This week we read a few articles about different cataloging standards and models including AACR2, RDA, FRBR, and BIBFRAME and learned that many people are very passionate about cataloging rules. However, how do we know which of these acronyms to choose? In their article “Resource Description Access (RDA): Cataloging Rules for the 20th Century,” Karen Coyle and Diane Hillmann present a compelling argument for why RDA is not a viable standardization model for the 21st century. They argue for a more radical and revolutionary change (as Roy Tennant also calls for) in response to changing information resources, technology, user needs, and the information environment. Library catalogs have transitioned from a linear “alphabetical list of headings” to a dynamic information resource searchable by any word in the entry.
Today, there are many more sources of information available, but now users need to be able to find the right ones. Coyle & Hillmann discuss the divergence of the values of information professionals and users in “the fact that users have become comfortable with the result of a search leading seamlessly and instantly to the delivery of the resource to the user’s workstation,” and which therefore “undermines the whole notion of the value of a detailed catalog.” In contrast to Coyle & Hillmann’s stance on a minimum of rules, RDA (originally proposed to be called AACR3) follows many of the rules of AACR2 and includes “highly detailed rules with large numbers of special cases.” They also acknowledge the lack of community support for RDA and the JSC (Joint Steering Committee) evidenced by the Library of Congress BIBFRAME model and bluntly state that the JSC’s “position of denial would be laughable if it were not so disastrous for the library community.” If the rules of cataloging are going to transform, library professionals cannot afford to be so insular. Insight from other departments and communities needs to be sought in order to move forward and for radical changes to occur.