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Spring Updates for RDA: Treaties

Notification of the April 22nd to RDA is making the rounds on various email lists. The Library of Congress has distributed a useful summary of these updates.

Of particular note are the changes that come into effect relating to the cataloguing of treaties expertly championed and shepherded by John Hostage our colleague at Harvard Law.

Here are the relevant changes concerning treaties:
One Treaty: Treaties, etc. is no longer used as the preferred title for a treaty. There are new instructions, including an order of preference, about recording the preferred title. Instruction renamed to remove “etc.” Note that several references and examples have changed throughout Chapter 6 as a result of this change and related changes.
Compilation of Treaties: Treaties, etc. is no longer used as the preferred title for a treaty. There are new instructions to record the collective name of the compilation as the preferred title if applicable and to apply the instructions at 6.2.2 if there is no collective name by which the compilation has become known. Instruction renamed to remove “etc.”

Date of Treaty: Renamed from “Date of Signing of a Treaty, Etc.” and and substantially revised. The scope has been expanded to include other dates associated with the treaty (e.g. date of ratification) for use in this element. There are new instructions to record dates for a compilation of treaties by giving the date or inclusive dates (e.g., 1713-1715).

Participation in a Treaty: Deleted element “signatory to a treaty, etc.” and substituted new instruction (Cf.
Treaties: The instructions for authorized access points for individual treaties have changed significantly.
Note in particular:

  1. Signatory to a treaty is no longer used as part of the authorized access point for a treaty.
  2. The authorized access point is constructed using the preferred title plus additions.
  3. Instructions for authorized access points for individual treaties have been collapsed into one instruction. There are no longer separate instructions for different types of treaties (e.g. Agreements Contracted by the Holy See), but there are still examples showing different types of individual treaties.
Protocols, Amendments, Etc.: Former is now Reworded to clarify that an authorized access point for a protocol is formed by adding elements from to the authorized access point for the treaty.
Compilations of Treaties: Former is now The instructions for authorized access points for compilations of treaties have changed significantly.
Note in particular:

  1. Signatory to a treaty is no longer used as part of the authorized access point for any compilation of treaties.
  2. The authorized access point is constructed using the preferred title plus additions.
  3. Instructions for authorized access points for compilations of treaties have been collapsed into one instruction. There are no longer separate instructions for different types of compilations (e.g., Treaties, Etc., Contracted between One Party and Two or More Other Parties).
  4. Compilations of treaties that have a collective name (e.g. Treaty of Utrecht) use that collective name plus additions for the authorized access point.
  5. Compilations of treaties without a collective name follow instructions at

Instructions are renumbered but unchanged from former
Additions to Access Points Representing Treaties: Revised former as new Contains these new sub-intructions for additions to access points:

  • Treaties
  • Compilations of Treaties
  • Protocols, Etc.
Variant Access Point Representing a Legal Work or Expression: Reworded for consistency; examples changed and updated. Variant Access Points Representing Treaties contains instructions on constructing variant access points using the authorized access points of a participant plus the title of the treaty.
Participation in a Treaty: “Participants in a treaty” (formerly known as signatories to a treaty) should now be considered as a type of “Other Person, Family, or Corporate Body Associated with a Work” at instead of the former practice that treated them as creators. A new section with examples was added.

Relationship Designators for Other P-F-CB Associated with a Work: Added relationship designator “participant in a treaty.” This can be used for a signatory, ratifier, etc.

JSC Announces Outcomes from 2013 Meeting

The Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA (JSC) made the following announcement earlier this week.

The Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA discussed 48 proposals and discussion papers at its November 2013 meeting. A table with a summary of the actions taken by the JSC is available for consultation until the final versions of the approved proposals are posted on this site in early February 2014. The changes in RDA will not be in effect until they appear in the April 2014 Update of the RDA Toolkit.

