JSC on RDA releases statement on proposal to add “transgender” to RDA

JSC discussions on the Fast Track proposal from ALA to add the term “transgender” to the RDA Gender vocabulary have identified the need to review the treatment of personal data in RDA. The broader issues will be discussed more substantively at the the JSC’s meeting in November 2015. Following JSC policy, the ALA proposal must be withheld from the Fast Track process for the next release of RDA Toolkit.

The JSC will discuss the impact of recommending a specific vocabulary for the element in RDA Toolkit on the international, cultural heritage, and linked data communities that are the focus of the future strategy for the development of RDA. At the same time, the RDA Development Team is interested in the need for extensions and refinements of RDA vocabularies for “local” communities, and would be keen to collaborate with ALA in using its requirements as a case study to inform the JSC. This would also build on the updates made to the RDA Registry to accommodate the RDA/ONIX Framework. The JSC would welcome a report on these topics before the middle of October 2015. It would be useful if the report considered issues of vocabulary management as well as content.

-JSC Chair

Reflections on anniversaries

Today I worked through a cataloging procedure that my former director did nearly exactly one year ago. I know this because her initials and timestamp are on the records. She updated VTDNP MARC records last year on Feb. 14, 2014. Now here I am updating practically the same records on Feb. 12, 2015. What’s hitting me hard is that Birdie passed away nearly a month later on Mar. 10, 2014. I like to think that she worked on these records on Valentines Day because she loved newspapers so much.

I haven’t really shared my thoughts about how her passing has affected me, our department, our library. I know that’s why this blog has been silent for the past year. But with the first anniversary less than a month away, it’s hard not to think about how much has changed…and how much is still very much the same.

Special Collections purchased a book in honor of Birdie. I had the honor of cataloging it, and took some liberties with a local 590 note. I’m really thankful I got to do that.

I don’t really want to get into how Birdie was a great librarian, boss, person, etc…I’ve said all that at her funeral and memorial events. But for those of you who knew her, you know that she was great and it’s been a huge loss to the cataloging community. I am so thankful that ALCTS passed a memorial resolution.

Attending conferences for the past year has been awkward. People take one look at my badge, see where I’m from, and the look of sadness in their eyes just breaks me apart. I had one person think that I was Birdie’s replacement and said so to my face. That hurt. I want to thank @slmcdanold for the most real response at #ALAMW15 last month. Sometimes you just need a hug.

I’m thankful that she hired me, trained me, and I got to work with her for 2 short years. Perhaps you saw that we were hiring a Serials and Digital Access Metadata Librarian position? I got to chair the search committee and disappear into that work for 5 months. It nearly broke me. But I got through it and I’m stronger because of it.

As the anniversary date approaches I remind myself that it’s OK to be sad, but remember to be thankful for all the lessons I’ve learned this year. Just how much I’ve grown as a cataloger, manager, leader, and person. Her memory lives on through me, her colleagues, friends, and family. I hold on to that thought and breathe. just breathe.

It’s elementary, dear Watson…or is it?

I was processing my quarterly authorities updates and changes, when I noticed something peculiar. Sherlock Holmes is no longer a fictitious character. Gone is the Holmes, Sherlock (Fictitious character) subject heading, and it is replaced by the simple name authority access point Holmes, Sherlock who wrote a book last year, his (male gender as noted in the 375) fields of activity include criminology and bee culture, and his profession is as a detective.

Is this authority record a joke?!

Sherlock Holmes (r) and Dr. John H. Watson. Illustration by Sidney Paget.

