Emory University was one of 10 academic libraries that participated in the U.S. RDA Test. The university library engages in both original and copy cataloging and does authority work as well. The cataloging staff consists of 32 people, 20% of whom participated in the RDA test. During the test Emory used the Symphony ILS from SirsiDynix. Armin Siedlecki, head of cataloging at Emory's Pitts Theology Library, answered our questions.
Question #1: Has your institution continued RDA cataloging after the test? What issues specific to your institutional structure and culture most informed your decision? What functional aspects of RDA cataloging versus AACR2 cataloging most informed your decision?
AS: We have not continued RDA cataloging after the test but will revisit the decision once the national libraries have adopted RDA as the primary cataloging standard (after Jan. 2013). There is a general expectation that we will switch to RDA at this point.
Question #2: With any significant change, there is debate and disagreement about the supposed benefits of changing or not changing. What, from a business/economic perspective, do you see as the benefits and costs of your institution’s decision to continue or cease RDA cataloging?
AS: The initial disruption of switching to RDA (training, learning curve, etc.) should be offset by the long-term benefits. AACR2 is clearly inadequate for today’s environment and RDA’s basis in FRBR offers a good alternative with a structure that is open to future developments. This open-endedness of RDA should also provide economic benefits, as future revisions and adaptations should be more easily incorporated.
Question #3: As stated above, change typically inspires disagreement and sometimes resistance. Did your staff respond positively or negatively to RDA testing? How did you address disagreement about RDA among staff members?
AS: Testing staff responded generally positive. There were constructive debates about specific details, but the overall concept and structure was generally welcomed.
Question #4: Do you feel you were adequately familiar with the FRBR model to happily navigate the RDA instructions, and did you reach a point of clarity and comfort with the structure of RDA by the end of the test? Do you think that a longer test period would have smoothed out issues related to the lack of familiarity with FRBR concepts?
AS: I felt almost adequately familiar with the FRBR model, but the length of the test period was long enough to allow for a “workable comfort zone” and greater familiarity will undoubtedly come with more experience.
Question #5: Were there specific bibliographic formats that proved particularly difficult or easy to catalog in RDA? Please address your experiences, if any, in cataloging specialty items in RDA.
AS: Cataloging electronic reproductions was significantly more intuitive in RDA. Cataloging dissertations in RDA allows for a higher degree of granularity, which should be extremely useful for academic research libraries.
Question #6: Reflecting on your experience as a tester what recommendations would you give to those formulating a plan for RDA implementation? Which training materials and resources were most beneficial? Was there value to bringing in outside training experts? What approaches to acclimating staff to RDA Toolkit worked best?
AS: Don’t try to read RDA from beginning to end and don’t even bother buying a print edition. It is an online tool to be used, not a text to be studied. Much of the hostility against RDA came from people who simply did not understand that this is a non-linear resource for a non-linear work environment. Reading RDA from beginning to end makes about as much sense as reading a phone book cover to cover in order to look up a phone number. As for training materials, I found presentations by Barbara Tillett particularly useful.