The publishers of RDA Toolkit and the RDA Steering Committee have been closely monitoring feedback on the new RDA Toolkit beta site. Based on comments provided via the online form, public forums, and various discussion lists, it has become clear that the absence of instruction numbers is challenging for some users, especially those involved in cataloging training and education. This issue does not come as a surprise to those of us involved in the 3R Project. It is one we have been discussing and debating for the last two years.
The past years have taught us that the sequential numbering system used in the original RDA Toolkit causes problems. Among those problems are the inherently hierarchical structure that may imply a relationship between instructions that is unintended and misleading, and the rigidity of a system that restricts editorial options and complicates production work.
We are well aware that numbering provides a convenient shorthand to cite discrete passages of an instruction in print and verbal communication, and that this convenience is important to the cataloging community. It is our goal to continue to support that user need, but to do so with an approach that makes more sense for a website that has become more modular and adaptable to a range of user needs.
We welcome suggestions from cataloguers about how to design a human-readable system to direct users to discrete sections of RDA instructions in the new Toolkit that avoids the pitfalls listed below.
Any suggested solution must remain flexible but stable, as RDA is a continually developing and updating standard. Viable solutions:
- should not imply a preferred order of instructions or options;
- should not impose a hierarchical structure on the RDA text;
- should not require any additional editorial action when text is added, moved, or deprecated;
- should work for both the element pages and the guidance chapters;
- and should avoid any use of language-based terms or letters, as RDA is an international standard.
Concepts can be shared with firstname.lastname@example.org. The RSC has provided a fuller exploration of the challenges of instruction numbering and the direction they are pursing.