The Great Debate

The main subject from the last few conferences I have attended (at least in regards to the tech services tracks) is the future of cataloging.  We are now only a year away from the release of RDA (despite the LC’s Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control’s recommendation that work on it be suspended).  At MLA this last week I got to hear from Both Janet Swan Hill (who sat on the working group) and from Diane Hillman (an RDA supporter from Cornell).

This provided a unique opportunity to way both the pros and cons of the proposal.  RDA is supposed to replace the AACR2, which roughly speaking provides the grammar for cataloging.  The big changes in it are designed to make it play nicely with the FRBR standard, and to make updating records easier by replacing the our current text strings with URI linkages.  Both of which are admirable goals.

But then came the final report of the working group (skip to page 31 for the RDA bit).  Personally I would love to see all these changes come about, we’ve waited too long for them already.  However, I want to make clear that I’m not dismissing the work of anyone involved in these projects, I take issue with how long it took to begin the work on the new standards, not on the progress made since then.

But I am concerned with the practicality of the innovations the cataloging profession is awaiting.  Making the new standards is one thing, convincing the ILS vendors, publishers and OCLC to play along is another, and I’m not sure I see that happening yet.  Right now everyone is awaiting the RDA release next year, while in the meantime I’m still waiting for the implementation of last year’s supposed upgrade to my ILS.  So I’m just dreading the prospect of being able to see the “future of cataloging” but not being able to participate in it.

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