Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Structure of RDA

General Structure

Remember that RDA has a clear structure:
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Specific instructions
o   Entities and their attributes
·            Group 1 (WEMI) (Chapters 1-7)
·            Group 2 (PFC) (Chapters 8-16)
o   Relationships (Chapters 17-22, 24-32)
  • Appendices for
o   Abbreviation
o   Capitalization
o   Relationship designators (more on this later)
  • Glossary with links to the text of the instructions
  • Index

Not Organized Like AACR2

The organization of RDA is very different from AACR2. Instead of separate chapters for classes of materials (books, cartographic materials, printed music, etc.), RDA is principle-based and organized around the FRBR/FRAD tasks to help users “identify” and “relate” the resources they need from our collections. There are general instructions applying to all resources with specific instructions for characteristics unique to certain categories of resources.

The identifying elements for each thing we are describing are addressed separately in each chapter. RDA provides instructions on what identifying elements are needed; for those chapters related to access points, it then provides -- at the end of those chapters -- the instructions on how to assemble those elements to create authorized access points (remember, that’s what AACR2 calls headings). We will see this particularly in chapter 6 and chapters 9-11.

Not a Linear Resource

When you use online tools, you don’t read the content in the same way as you read a printed text.  You don’t generally read linearly from one page to the next. Instead, you read purposefully.  You perform keyword searches (and then view several hits from the results list), follow links, and jump to elements from a Table of Contents or other navigational feature

Some of the “length” of RDA is due to the need for duplicating content to serve the catalogers who will be arriving at that content in these different ways from different starting points.

ALA also publishes a print version of RDA. A print version of the RDA element set (a subset of the RDA content, organized by FRBR and FRAD entity) is also available from ALA Publishing.


Some of the RDA elements are designated as “core” elements. The assignment of core status is based on attributes mandatory for a national level record, as documented in the FRBR/FRAD modules. Core-ness is identified at the element level. Some elements are always core (if applicable and the information is available); some are core only in certain situations.

Core elements can be seen in two ways within RDA:
  • They are discussed in general, and listed as a group, in the sub-instructions of RDA 0.6
  • They are clearly labeled in light blue at each core instruction.  See, for example, this label for the core element 2.3.2, “Title Proper.”  If the status of an element as core depends upon the situation, an explanation appears after the “Core element” label.
We will see that LC has identified other elements as “LC Core” for our cataloging.

Alternatives, Options, and Exceptions

RDA designates a number of guidelines and instructions as alternatives, options, or exceptions. All are clearly labeled as such in the Toolkit by the presence of a green vertical bar in the left margin and a green legend in the instruction (“alternative”, etc.).
  • Alternative guidelines and instructions provide an alternative to what is specified in the immediately preceding guideline or instruction.
  • Optional instructions provide for either:
o   the optional addition of data that supplement what is called for in the immediately preceding instruction, or
o   the optional omission of specific data called for in the immediately preceding instruction.
  • Some instructions are ‘scoped’ as being applicable only to certain types of resources (such as serials).
  • Whether to apply the alternatives, options, or exceptions is cataloger judgment, unless an LC practice has been identified in an LCPS (see next section).

Library of Congress Policy Statements

LC has created an extensive body of Library of Congress Policy Statements (LCPS), to facilitate a standard interpretation and application of these alternatives, options, and exceptions.  Think of these as the ‘RDA version’ of the LC Rule Interpretations. Be sure to consult and follow the LCPS in all such cases. To access the LCPS, click on the green “LCPS” link in the RDA Toolkit. [Note: LCPS is now LC-PCC PS]


The examples in RDA illustrate the application of the specific instruction under which they appear. They illustrate only the data that are addressed by that instruction. They are normally given without showing the preceding or enclosing punctuation that is prescribed for an ISBD presentation. All examples illustrate elements as they would be recorded by an agency whose preferred language is English.

Examples appear in yellow shading, clearly setting them off from the instructions themselves.

[Source: Library of Congress]


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