RDA has very clear rules about fictitious characters. Rule to be specific, which states:

Fictitious and Legendary Persons
For a fictitious or legendary person, record Fictitious character, Legendary character, or another appropriate designation.
  • Greek deity
  • Mythical animal
  • Vampire
That little 2013/07 is interesting because it points us back to an earlier edition of RDA that didn’t include a rule for fictitious characters, non-human entities, other important designations that can distinguish a person. Holmes’ new authority record was created on July 16, 2013 (according to OCLC Connexion). So did the rule change after his record was created? But even still, if the rule changed why did LoC move ahead with editing the authority record one of the most influential fictitious characters in western literature?
To make it even more confusing, there’s no trace of the non-preferred access point in the new authority record. So, based on this new authority record, how are people supposed to know that Sherlock Holmes in in fact not a real male who enjoys bee culture and criminology? They can’t, and that’s just confusing. At least Harry Potter and Count Dracula are still fictitious…but for how long?! If we follow RDA closely, we could soon have Potter, Harry (Wizard) and Dracula, Count (Vampire)!
I’d love to hear what you think about the loss of Fictitious characters in our authority file! Please post your comments. Until this all gets sorted out, I’m going to keep Holmes in our catalog just as he is – fictitious.


It’s been a while since I’ve added a post on this blog. I was planning to write a big summer report on attending LODLAM, ALA in Chicago, Rare Cataloging at Rare Book School, RDA NACO training (no link provided b/c the LoC site is down!), and other exciting cataloging related things I’ve been up to since June. But then the #shutdown happened on Tuesday, Oct. 1 2013 at midnight.

At first I could’t catalog effectively. No Authorities, id.loc.gov, MARC Bibliographic, or Library of Congress OPAC!

LoC shutdown

But thankfully the RDAToolkit, Catalogers Desktop, and ClassWeb are still up and running. With my normal cataloging toolbox limited, I thought I would turn to the other half of my work and edit some metadata. Then today I tried to validate my MADS XML records only to discover that the LoC hosted XML schemas were down too!

Schema shutdown

It’s amazing how the repercussions of this government shutdown can trickle down to the everyday librarian. Until this all gets sorted out, I suppose I’ll catch up on my blog post writing.

RDA is here! Nothing to fear!

March 31, 2013 began the big switch from AACR2 to RDA for the Library of Congress. And today, April 1, 2013 my library switches to creating only new RDA records. Hooray!!!


To prepare for RDA, I watched over 12 hours hours of freely available online webinars hosted by ALCTS and the Library of Congress. ALCTS even has a YouTube channel devoted to RDA training! While some of the webinars were tedious and repetitive, they were all very informative. All in all it was incredibly valuable training and absolutely free! No need to hire expensive outside consultants and attend workshops. I easily was able to watch a webinar on my own time and learn the new standard.

Besides needing to learn the new standard myself, I also had to train my staff and update the entire library on the impact of RDA. So I organized three training sessions geared at three different levels:

  • RDA for Original Catalogers
  • RDA for Copy Catalogers
  • RDA for Everyone!

RDA for Original Catalogers focused on FRBR theory and terminology, the organization of RDA and the RDA Toolkit, and finally the practical application of RDA in MARC records. RDA for Copy Catalogers focused some on FRBR theory and terminology, a brief introduction to the RDAToolkit, the core differences between AACR2 and RDA, and the new guidelines for bibliographic verification for RDA records. Finally RDA for Everyone introduced a broad overview to the main differences folks will see in the OPAC.

After my training and then training my staff and colleagues on RDA, I feel very excited about the switch! RDA is absolutely a step in the right direction for the future of cataloging. Cramming it into MARC is one thing, but for now it works well enough. I don’t mind the extra typing, and I actually like the new 264 and 3XX fields. If RDA is the beginning of what’s to come for the future of library cataloging — I’m thrilled to be a part of all these changes.



Best RDA Webinars

Like many of my colleagues, I’m gearing up for the implementation RDA in April. That means training, training, and more training! I’ve tried reading the several books that have been published on RDA, but so far the best way I enjoy learning the new standard is through webinars. The ALCTS webinar archive is a wonderful resource. I’ve watched several of their programs and have found them extremely helpful. Here are my top  five:

  1. Changes from AACR2 to RDA. Part 1 with Adam L. Schiff
  2. Changes from AACR2 to RDA. Part 2 with Adam L. Schiff
  3. Recording RDA Elements in MARC21 Fields in Name Authority Records with Ana Lupe Cristán.
  4. Rare Materials and RDA: Exploring the Issues with Robert L. Maswell and John Attig.
  5. Introduction to RDA with Robert Ellett.




