I'm glad you're interested in RDA and think it's a step in the right direction. I'd like to update you on a few issues you mention in your post, however, which I hope will reassure you a bit.

Jakob Voss wrote:

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.

The PDF is output from XML files built and maintained for the purpose of providing a web-based product based on RDA, providing cataloging users with some of the functionality they're looking for. It's not clear whether the kind of linking you mention will be possible, but the impediments to it are not technical.
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).

There's still a lot of discussion about how RDA will be made available. There's a great deal of concern about whether the licensing regime proposed by the RDA publishers will be affordable by small users, but also how the goal of making RDA usable beyond the traditional library community will be accomplished under such a regime. Many of us have been concerned that an already hard sell for RDA implementation will be made even harder by lack of open access for at least the most general portions of the guidance text. I think that there's still room to argue for more openness, but I'd suggest that some specific use cases for what would be gained by open access and how that would provide value for libraries as well as the web communities might be the most useful thing right now.

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.

There are indeed URIs for the RDA Elements, as well as for the RDA Role vocabulary and increasingly, the value vocabularies. These are registered with the NSDL Registry (http://metadataregistry.org). They have URIs, vocabulary descriptions, definitions (when available), RDF encodings and XML schemas (at the vocabulary level). Unfortunately, this activity is not linked from the "official" RDA pages, but in fact the activity is going on under the aegis of the DCMI/RDA Task Group, working with the JSC and CoP to build this essential piece of infrastructure needed for RDA. The work is being funded by the British Library and Siderean Software, and also represents a great deal of volunteer effort by librarians and web professionals. You can take a look at the Task Group's wiki at http://dublincore.org/dcmirdataskgroup/FrontPage, where you can see the extensive work that has been done with specific cataloger (and developer) scenarios based on the registered vocabularies. The intent is to have this work completed and reviewed in parallel to the "publication" of the RDA text. All this work is open and freely available, not subject to whatever restrictions will be placed on the RDA text. I also know that IFLA is planning to register FRBR with the NSDL Registry so that part too will be available soon.
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.

This work has been ongoing and hardly secret, but it concerns me that you haven't heard about it, Jakob. There are two mailing lists where discussion has been going on, the RDA-L list (rd...@infoserv.nlc-bnc.ca) and the DCMI/RDA list (dc-...@jiscmail.ac.uk). I've copied them on this post so that your concerns are noted.

Diane Hillmann
Co-chair, DCMI/RDA Task Group
DCMI liaison to Committee on Cataloging: Description and Access (CC:DA)

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!

Reply via email to