Friday, February 19, 2010

The RDA Toolkit

Last week, I attended a Webinar on RDA given by Troy Linker, Publisher of the American Library Association's digital reference materials.

I'm not going to get into a discussion of whether or not we need RDA, if it goes too far or not far enough, or even if it's too expensive. I am going to talk about how the product works. Simply put, it's very 2.0.

I understand why there are no plans to publish the "document" in print format: it's not meant to be used that way. I also understand why it has no index: because it's keyword searchable.

Everything is hyperlinked, expandable/collapsible, and you can add your own notes. The entire text of AACR2 is included in the Toolkit. If you know the number of a specific rule in AACR2 (I don't know many of them, but a lot of catalogers do), you can go to the AACR2 section, locate the rule number and click on the blue RDA button next to it to be brought to the corresonding sections in RDA.

The specifics of the Toolkit are difficult to describe. It's not actually linear; it's really a website with hyperlinks that lead to the various places a person might want to go - like the corresponding MARC tag. If you want to look only at the rules, you can hide the examples and retrieve them later. If you want to clarify how your library uses a specific rule, you can add a bookmark. You can also integrate the rules with your library's workflow, eliminating the need for a procedures manual (which many libraries don't have, but should).

There's been a lot of discussion on the AUTOCAT list about the price of the Toolkit. When it is released sometime in June 2010, there will be a free trial through August 31. Anyone who wants to use it can, but will have to register. The reason for registration is so that if you add notes and/or take advantage of the ability to add your workflow, you will not lose them when you subscribe to RDA.

The webinars (held February 8 and 9) are both available for viewing. Regardless of how you feel about RDA, I recommend viewing at least the tour (there's also discussion about the history of RDA, pricing, etc). As someone who immediately abandoned the print versions of OCLC's Bibliographic Formats and Standards and Library of Congress Subject Headings as soon as she learned about the online versions, I think I could have fun with the RDA Toolkit.

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