I know that it can be kind of difficult to read these conference entries thoroughly, especially when they discuss areas of librarianship that aren’t in your bailiwick, so I’ll give the headline for my Midwinter 2016 (with more details to follow, if you’re interested): the governance of RDA is changing, and the bibliographic models that underlay RDA are changing, and nobody is really sure how either of these developments will shake out.
First, let’s talk about the governance changes. I’m one of eight voting members of CC:DA (Cataloging Committee: Description and Access, the committee that develops ALA’s position on RDA), and at our Saturday meeting, we heard a presentation from Kathy Glennan, the ALA representative to the RSC (RDA Steering Committee), the body that ultimately determines the content of the RDA code, about changes to the structure and membership of the RSC (which was called the Joint Steering Committee, or JSC, until last November). The JSC had representatives from constituencies who use RDA, including ALA, the Library of Congress, the Canadian Committee on Cataloguing, the British Library, etc. The new structure, which will be fully in place by 2019, limits the membership of JSC to one representative each from six regional groups (North America, Latin America & the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania). The North American group will consist of just the U.S. and Canada. Mexico will be in the Latin America & Caribbean group, while other potential members of the North American group (Bermuda, Saint Pierre and Miquelon (had to look that one up!), and Greenland) have not yet adopted RDA. So, the United States and Canada will go from having three representatives on the RSC (two for the U.S., one for Canada) to only one representative for both countries. How this will be worked out is still being discussed. One idea proposed was to create a small committee (perhaps with the three reps who used to go to the RSC) that would function like a tiny RSC for North America, with one of the members of this group attending the actual RSC on behalf of North America. This proposed group has the suggested name of NARDAC (North American RDA Committee), which, when pronounced, sounds like the name of a villain from a 1970’s episode of “Doctor Who.”
The other major change to RDA was discussed in our second CC:DA meeting by Gordon Dunsire, the Chair of the RSC. Gordon is a brilliant guy, who usually talks about a mile over my head, but I think I got the basic gist of his presentation. As a re-cap, RDA is based on the FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) model. If you’ve ever heard us catalogers talk about the distinction between Works, Expressions, Manifestations and Items, that’s what we’re talking about. FRBR not only models bibliographic entities, it also models people (as individuals and groups) and subjects. Well, the FRBR models are being revised. The new model FRBR-LRM (FRBR-Library Reference Model) is expected to be published during the first quarter of 2016. It will describe new entities including Place, Timespan, and Collective Agent. What FRBR-LRM will look like after it is vetted, revised and finally accepted is obviously unknown as of yet. But, once FRBR-LRM is in place, it will most likely mean that there will be new entities that need to be described by RDA, which will mean a revision of the code. The changes could be minor or they could be enormous, there’s really no way to tell quite yet.
Stay tuned for more developments.