One of the ongoing myths about RDA is that it’s just a set of instructions and rules for the creation and maintenance of bibliographic metadata, regardless of data model. This has never been entirely accurate, since the RDA instructions explicitly reference RDA’s FRBR-based metadata model, which was significantly modified by BibFrame. But the notion of RDA-as-rules divorced from its data and infrastructure seems still to be part of the promotion of Bibframe. This is not helpful, and when the misinformation is stated over and over it begins to look like an Alternative Fact.

For example, as part of the Bibframe Update presentations at ALA in Chicago, it was stated that the Bibframe editor will have the “RDA rules hot linked to element labels” (presumably from the Toolkit) to assist catalogers using BF to create bib data. I find this difficult to get my head around — BF and RDA use different reference models, name things differently, etc. And the RDA 3R project to reorganize and rewrite the instructions to align RDA with the IFLA LRM (which is both more extensive than, and less aligned with the Bibframe model) is well underway, and will likely confuse the issue even more.

The contention that RDA guidance can be used to build BF data is certainly not new. What is new was the momentum of change in process with RDA, from the R3 project, to the internationalization of RDA governance, to the growing list of translations. When the 3R Project is complete (early next year), the RDA instructions in the Toolkit and the data in the RDA Registry will be far more integrated than AACR and MARC ever were. Whether that integration will leave room for BibFrame to use the new instructions is unclear.

There was an impressive list of RDA information sessions at Annual, and an increasing numbers of folks attending them. This suggests that the RDA message seems to be gaining momentum, and there’s mounting evidence that this is so. A few presentations from the “RDA towards Linked Data sessions, held in conjunction with the European RDA Interest Group (EURIG) annual meeting in Fiesole, Italy this May illustrate that point:

In his presentation, Philip Schreur pointed out that RDA “is a natural representation of our data on the Web” because of its extensible and flexible framework, its rich treatment of relationships, and its focus on resource discovery.

Gordon Dunsire’s presentation showed how the wider implementation of the “4-fold path” in RDA for data capture and storage is intended to support a full range of data representation from catalogue cards, flat file schema, and RDBMS, to linked data.

Most people who attended the RDA sessions in Chicago seemed to be very interested in RDA’s approach, in particular how the data is handled, the growth of translations, and the strong desire to extend RDA to meet the needs of specialized cataloging communities. A meeting to explore the needs of those communities was exceptionally well attended, with lots of good suggestions. And the RDA Linked Data Forum (where people actually got a chance to ask questions!!) was standing room only. (My slides are here).

There are definite challenges for the North American cataloging community moving forward if they want to avoid isolating themselves from the rest of the bibliographic world, by and large unenthusiastic about BibFrame. The Anglo-American cataloging rules are fading into the distance as the rest of the world embraces the reality of a truly multinational, multilingual, multicultural metadata environment, exemplified by the RDA/LRM bibliographic model. The North American bibliographic community has never been explicitly “America First” and now is not the time to start.

Stay tuned.

By Diane Hillmann, July 31, 2017, 2:57 pm (UTC-5)

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