Couple of highlights:
6JSC/ALA/23 Revision proposal for RDA instructions for treaties

  • “Revised proposal accepted with further revision after January 2014 email discussion”

6JSC/ALA/24 Variant title as access point (RDA,,,,

  • “Not accepted. Agreement to delete paragraphs to remove inconsistencies and to add examples”

6JSC/ALA/Discussion/1 Machine-Actionable Data Elements in RDA: Discussion Paper (2013)

  • “Encouraged revision proposals (did not accept #2; will forward #3 to JSC RDA/ONIX Framework Working Group”

6JSC/CCC/11 Revision of RDA (Titles of Parts, Sections, and Supplements) and RDA (Collective Title and Titles of Individual Contents)

  • “Follow-up accepted with revision after January 2014 email discussion”

6JSC/CILIP Rep/3 RDF representation of RDA relationship designators: a follow-up discussion paper

  • “Recommendations reviewed; some issues referred to JSC Technical Working Group”

Machine-Actionable Data Elements in RDA Chapter 3: Discussion Paper

The Task Force on Machine-Actionable Data Elements in RDA Chapter 3 has recently submitted a discussion paper to the ALA Committee on Cataloging: Description and Access.

The Task Force was struck to “evaluate the structure of data elements in RDA Chapter 3 that contain quantitative information.” RDA Chapter 3 deals with the descripition of the resource carrier and the Task Force was looking specifically at sections 3.4 (Extent) and 3.5 (Dimensions), also considering other related sections such as 3.16 (Sound Characteristics), 3.17 (Projection Characteristics), and 3.19 (Digital File Characteristics).

After evaluation of a number of examples they identified a common pattern and proposed a model consisting of three parts:  the Aspect being measured, the Unit of measurement, and the numerical Quantity.

It’s hoped that improvements in this area, i.e. beyond just a textual statement of extent, could provide the following:

• Easier matching for the purposes of determining differing content
• Sorting by size, dimension, or other criteria
• More granular faceting for media materials based on extent
• A better path towards automated determination of extent
• Provision of textual values and labels in a variety of languages
• Ability to compress and itemize more complex extent information for particular users (similar to MARC holdings data)
• Validation of data at the time of input

The Task Force notes that, “If we are to have the data to provide the functionality above, we should start now, rather than later.” They also suggest that “… providing the information we have now in a more machine-friendly form should be no more expensive than what we do now in text, particularly with an intelligent user interface in place that supports the use of controlled vocabularies for textual elements.”

Here’s a simple example of how this might work.  The current textual statement would be recorded like this in RDA:

        245 pages ; 23 cm

This might appear in the proposed Aspect–Unit–Quantity model broken out into separate parts like this:

        Aspect: extent/number of subunits
        Unit: pages
        Quantity: 245

        Aspect: height
        Unit: centimeters
        Quantity: 23

There’s a great diagram on page 8 of this report that is worth taking a close look at.  It presents a graph of how this might be expressed as a single extent class, which is the first of 3 options proposed by the Task Force. 

This discussion paper is directed at the CC:DA and its constituenices but the Task Force has asked that it be sent to the JSC for consideration at its meeting this month. Members of the Task Force include:  Peter Rolla (chair); John Attig; Karen Coyle; Gordon Dunsire; Diane Hillmann; Randall Roeder; Paul Weiss; and Kathy Winzer.

First Update to RDA Toolkit Has Been Released

The first update to the RDA Toolkit has been released. James Hennelly, Managing Editor of ALA Digital Reference, posted the announcement earlier this month. The updates were added to the Toolkit on April 10th.

Details of the update can be found in the new RDA Update History section. I had some difficulty locating this at first but you’ll find it at the bottom of the RDA Table of Contents page.

Update to 'RDA Implementation Day'

Library of Congress has updated their original announcement regarding ‘RDA Implementation Day.’

Library and Archives Canada along with a number of other national libraries have now also agreed to “target the first quarter of 2013 as their RDA implementation date, i.e., between January 2 and March 31, 2013.”

LC has also provided access to their ‘Long-Range RDA Training Plan for 2012 and Beyond.’

James Weinheimer Asks "Is RDA the Only Way?"

