As you may already noticed the Resource Description and Access (RDA) cataloguing instructions will be published 2009. You can submit final comments on the full draft until February 2nd:


Although there are several details you can argue about (and despite the questions whether detailed cataloguing rules have a future at all when people do cataloguing in LibraryThing, BibSonomy etc. without rules) I think that RDA is a step in the right direction. But there are some serious problems with the publication of RDA that should be of your interest:

1.) the standard is scattered in a set of PDF files instead of clean web based HTML (compare with the W3C recommendations). You cannot easily browse and search in RDA with your browser and a public search engine of your choice. You cannot link to a specific paragraph to cite RDA in a weblog positing etc. This shows me that the authors are still bound in physical world of dusty books instead of the digital age.

2.) RDA is not going to be published freely available on the web at all! See http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/jsc/rdafaq.html#7 Another reason why you won't be able to refer to specific sections of RDA. Defining a standard without putting in on Open Access (ideally under a specific CC-license) is retrogressive practise and a good strategy to make people ignored, misinterprete and violated it (you could also argue ethically that its a shame for every librarian not putting his publications under Open Access but the argument of quality should be enough).

3.) There are no official URIs for the elements of RDA. It looks like there has been no progress compared to FRBR (IFLA failed to publish an official RDF encoding of FRBR so several people created their own vocabularies). To encode bibliographic data on the Semantic web you need URIs for classes and properties. I don't expect RDA to get published as a full ontology but at least you could determine the basic concepts and elements and provide common URIs that people can build on. There are several attempts to create ontologies for bibliographic data but most of them come from outside the professional library community. Without connection to the Semantic Web RDA will be irrelevant outside the library world. With official URIs people can build on RDA and create a common ontology of it. Deirdre Kiorgaard did a good job in collecting elements [1] and Eversberg provides a database to start with.

What do you think about my concerns? We should try to get the JSC to make RDA Open Access, prepared for use in the Web and even prepared for the Semantic Web. This should not be too difficult - the main work is convincing people (ok, it may be difficult to convince people ;-). I'd be glad if you send your comments to the Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA until February 2nd:


It would be a pitty if RDA is an irrelevant anachronism from the beginning just because it is not published the way standards need to be published on the Web.

Jakob Voss

[1] http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/jsc/docs/5rda-elementanalysisrev.pdf

[2] A helpful tool for structured temporary access to RDA is provided by Bernhard Eversberg at http://www.biblio.tu-bs.de/db/wtr/detail.php - this is what should be provided officially!

Jakob Voß <jakob.v...@gbv.de>, skype: nichtich
Verbundzentrale des GBV (VZG) / Common Library Network
Platz der Goettinger Sieben 1, 37073 Göttingen, Germany
+49 (0)551 39-10242, http://www.gbv.de

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