Tag Archives: Jennifer

Catablog: Adventures in Audiovisual Cataloguing with RDA

Image Source: Flickr National Film and Sound Archive.
Photographer: Brooke Shannon. Licence.


This month’s Catablog sees our resident Catablogger and Digitales Cataloguing Team Leader, Jennifer, exploring the history of cataloguing from the 19th to 21st century and the transition of audiovisual cataloguing from AACR to RDA:

Generations of librarians in England and the United States have worked to develop rules and standards for English-language library cataloguing. In 1967, after decades of trans-Atlantic co-operation, the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR) were published.

In 1978 a second edition, creatively named AACR2, was published, and adopted as a standard across the English-speaking world. AACR2 went through three revisions, and in 2004, work began on developing a new edition, initially entitled… wait for it… AACR3.

But by then things had changed. A lot. When AACR2 was first devised, cataloguing was still done on index cards, and the concept of a computer in every home, let alone in every handbag, was a bizarre and unthinkable concept. And so in 2005, a re-think of how we catalogue in the 21st century began. Resource Description and Access (RDA) was born – a new cataloguing standard created for the age of e-books and metadata.

But back in the real world, you might begin to wonder what difference this has really made. How can we use the changes introduced with RDA to provide better catalogue access for library customers?

Today I’m going to focus on these MARC fields that started popping up in Libraries Australia records toward the end of 2013:

RDA Fields LA

What exactly are they, and most importantly, what do they do?

Perhaps the most obvious change in an RDA record is the disappearance of the General Material Designation (GMD), which showed the format of a non-book resource in the title field. These new fields pick up where the GMD left off, providing more a more detailed and structured way of recording format and characteristics. Here’s a rundown of the most common of these fields, and what we can do with them:

336 – Content Type

Simply put, what is this thing? Is it a map or model? Text or image? Is it two- or three-dimensional? Does it play music, spoken words or other sounds?

This field could be used display whether a CD is an audiobook or music, if a blu-ray is in 2D or 3D, or if a resource is in Braille or another tactile form for the visually impaired.

337 (Media Type) and 338 (Carrier Type)

Do you need a device to play this, or can you just pick it up and use it? Is it video, audio or a book? Microfilm or microfiche? Is it physical media or an online resource?

Unfortunately these fields only deal with “computers” in general, rather than distinguishing between PCs, game consoles, mobile devices, etc., but this may change in the future.

344 (Sound Characteristics), 346 (Video Characteristics) and 347 (Digital File Characteristics)

These fields are optional and repeatable, depending on media types. They record details that you may not think about too much, but which can be quite important, such as:

  • Whether a vinyl record plays in mono or stereo;
  • If Casablanca on DVD is in the original black-and-white, or if it’s been (perish the thought) colourised;
  • If that console game is region-locked.

In my opinion, this kind of structured, controlled metadata creates some interesting opportunities. For example, it could be used to display eye-catching icons, so that customers using the catalogue could immediately identify whether what they’re looking at is actually what they’re after, without sifting through boring system requirement notes. This is already done to a certain extent, especially for media types:

DVD Icons

But how about being able to concisely and automatically display which device a video game or e-book uses, without extra customisations?

Unfortunately, at this stage most Library Management Systems can’t yet display this data in a helpful, user-friendly way. But I would definitely suggest that you keep these fields in your records, and hide them from displaying in your online catalogue for now. With your next systems upgrade, you might find that they can be used to make the front end of your catalogue cleaner and more visually interesting, with less jargon and messy notes, and more icons and buttons. Who knows what the future holds?

A Brief History of AACR – http://www.rda-jsc.org/history.html
RDA: Resource Description and Access – http://www.rda-jsc.org/rda.html
RDA Toolkit – http://access.rdatoolkit.org/