James Weinheimer is one of the more vocal critics of RDA. If you follow AutoCat you’ll have seen his many thoughtful and challenging posts about RDA and all things cataloguing. He was recently invited to speak at the VII Encuentro Internacional y III Nacional de Catalogadores in Buenos Aires on November 2011. His presentation, Is RDA the Only Way?: An Alternative Option Through International Cooperation, along with his speaking notes have recently been released on the conference website.

Wienheimer focuses on the “abbreviations” and “transcription” aspects of RDA and notes that many catalogue users will probably not “notice any changes at all.” I agree, these are cosmetic changes.

But this does not get at the heart of the matter: data. It’s interesting to note that the word ‘data’ is not mentioned anywhere in the speaking notes for this presentation. In my mind that is the key advantage of RDA and FRBR: to start thinking of cataloguing practice in terms of the individual data elements and leave the idea of creating catalogue records behind.

Weinheimer says the following:

I believe that RDA and FRBR, although very well-intentioned and initiated by excellent and sincere cataloging experts, are going in a direction very different from what is needed by our patrons. In fact, when looking at those initiatives from such a viewpoint, it turns out that they actually only continue the same methods, and have the same aims that have been found from the very beginning of catalogs. As a result, I see no reason to adopt RDA since it will not be providing anything substantially new for our patrons. It only introduces new methods for catalogers to make what is substantially the same product. What we need are products that are useful to our patrons, who now inhabit a completely new information environment.”

And I don’t disagree with this either. However, I think RDA represents a transitional phase leading the cataloguing community to something like linked data where our bibliographic data will be able to more easily connect up with other data already on the web instead of trapped in traditional catalogue records and library information systems. Work on the RDA Vocabularies, for example, looks very promising.

The entity-relationship model that FRBR provides, and upon which RDA is based, will allow cataloguers to start thinking about their day-to-day activities in terms of creating and using data elements. Data that will connect to data already found on the web. This may potentially lead to an improvement in cataloguing productivity (freeing cataloguers from some of the descriptive tasks already carried out upstream, e.g. by publishers) and making our data truly “of the web.”

We have to start somewhere and RDA seems as good a place as anywhere to begin. And, as Weinheimer notes, RDA really won’t change the practice of cataloguing all that much. No matter what the size of your library I don’t think the commitment to implement RDA should be as economically challenging as Weinheimer suggests in this presentation. Although the situation would be so much better if RDA had been offered openly free for all to use*. This would surely have made it easier for libraries to adopt and would have increased potential buy in for non-library metadata creators, one of the many goals of RDA.

As I declared during a recent presentation at the OLA Super Conference: I remain an RDA optimist.

* Note that the RDA Constituency Review Draft is freely available.

Library of Congress Announces RDA Implementation Date

Hot off the cyperpresses! (Well, yesterday actually)

The Library of Congress has announced March 31, 2013 as the official date for the implementation of RDA.

We are now sharing our plan broadly to alert our various constituencies. By doing so as early as possible, we hope that this will help others prepare for RDA implementation.”

Are you ready?

RDA and OCLC: Discussion Paper

OCLC has released a discussion paper called “Incorporating RDA practices into WorldCat” and is soliciting comments from OCLC member libraries. The deadline for comments is April 15, 2012 and should be sent to

The discussion paper “proposes a number of policies that may be put in place and actions that may be undertaken as part of incorporating RDA practices more fully into WorldCat. It also attempts to balance the dual roles of WorldCat as a catalog and as a repository of bibliographic data.”

There are some suggestions concerning the modification of pre-RDA catalogue records. For example, OCLC plans to develop programming that will add the new 33X fields (Content, Media, and Carrier Types) to all records in the OCLC database.

OCLC envisions potentially making some widespread changes to existing records in WorldCat including a number of those outlined above. Such efforts would be oriented toward reducing the need for catalogers to make similar changes as well as making the records more useful in the RDA environment. This activity would supplement other data quality efforts such as authority control, duplicate detection, etc.”