Open source solutions for libraries

This was a presentation that I gave back in April, 2012. I’m not sure why I didn’t publish it sooner, but at least it’s getting up now. In it I explore the concepts of open source software, the advantages and disadvantages of open source software, various types of open source software that are useful for libraries, and there is one little slide that talk about the future of linked open bibliographic data. Enjoy!


The future of bibliographic description is here…wait a minute!

It’s here! It’s finally here! While we were all out shopping or eating our Thanksgiving leftovers, LOC published the long awaited data model for bibliographic linked data on Black Friday, November 23, 2012! In a document entitled, “Bibliographic Framework as a Web of Data: Linked Data Model and Supporting Services,” the contracted team of Zepheira outlined how we might move from our static MARC record silos to open linked data networks. I read through it today and here are my thoughts:

Another Acronym

AACR2, RDA, DACS, CCO, MARC, MODS, MADS, METS, DC, PBCore, VRACore, EAD, CDWA, CDWA-lite, LCSH, LCNAF, MESH, AAT, LCC, DDC, FRBR, FRAD…and list continues…welcome BIBFRAME! Another acronym you’ll use to bore your friends and confuse non-cataloging coworkers! BIBFRAME is short for Bibliographic Framework and is the name of the new model that will take our bibliographic descriptions into the 21st century. Here are a few of my takeaways:


“The goal of this initial draft is to provide a pattern for modeling both future resources and bibliographic assets traditionally encoded in MARC21.” (p. 6)

While reading this document, I had to remind myself that this is a draft of a conceptual model. LOC acknowledges this and even wants feedback from the library community. This is a work in progress that hopes to establish a data model and develop an encoding standard for expressing bibliographic metadata based on MARC21 records. Thank goodness!

Goodbye MARC…Hello RDF!

BIBFRAME moves from flat bibliographic descriptions that use controlled vocabularies, to dynamic linked RDF triples that bring together the inherent relationships of our resources. The model looks like this:

(p. 9)

(My apologies for the poor quality of the snagged image from the report – I’m trying to publish this before the end of the work day) From this model we can see the relationships between Works to their creators and subjects; Works to  Instances; and Instances to publishers, locations, and formats. Creators, subjects, publishers, locations, and formats are all considered Authorities.

BIBFRAME then uses Annotations that relate to either Works or Instances to include local holdings data or other linked data services such as reviews, book covers, etc.

but what about FRBR and RDA you say?! Not much mention of them in the draft, except for a broad overview at the end. Instead BIBFRAME re-conceptualizes the FRBR WEMI (Work, Expression, Manifestation, Item) model into a less hierarchical structure. It uses network graph relationships between Works,  Instances, Authorities, and Annotations.

I have mixed feeling about this new WIAA model. Just when I was starting to see how FRBR’s WEMI model could be expressed through RDA, BIBFRAME throws curve ball. While I was reading the draft, I kept thinking where are the Expressions? Just Works and Instances? Then I have to remind myself – it’s all just semantics with relational data. Here’s how I broke it down:

  • Work = Works
  • Instances = Expressions + Manifestations
  • Authorities = Authorities
  • Annotations = Holdings + Other linked data stuff

Standard Best-Practices

“Formally reconciling the BIBFRAME modelling effort with an RDA-Lite set of cataloging rules is a logical next step.” (p. 15)

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Really?? An RDA-Lite?! We’ve just spent 3 years debating whether or not to adopt RDA in the first place and we finally have the green light from central command. Implementation is March 31, 2013. Period. Now they want a “lite” version to express in linked data relationships, rather than hierarchical descriptions!

Content Standards are guidelines that have to account for all circumstances of resource description. If you want a “lite” version, use what you need from the standard and ignore the rest! There’s not need to develop a new version of the standard to accommodate a new model.

A Centralized Approach

The BIBFRAME model calls for a centralized namespace for all Works, Instances, Authorities, and Annotations. I’m very confused by this approach. How I am supposed to adopt a new model and standard of Bibliographic description at my local institution if it’s all being managed by LOC? Does LOC really care that my institution has three copies of the Games of Thrones? Or will they only be implementing this for their collections and descriptions. (see comments below) I want to research how MARC was implemented now.

