RDA, as befits a standard for the digital age, was developed "as a resource description standard that is optimised for use as an online tool." 91 This was one of the goals in the Strategic Plan. The text of RDA was written and developed with this goal in mind. Thus, it was not written as a flat file, as a linear book or manual. It was written as the text for an online tool. RDA, as an online tool, has two aspects: the content of the standard and additional functionality because it is an online tool.92 The transition from drafting the standard to using the standard will be facilitated by its release as an online web tool.
RDA, the online tool, has the features expected from an online product, such as browse and search and moving through the text using hyperlinks. The search feature allows both a simple and an advanced search. The search is executed on the content of the standard, and returns relevancy ranked results.93 It also permits one to make bookmarks and notes and to save these to a personal profile. The online tool allows for three different levels of profiles, so that one can save a search or a bookmark at the level of the individual, at the level of a department, or at a third broader level, such as the institution or consortium level.
Accompanying the text of the standard, the JSC has also prepared supporting documents in the appendices that assist the cataloguer to use RDA: examples and mappings. These documents become even more helpful when used in an online, linked environment. Appendix M consists of a set of complete examples. The examples show the RDA element, a link to the RDA instruction and a demonstration of the metadata that should be recorded following the RDA instruction. The examples also illustrate how the data can be encoded; appendix M shows the examples encoded using MARC21. There are also 2 appendices that illustrate "record syntaxes", appendix D for descriptive data, and appendix E for authority data. Since RDA is a content standard, it can be used with different encoding schema and the data can be displayed in different ways. These two appendices demonstrate how the data can be presented and encoded. Appendix D demonstrates how RDA data can be displayed using ISBD specifications, and it also maps RDA elements to one of two encoding schema: the MARC21 format. The appendix includes a placeholder for the mapping to the RDA application profile using the Dublin Core schema.
For the 2008 review of the full draft, the JSC created an additional type of document: a workflow document. A workflow is a step-by-step procedure that moves the cataloguer through the logical decision process required to describe and give access to one particular type of resource. As the model for a workflow, the JSC chose to document the procedure for a book. The workflow begins by reminding the cataloguer of the decisions that must be made before one starts, then moves to step 1, choosing the preferred source of information, then to step 2, transcribing the title proper, and on through the decisions and steps required to prepare the complete bibliographic record. At each step, there is a brief summary of the task, and references back to the full instructions. The workflow is a very useful way to slice through the full content of the standard and pull together references to all the relevant instructions for a particular type of resource.
Examples, mappings and workflows help the cataloguer to make the transition from the theoretical framework and newly worded instructions to the concrete evidence of the metadata that will be recorded using RDA. The online tool also offers the opportunity to use the model of the examples and the workflows as a starting point to create new examples and new workflows. A library can develop workflows for its staff, incorporating its local decisions about options and its own procedures as steps added to the basic workflow. An institution can develop workflows and examples for special types of resources that are part of its collections.
The ability to incorporate customizations into the online tool allows a library to integrate policy and standard into one tool. Staff no longer need to consult documents residing in two or three different places. This integration can encourage the consistent adherence to standards while at the same time also promoting efficiency in the application of local decisions.
RDA, the online tool, also opens up interesting possibilities for specialized cataloguing communities. Not only can a library or a department integrate their local policies and procedures into the online tool. They can also share examples and workflows with other libraries and institutions. One can create and save new examples and workflows within the profiles of the individual, the department or the institution. One can also import new ones from outside the institution, thus opening up the possibility of sharing these documents throughout a broader community of cataloguers.94 Through this sharing functionality, one can have the standard, plus all the additional assistance that used to be made available in the manuals of specialized cataloguing communities. All the instructions can be integrated into the one online tool.
