RDA 2010

ANSS Subject and Bibliographic Access Committee Question/Answer on cataloging issues – Nov. 2010
What is RDA and how will it impact cataloging?
What is RDA?

RDA stands for Resource Description and Access. It is the new cataloging standard, replacing AACR2. RDA is based on the FRBR (functional requirements for bibliographic records) and FRAD (functional requirements for authority data) concept models. FRBR and FRAD are models which are internationally recognized as viable and valuable ways to conceptually structure and retrieve information.
How long has RDA been available and are catalogers using it now?

RDA has been widely disseminated in various drafts for a few years. Most catalogers are familiar with some of the concepts in RDA, although few are expert at the new rules yet. This is partly because in the United States RDA was not universally accepted upon release in June of 2010. Instead the Library of Congress and 25 other libraries will test the new rules during a nine month period.
This test began this summer and will continue until April of 2011. At that time the Library of Congress will make a recommendation as to whether they feel it is worth it to adopt RDA or not. Until the Library of Congress commits to the new rules, most other U.S. libraries are continuing to catalog using AACR2 rules. However, there are 25 libraries assisting with the national test that are, of course, cataloging using RDA. As of early Nov. 2010, there were approximately 3000 RDA records in OCLC.
How will RDA impact my library?

RDA itself is available in electronic form. Since the rules are completely restructured to follow a FRBR concept, it can be difficult to locate the pertinent rules, even for experienced catalogers. Every cataloger will have to be trained in the new rules as will most acquisitions staff. Circulation and reference staff will also need to be aware of certain changes which will affect access. In short, you can expect your library to have to be involved in a level of training equivalent to purchasing a new ILS.
How does RDA differ from AACR2?

In many regards the rules have remained substantially the same, and an AACR2 record may not look that different than an RDA record. In some cases the rules have changed significantly. There is not space in this column to discuss every change between AACR2 and RDA. However, we will highlight a few of the changes here.
1. AACR2 has a list of abbreviations that were used throughout the record. In RDA there are very, very few abbreviations used and most terms are spelled out. Examples:

  • AACR2: 300 |a ca. 200 p. : |b chiefly ill. (some col.) ; |c 32 cm.
  • RDA: 300 |a approximately 200 pages : |b illustrations (some color) ; |c 32 cm.
    • 500 |a Chiefly illustrations.

2. AACR2 used Latin abbreviations which will also not be used in RDA. Examples:

  • AACR2: 260 |a [S.l. : |b s.n.], |c 1966.
  • RDA: 260 |a[Place of publication not identified] : |b [publisher not identified], |c 1966.

3. There is an emphasis in RDA to type what you see and to make our notes more explicative to the general public. For example:

  • AACR2: 245 |a Micromagentic [sic] study of magnetoeleastic materials
  • RDA: 245 |a Micromagentic study of magnetoeleastic materials
    • 246 |i Title should read: |a Micromagnetic study of magnetoeleastic materials

4. In AACR2 a cataloger would list all the authors only if there were 3 or less. In RDA the cataloger has the option to list all the authors on the title page. For example:

  • AACR2: 245 |a Anthropology / |c Sean Markey … [et al.].
  • RDA: 245 |a Anthropology / |c Sean Markey, John T. Pierce, Kelly Vodden, Mark Roseland, and Vincent Pudden.
  • Or in RDA you can choose: 245 |a 245 |a Anthropology / |c Sean Markey [and four others].

5. There will also be changes to headings. For example:

  • AACR2: Smith, John, ca. 1837-1896
  • RDA: Smith, John, approximately 1837-1896


  • AACR2: Smith, John, b. 1825
  • RDA: Smith, John, born 1825
  • AACR2: Brown, George, Captain
  • RDA: Brown, George (Soldier)
  • NOTE: In RDA the cataloger is allowed to qualify a name by a profession or occupation.


  • AACR2: Comparative Canadian Literature Conference
  • RDA: Annual Comparative Canadian Literature Conference


  • AACR2: Bible. O.T. English. Gordon et al. 1927
  • RDA: Bible. Old Testament. English. Gordon and others. 1927

Examples were taken from Changes from AACR2 to RDA : a comparison of examples by Adam L. Schiff.

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