So LOC will maintain the framework centrally, like it does with the MODS family and other structure standards. But why maintain a new separate model for authority data that links to existing linked data service? The report gives the following example:

<Topic id=”http://bibframe/auth/topic/cataloging”>
<hasIDLink resource=”http://id.loc.gov/authorities/subjects/
sh85020816” />

There must be a reason for creating a new authority record that references an existing authority record, but it just seems redundant. If I link my BIBFRAME Work and Instance record to BIBFRAME authority records, the BIBFRAME authority record continues to link out to another linked data service. It feels like an unnecessary mediating link.

More to Come

Ok – that enough for now. Please watch out for more over the next couple days as I process this document further and continue my research. I promise to post more often too. I’ll be reviewing RIMMF soon!

Why you should and how you can help your library help itself

Lots of interesting materials come across my desk. Usually it’s miscellaneous Vermontiana or university publications, but today I cataloged a thin booklet produced by the Vermont Free Public Library Service from 1967! It’s called “Why you should and how you can help your library help itself.” This little resource outlines the primary functions of a library and ways librarians can improve their library! It’s amazing how little things have changed from our core mission:

“Besides providing a collection of books tailored specifically to the needs of the community or area it serves, a good library, even a small one, does much more.”–P. [2].

As technology becomes more and more a part of our lives and the library, it’s important to remember that while information carriers change, the purpose of the library does not.

The function of the public library is to assemble, organize, preserve, and make easily and freely available to all people the printed and non-printed materials that will assist them to:

  • Educate themselves continuously
  • Keep pace with progress in all fields of knowledge
  • Become better members of home and community
  • Discharge political and social obligations
  • Be more capable in their daily occupations
  • Develop their creative and spiritual capacities
  • Appreciate and enjoy works of art and literature
  • Use leisure time to promote personal and social well-being
  • Contribute to the grow of knowledge

It’s easy for a librarian to forget this. We’re so often busy negotiating licenses, learning new cataloging rules, planning programs, or simply trying to keep the doors open. So to remind us all of our core values with some simple suggestions, here is a link to the PDF: helpyourlibraryhelpitself


time on my side

My biggest priority at the library right now is to catch up on the backlog of items needing original cataloging. Currently we have approximately 15 linear feet of special collections materials, 2.5 linear feet of DVDs, and about 30 linear feet of LPs, scores, and other miscellaneous items. For the time being, I’ve decided to focus on the special collections materials and the DVDs.

I could just brainlessly catalog through the backlog one shelf at a time, but that wouldn’t be a very effective use of my time. So I assessed the situation and decided that work through the special collections materials by the oldest in the backlog (the items sitting on that shelf the longest), and cataloging the newest DVDs first. I determined my plan of backlog attack by weighing time based cataloging priorities – procedure with context.

Let’s look at the DVDs first. The items in this collection are mostly local recordings of guest lecturers and events around campus. Since they’re locally created, all the items require complex original cataloging. There is no copy and each video must be viewed to analyze its subject matter. Most of these recordings were create within the last 5 years, so the students or faculty who would be interested in viewing these items were probably around when the event actually took place. As time passes the memory of that event may fade, so it’s important to provide access to the most recently recorded items and work through the backlog to the oldest.

The opposite is true for the special collections backlog. All of these items were checked for copy in OCLC and no copy was found, so they were set aside for original cataloging. Over the years the backlog grew and grew to its current size. Many of the items have been waiting for cataloging for over 7 or 8 years, perhaps longer. In the years passed since the items were acquired and set aside, there is a very good chance that another local institution could have cataloged that item – providing excellent copy that I can use for my local catalog! So, by working through the “oldest” items in the special collections backlog, I have a higher chance of finding copy and saving myself time in in the long run.

The exception to these procedures is when something from the backlog is specifically requested. All items have provisional records with tombstone information, so they are at least somewhat searchable via the OPAC. If an item is requested by a user, it is treated like a rush and cataloged right away.

By cataloging in context I have a more efficient cataloging workflow, and therefore more a effective catalog for our users. Save the time of the cataloger and save the time of the user!