RDA, the online tool, opens up avenues of collaboration for specialized cataloguing communities. A lone cataloguer may be the only person at an institution who catalogues resources for users with print disabilities. If the community who catalogues DAISY books develops examples and workflows, the lone cataloguer can integrate these aids into their RDA profile, and easily follow both RDA, and the DAISY cataloguing community's pathways through RDA. The DAISY cataloguing community can decide to develop and publicize the existence of these examples and workflows, and thus encourage a standard application of RDA for DAISY books in the wider community. When the examples and workflows come from a reliable source, institutions will probably be quite eager to adopt and integrate these shared tools. This collaborative aspect of RDA benefits the cataloguers, and, in turn, benefits the users who will be searching a more uniform set of metadata.
In order to take immediate advantage of RDA's new approach to the description of content, media and carrier, one must be able to encode this data with currently used encoding schema. RDA was designed so that it would not be tied to any one encoding standard. Work is underway to collaborate with encoding schema communities to ensure that RDA data can be fully encoded and supported when the standard is implemented.
The RDA/MARC Working Group was appointed to identify changes required to MARC21 so that MARC21 is compatible with RDA and accommodates all RDA data elements. The Working Group analyzed the mapping between RDA and MARC21, and identified areas of MARC21 that needed modification. The Group prepared discussion papers and then proposals based on the feedback to the discussion papers. The required changes are not extensive. One of the significant changes is the proposal for three new fields in the bibliographic format for type of content, type of media and type of carrier: fields 336, 337 and 338. These new fields have been approved. 95 The three RDA data elements that form the basis for the extensible framework for technical and content description will each have its own MARC field. The data will be well identified and segmented, allowing for better data manipulation and data display. Another example of better segmentation of data is the revision for field 502, the dissertation note.96 Additional subfields have been approved for this field, corresponding to separate RDA elements for academic degree, granting institution and date the degree was granted. There are also some other changes: additional data elements for authority data, and adjustments to the lists of codes used in 007 of the bibliographic format.
RDA can also be encoded using other metadata schema. RDA is essentially a kind of metadata element set. However, just being a metadata element set is not sufficient for it to be fully operable in the semantic web and to fit into web architecture.
...for certain elements, element sub-types, and sub-elements defined in the RDA element set, the RDA instructions reference "external" encoding schemes (e.g., the ISO encoding schemes for standard identifiers such as ISBNs and ISSNs). For certain other elements, element sub-types, and sub-elements, RDA provides instructions on recording value representations in a structured form that function, in effect, as "internal" encoding schemes. For example, the controlled lists of values for elements such as Media type, Carrier type, and Content type function as vocabulary encoding schemes for those elements. At this stage , however, none of the controlled lists of values specified in RDA have been formally registered as vocabulary encoding schemes.97
The DCMI/RDA Task Group was formed as a collaborative initiative between the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative and other Semantic Web communities and the RDA development community.98 It will develop a RDA application profile for Dublin Core. For the application profile to be fully supported, the terms used in RDA need to be defined and disclosed. The Group is currently working on the identification and definition of the RDA element vocabulary, and then on disclosing this vocabulary using RDF/RDFS/SKOS. The starting point is the vocabulary used for content, media and carrier types.
91. Joint Steering Committee. Strategic Plan for RDA, 2005-2009, long term goal no. 3.
92. The description of the functionality of the tool is based on the author's conversations with Nanette Naught, the designer of the software, and on information from presentations about the online tool. At the time of writing, the interactive demo of the tool was still being developed.
93. The relevancy is based not simply on the frequency of occurrence of a word or phrase, but is calculated based on the weight assigned to different types of occurrences, e.g. the occurrence of a word in a section heading has more weight than in an example.
94. This import functionality is coupled with a gate-keeper functionality: an administrator approves documents before they are imported. An institution can screen which documents are integrated into their profile.
97. Encoding RDA Data. Draft 2007-03-22.Background document for the RDA Data Model Meeting held at the British Library, April 30-May1, 2007.
98. The work of the DCMI/RDA Task Group is tracked on the DCMI/RDA Task Group Wiki: