 30 session, we asked the following questions about attitudes and preparations for RDA. The first question asked participants to choose the most important benefit from a list (all the choices are benefits that have been publicly discussed or debated by members of the library community). The following chart shows the results of the webinar polling.
The clear first choice was RDA's promise for better support of the FRBR user tasks and the objectives of the catalog as stated in section 4 of IFLA's statement of international cataloging principles. The results of this question may be of interest to anyone who cares about RDA. But I think it's especially so for those who wish to better understand what practicing catalogers believe is most important about the new rules. One may also speculate, based on these results, that the other choices--all intended outcomes of RDA adoption--are not being communicated or understood as clearly by catalogers.
The results of the second question are shown below. Because we asked people to parse out their "some combination of the above" answers, and many did, we were able to break those votes out and add them to the results. The 573 responses ended up representing 717 "votes". That is why the results add up to more than 100%.
Based on these results, catalogers' primary activities are information gathering and waiting to see what others do--suggesting early days in the process of understanding and adopting the new rules.
We are well aware that many in the library community are paying close attention to what OCLC does with respect to RDA. While it would not be appropriate for OCLC to dictate that all our cataloging members adopt RDA, we fully expect that some will, so we want to be ready. We agree with Barbara Tillett and others who speak of a "bridge" or RDA transition period during which the cataloging environment will be a hybrid one of records described under a variety of rules, evolving workflows, crosswalks and mappings. As the availability of RDA draws near, we anticipate that we'll be collaborating with a number of key partners to help introduce RDA to OCLC cataloging members.
Thanks to the many individuals who joined us for the two webinars and told us what they think and want to know about RDA. In response to requests, we're repeating the webinar "RDA and OCLC" on November 19 at 1:00 pm U.S. Eastern time. If you were unable to attend last month, we invite you to register.