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ETL505 Bibliographic Standards – The Change from AACR2 to RDA

Posted by: | August 26, 2012 | No Comment |

In 2013 a new cataloguing standard for describing and accessing resources will be available for use. Resource Description and Access (RDA) (Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA, 2010) will replace the Anglo American Cataloguing Rules 2 (AACR2) (The Joint Steering Committee for the Revision of AACR, 2005). Merely revising AACR2 was deemed inefficient and ineffective in keeping pace with the changing formats and technologies of the 21st century. Hider (2008, p34) says that updating, rather than reinventing standards, is too slow a mechanism to keep pace with the speed of technological advances, therefore it seems a paradigm shift was required.

Original image by dfulmer attributed under Creative Commons licence.

Why replace AACR2?

AACR was first published in 1978, revised in 2002 and updated in 2005. The revisions and updates caused a lack of consistency and resulted in a very unwieldy document because changes were added on, rather than being absorbed into the existing structure (Hider, 2008, p46). Since AACR was an Anglo-American standard, its use had been primarily limited to English-speaking countries (Oliver, 2010, p2).  In addition to this, it had been devised to service the card catalogue system, its metadata failed to differentiate between different levels of resource and it contained no rules for dealing with the creation and content of authority records (Hider, 2008, p57). According to Kiorgaard (2010, p2) AACR2 reached the end of its relevance to current and future needs, because it was developed around the class of materials to which a resource belonged rather than being based on principles that are able to incorporate new elements, meaning it lacked the adaptability and extensibility needed.

Advantages of RDA Replacing AACR2

There are many advantages in replacing AACR2 with RDA, which include continuity from AACR2, responsiveness to user needs, comprehensiveness, extensibility, adaptability and ease of transition (Oliver, 2010).

School libraries will be able to take advantage of more comprehensive bibliographic descriptions with RDA, without the previous cataloguing anachronisms. The change to RDA will have a limited effect on the work of teacher librarians (TLs), who usually download bibliographic data from utilities such as Schools Cataloguing Information Service (SCIS) (2001). However, the way catalogues are organised and accessed will change due to the use of the FRBR structure, so some training will be needed for TLs.

Machine Readable Cataloging (MARC) will still function with RDA, but the use of other standards such as the Dublin Core, will increase in school libraries as they will in other libraries worldwide (Adamich, 2008). The RDA changes likely to have the most impact on school library systems are the replacement of the GMD with three new MARC fields for content, media and carrier type (SCIS, 2010).

One of the main advantages of replacing AACR2 with RDA is that it has been designed for a digital world (Kiorgaard, 2010) Data that is produced using the RDA standard is able to function in variety of current and emerging technological environments, unlike AACR2, which was made for a particular type of encoding schema (Oliver, 2010a). The new code produced can be accessed and understood by wider metadata community (Hider, 2008, p58), and promises to enable the library catalogue to be accessed by web search engines, as it will not rely on the MARC library specific format.

Another advantage of RDA is that it will allow continuity, meaning user does not experience an abrupt disconnect from AACR2 (Oliver, 2010). Since RDA has been derived from AACR2 it can be integrated into existing databases and can work with existing systems. Therefore, RDA records will exist in the same database as AACR2 records, allowing users to search and retrieve within one database.

Original image by emilio labrador attributed under Creative Commons licence.


There are many advantages to be gained by replacing AACR2 with RDA. The RDA content standard based, on the FRBR and FRAD conceptual models, will continue to develop as new technologies and resources emerge (Riva, 2012). With its implementation in 2013, the library bibliographic record will be available to the wider metadata world. Randall sees the implementation of RDA as being beneficial to both libraries and other information communities internationally (Randall, 2011), as library records will be more easily machine readable and available to be accessed via the internet.

Adamich, T. (2008). RDA (Resource Description and Access): The New Way to Say, “AACR2″. Knowledge Quest, 36(4), 64-69. Retrieved on 28 Jul, 2012 from EBSCOhost.

Canadian Library Association, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, & Association, A. L. (2012). AACR2: Anglo-Amerian Cataloging Rules. Cataloger’s Desktop, from http://desktop.loc.gov.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/template.htm;jsessionid=6F5C641A0F37981CF4111424CB4F1E2A?view=main&h_action=clear

Hider, P. H., D.R. (2008). Organising knowledge in a global society:  Principles and practice in libraries and information centres. Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

Kiorgaard, D. (2010). RDA : Resource Description and Access presentation. Paper presented at the RDA information session for QUT students.

Nimsakont, E. D. (2010). RDA Resource Description & Access Cataloging with RDA: An Overview. WNYLRC Lunchtime Learning 

Oliver, C. (2010a). Introduding RDA:  A Guide to the Basics 2010   Retrieved from http://www.alastore.ala.org/pdf/9780838998908_excerpt.pdf

Randall, K. M. (2011). RDA: End of the World Postponed? The Serials Librarian, 61(3-4), 334-345. doi: 10.1080/0361526x.2011.617297

Riva, P. (2009, 2 Aug, 2012). What you need to know about FRBR and FRAD when reading RDA. TSIG wiki of the Canadian Library Association, from http://tsig.wikispaces.com/file/view/RivaFRBRFRADforCLA2009.pdf

Schools Catalogue Information Service. (2001). SCIS standards for cataloguing and data entry. Carlton South, Vic. :: Curriculum Corporation.

SCIS. (2010, 1 Aug). RDA changes from AACR2.  Retrieved 1 Aug, 2012 from http://scis.edublogs.org/2010/09/13/rda-changes-from-aacr2/

The Joint Steering Committee for the Revision of AACR. (2005). AACR2: Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules. Cataloguer’s Desktop  Retrieved 1 Aug, 2012, from http://desktop.loc.gov/template.htm?view=main&h_action=clear


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