It’s like a brand new Harry Potter novel: Harry Potter and the acronyms of doom.

Synopsis: Harry is forced by his evil muggle foster parents to attend a cataloguing conference provided by ACOC, one of the older acronyms of doom. Whilst there he learns about RDA, FRBR, JSC, FRAD, FRSAR and the other new acronyms of doom. He witnesses a fight between the new acronyms of doom and the old acronyms of doom (MaRC, AACR2, CAVAL, NLA) and realises that whoever wins, everyone loses. Can Harry overcome the evils of acronyms or will he be defeated by his archnemesis, He Who Must Not Be Catalogued (otherwise known as HWMNBC)?

*insert dramatic musak*

Tomorrow I will be in amongst the acronyms of doom at the latest Australian Committee on Cataloguing (ACOC) conference in Sydney. There I will find out all about Resource Description and Access (RDA) which is the brand spankin’ new cataloguing structure all of us poor little cataloguers will have to follow. The goals are admirable. A record’s linkages will be logical with each record having four levels.

Example (errors are my fault, sorry!)
Work: The Bible.
Expression: English Language version of the King James Bible.
Manifestation: 2003 printing of the King James Bible, Large print edition.
Manifestation: 1999 audio copy on 12 CDs of the King James Bible.
Item: The copy I have in my hand.

This is how I understand things. That means, if I want to reserve a bible (any bible) then I can reserve at the Work level. If I want to reserve an English language version of the King James Bible then I can reserve at the Expression level (I may receive a printed copy, I may receive an audio copy…there may be a way to set this by format, I guess it depends on the system’s implementation). If I want to reserve a particular manifestation (ie the 2003 printing only) then I can reserve at Manifestation level. If I want to receive the copy where I highlighted the passages that I needed then I’d reserve at the Item level.

All very nice. Unfortunately we’ve had a good 20-30 years of having a catalogue record (an amalgamation of the Work + Expression + Manifestation) and a holding record (the Item). This means that every system we use is geared towards this two level structure and will need to change. I don’t really seeing that being cheap. If all of the major institutions (State Libraries, National Libraries, Library of Congress, etc) all implement this and force their vendors to allow it to be implemented then MAYBE us libraries with poor vendor systems will get the trickle down effect…maybe not. There are still library systems out there that don’t use MaRC, the main exchange format for library records.

Let that bun-fight begin!
Image courtesy of http://www.imagesofthepast.co.uk/ , (c) 1902

RDA and the acronyms of doom

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