RDA began in 1997 at the International Conference on the Principles and Future Development of AACR in Toronto. AACR was faulted for lacking guiding principles, for muddling the difference between content and carriers, for lacking a logical structure, and for being insufficient for internationalization.
RDA is designed for use within a digital world, both in the sense that it can be used as an online product and that the records resulting from it will be usable in digital environments. RDA will be a flexible, international standard designed primarily for library usage.
Technology has brought about great changes in the cataloging world that RDA has had to address. Catalogs are no longer isolated, they require round the clock, global access and integration with a wider environment of bibliographic data. Catalogs will likely use a cloud computing model in the near future.
RDA will be based around FRBR, and thus item data can be linked in many useful ways. Related works can be linked and subject relationships can be established.
Representatives from the RDA project team have met with members of the Dublin Core, IEEE/LOB and Semantic Web communities to ensure compatability with those environments.
RDA will follow international principals established by IFLA:
- Convenience of User
- Common Usage
- Sufficiency and Necessity
- Consistency and Standardization
- Defensible, Not Arbitrary
RDA will also follow the principle of representation, "Take what you see, accept what you get".
There are many changes between RDA and AACR2, for instance the rule of 3 will now be optional and abbreviations will be discouraged. RDA will new terminology, distancing it from terms that can be traced back to card catalogs (i.e. headings will now be access points). Authority control can be tailed by individual institutions to their needs (i.e. change the default language from english). RDA will make a distinction between content, media and carrier types, with media types possibly fading away in the future once more sophisticated systems are developed.
The hope is that the new element model of RDA, which shares much with the various online metadata communities, will prove to be far more relevant to information retrieval needs than that of AACR2.
RDA will only be available on the web, the ALA has not exhibited interest in publishing the finalized standard. They will however host the document on their servers in a format somewhat similar to that of catalogers' desktop. The service will allow users to annotate and flag passeges within the document, and these can be shared with other users if desired. Users will be able to customize much of the functionality in their personal, portable profiles.
One of the nicer features is that users may create workflow documents for their staff that will link to the relevant passeges within the RDA document. These workflows can then be shared between users.
These online features are still in the prototype stage.
The designers of RDA envision its being incorporated with the various ILS systems, however ALA publishing has not had those conversations with the necessary vendors yet.
New MARC fields have been suggested to allow for the inclusion of new RDA fields (i.e. 336-338 for content, media and carrier types). Individuals must check with their ILS vendors to ensure that these changes will be made to their systems.
It will not be required to update non-RDA records, but there are certain changes that could be glaring if these changes are not enacted (notably spelling out abbreviations).
The publisher will launch the first release of RDA in late '09 or early '10. At that point LC, NAL, and NLM will begin testing. The British Library, the Library of Canada, and the National Library of Australia will also implement RDA in 2010 and share their experiences.
The US test will last 9 to 10 months, and will involve roughly 20 organizations, plus the three national libraries creating a base set of 25 records using both RDA and their current standard. The results and recommendations of this test will be widely shared and everyone is encouraged to follow the testers methodology throughout the process.