Friday, March 29, 2013

Hello RDA, Good-bye Dept.

Few things in the library world in recent years are as big a deal is Resource Description and Access, better known as RDA.  It may be of more interest to catalogers at this point than anyone else, but if you use a library catalog, you'll eventually notice RDA. 

One change RDA makes is to eliminate all those abbreviations that bibliographic records are full of.  Earlier cataloging rules required abbreviations in order to fit as much information as possible on a 3" x 5" catalog card. With a few exceptions (and I'm not a cataloger, so I don't remember what they are), RDA records have all words spelled out.

Since I work primarily with government documents, this has a big impact on me.  For all of my gov docs career, I've been happily using "dept." instead of "department".  During a period when I was (1) doing quite a bit of cataloging and (2) didn't have a mortgage, I had to pay some additional taxes at tax time.  I duly made my check payable to "Oregon.  Dept. of Revenue", which at that time was the correct heading. 

I actually think RDA, while it has some confusing aspects, is a long-overdue update to cataloging rules.  It should make our catalogs more user-friendly and thus enhance access to our collections.

At the State Library, where I work, the head of cataloging switched our author and subject headings from "dept." to "department" yesterday.  It will be interesting to see how long it takes me to make the switch myself!

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