Another cataloging assignment

My incredibly limited understanding of Resource Description and Access (RDA), is that it is a new set of rules for cataloging any medium using the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) model. RDA is built on the foundation of Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules 2 (AACR2), with resource description and access designed for the digital world. RDA is focused on more of a metadata structure, with relationships that provide more access points to records, so that it works more like web searching than like catalog searching. It seems to me that it is trying to mesh descriptions of many kinds of objects into one search function. It has more fields with more attributes that give more descriptive information, which is what gives it more access points. This also allows museums and archives to use it, giving access to more information from a single search (A. S. Chandel & Prasad, 2013).

Clearly AACR2 did its job of cataloging our libraries well. It has been the standard for many years, and was accepted internationally. It has as its foundation the Paris Principles from 1960. As the years passed it was revised to handle new situations and new materials, but increasingly catalogers found the AACR2 rules too specific and not easily adaptable to the new formats (Adamich, 2008).

AACR2 has very specific rules, formats, punctuation, and abbreviations. RDA is vague. It has more options, with the idea of making it more useful to the user by being able to catalog more kinds of objects into the same system. It seems to be trying to imitate the feel of a Google search. At its core the object of cataloging is to describe objects so that they can be found. Both RDA and AACR2 would say that is their goal.

Michael Gorman’s harangue against RDA has some valid points. He was advocating further revisions of AACR2 rather than an entire rework of the system; in fact he claims to have written up revisions that would accomplish everything that RDA accomplished, but at a fraction of the cost spent on implementing the new system of RDA (Gorman, 2007) (Gorman, 2016).

The Library of Congress, being one of the main backers of RDA, is pleased with the outcomes they have seen in its implementation, stating that:

The primary benefit to the Library of Congress from its implementation of RDA is that the new cataloging standard provides more flexibility in cataloging decisions; makes cataloging data easier to share internationally; permits clearer linking among related works, and is more suited to describing digital and nonprint library resources. Library of Congress management believes that the straightforward RDA instructions are one reason the Library has achieved its production goals in an era of constrained staffing and budgets (Morris & Wiggins, 2016, p. 28).

Finally, by premising the joint implementation of RDA on the demonstration of credible progress toward a new bibliographic framework, the Library of Congress and its implementation partners have embraced the linked-data model for future encoding and interchange of bibliographic data, which promises to make library data much more visible and useful on the Internet (Morris & Wiggins, 2016, p. 29).


In some ways the debate over RDA vs. AACR2 is a moot point, since RDA is now being used and will become the standard. The more I read the more I understand the need behind RDA, we do need a cataloging system that allows for the cataloging of many kinds of materials, which will yield web style search results. Linked data, metadata, and descriptions are all needed for digital objects, archival objects, and our lovely old books so they can be found by users. Could AACR2 have been updated again to accomplish this? I do not have the experience to form an opinion on that. I do know that new, shiny, and expensive seems to be current society’s preference to everything. But with shiny new technology, it is possible that a shiny new system is required.



Adamich, T. (2008). RDA (Resource Description and Access): The New Way to Say, “AACR2.” Knowledge Quest, 36(3), 64–69.

Chandel, A. S., & Prasad, R. V. (2013). Journey of Catalogue from Panizzi’s Principles to Resource Description and Access. DESIDOC Journal of Library & Information Technology, 33(4), 314–322.

Gorman, M. (2007). RDA: Imminent Debacle. American Libraries, 38(11), 64–65.

Gorman, M. (2016). RDA: The Emperor’s New Code. A brief Essay. Italian Journal of Library & Information Science, 7(2), 99–107. https://doi.org/10.4403/jlis.it-11565

Morris, S. R., & Wiggins, B. (2016). Implementing RDA at the Library of Congress. Italian Journal of Library & Information Science, 7(2), 199–228. https://doi.org/10.4403/jlis.it-11824



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