Having just celebrated (?) another birthday at the tail end of 2015, the topics of age and change have been even more on my mind than usual. And then two events converged. First I had a chat with Ted Fons in a hallway at Midwinter, and he asked about using an older article I’d published with Karen Coyle way back in early 2007 (“Resource Description and Access (RDA): Cataloging Rules for the 20th Century”). The second thing was a message from Research Gate that reported that the article in question was easily the most popular thing I’d ever published. My big worry in terms of having Ted use that article was that RDA had experienced several sea changes in the nine (!) years since the article was published (Jan./Feb. 2007), so I cautioned Ted about using it.

Then I decided I needed to reread the article and see whether I had spoken too soon.

The historic rationale holds up very well, but it’s important to note that at the time that article was written, the JSC (now the RSC) was foundering, reluctant to make the needed changes to cut ties to AACR2. The quotes from the CC:DA illustrate how deep the frustration was at that time. There was a real turning point looming for RDA, and I’d like to believe that the article pushed a lot of people to be less conservative and more emboldened to look beyond the cataloger tradition.

In April of 2007, a mere few months from when this article came out, ALA Publishing arranged for the famous “London Meeting” that changed the course of RDA. Gordon Dunsire and I were at that meeting–in fact it was the first time we met. I didn’t even know much about him aside from his article in the same DLIB issue. As it turns out, the RDA article was elevated to the top spot, thus stealing some of his thunder, so he wasn’t very happy with me. The decision made in London to allow DCMI to participate by building the vocabularies was a game changer, and Gordon and I were named co-chairs of a Task Group to manage that process.

So as I re-read the article, I realized that the most important bits at the time are probably mostly of historical interest at this point. I think the most important takeaway is that RDA has come a very long way since 2007, and in some significant ways is now leading the pack in terms of its model and vocabulary management policies (more about that to come).

And I still like the title! …even though it’s no longer a true description of the 21st Century RDA.

By Diane Hillmann, February 9, 2016, 9:19 am (UTC-5)

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