Today I got a very disappointing note in my inbox, from the US National Libraries RDA Test Project. I guess I’d call it a “ding” letter, and I have to say it was more than a bit surprising. I had volunteered to help with the testing, not by creating records, mind you, but in analyzing the records other people create. Given the fact that I’ve been the co-chair of the DCMI/RDA Task Group, done the major part of the work in registering the RDA schemas and vocabularies, and have been involved in building the XML schemas that will be the basis of much of the data creation for many early RDA implementations, I figured my experience might come in handy. But apparently not …

Dear Diane: Thank you for your interest in the US National Libraries RDA Test project. The RDA Test Steering Committee regrets that you could not be selected as a formal test participant. Interest in the project was much greater than the Steering Committee originally anticipated, and it was necessary to select test partners from more than 90 applications. Every applicant had a great deal to offer to the project, and each was carefully considered. The Steering Committee based its final selections on the goal of ensuring that the RDA Test will reflect a cross-section of US cataloging agencies balanced by size, type of organization, OPAC and cataloging systems used, and areas of specialization in cataloging and collection development.

The Steering Committee will share the methodology for the test on its Website at URL . If you are interested in conducting your own test of RDA, we encourage you to produce records following this methodology and to share the results with the Steering Committee during the test period.

Thank you again for your interest in the RDA Test.

So, exactly what are they testing that makes my knowledge and experience useless? Darned if I know. But I can’t get beyond the notion that the testing regime I see described on the website is pretty limited, and it’s hard to imagine what the results can really tell us, aside from the obvious difficulties people will encounter in attempting to cram a FRBR-based structure into any one of our current flat MARC-based library systems.

Much more interesting, to me anyway, is the idea of what RDA records might look like in straight XML or RDF, without the necessity of the contortions involved in making it all “fit” into a MARC system. Without the layer of MARC contortion we might really be able to figure out whether catalogers could adjust to RDA and create FRBR-based records. It would be nice to think that some of the open source systems would find a way to play with these records and test some more forward-looking, rather than backward-looking implementation issues.

Any volunteers for an alternate testing regime?

By Diane Hillmann, May 29, 2009, 5:08 pm (UTC-5)

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  1. Comment by Holly Harper

    What happened with this testing business? I am a newcomer to the discussion, and I see word of this testing everywhere, and from the timeline posted here, the testing should be underway (right?), but I see nothing. Any help or direction would be appreciated.

  2. Comment by Shirley

    I’d be interested, and I’ll be on sabbatical for 12-months starting July 1, 2009, so I’ll have some time.


  3. Comment by Elizabeth Madson

    The list of U.S. National Library RDA Test Partners is posted:

  4. Comment by Diane Hillmann

    Good question, Kathy, but I just don’t know the answer. It would be nice if the LC site supported RSS feeds, so we didn’t have to keep poking at it to see if there’s anything new …

  5. Comment by Kathy Winzer

    So has a list of all the testing partners been released? Does it really take that long to notify 90 people/institutions whether or not they are part of the testing?

  6. Comment by Heidi Hoerman

    From seeing who the few testers are that are being announced, I don’t think RDA will be tested as a cataloging code but rather that transfer of ONIX data in a controlled corporate environment will be the important subtext. Or have I been spending too much time reading political links on Huffington Post and therefore too prone right now to see the subtext and miss the central point?

  7. Comment by Shawne Miksa

    Well, let’s not let this cloud over everything. Personally, I think they were overwhelmed with applicants and its a matter of getting the biggest bang for the buck–if there is any buck going towards any of it. (I do know that a school district here in Texas was chosen–the only school library setting chosen, I believe–and I’m proud to say one of my doctoral students is heading that up.)

    And, Diane is right in that we may very well skew the data. However, I don’t see that our being dinged from this one test should hold of us back from testing any part of RDA on our own, as we are all stakeholders in it.

    So, keep that faith up, I say. Methinks we put too much onto LC’s shoulders.

  8. Comment by Chris Schwartz

    Diane, I am so surprised that you and Shawne got “dinged” from being part of the RDA Test Project. Makes no sense.

    If you set up an alternative test, I’d be glad to participate creating sample metadata records.

  9. Comment by Diane Hillmann

    Well, to be fair, I can see an argument for not having people like me and Shawne creating records–we’d most likely skew the results. But not to want us looking at the data that comes out, and helping to measure compliance? That makes no sense to me at all, and of course, if Shawne’s ding letter was the same as mine, she got no real explanation about why she was rejected … with regrets, of course!

    Jonathan, can I sign you up for the “Alternative Test?” It’d be great to have some folks with developer chops working with us on this.

  10. Comment by Jonathan Rochkind

    This makes no sense at all. The chair of the RDA implementation task force, and the chair of the RDA-DCMI taskforce… don’t get included in testing? Man. My faith in RDA ending up anywhere is not getting any larger.

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