An often-heard concern over RDA is its impact on small libraries. In this presentation, I plan to explore some of the challenges that small libraries face when it comes to RDA, as well as possible solutions to, or ways of dealing with, these challenges. Some of my suggested solutions are things that those who work in small libraries can do in order to make things better, and some of them are sort of more general solutions, things I’d like to see from the publishers of RDA or the Joint Steering Committee.
Before I begin talking about RDA, I thought I’d first talk about what exactly a small library is, to provide some frame of reference for my presentation. There really is no hard and fast definition, but there are a few ways of thinking about the answer to the question.Poll: Do you consider your workplace a small library?
One way of defining a small library is in terms of its population served. The Library Journal Best Small Library in America Award accepts nominations for libraries that serve a “community with a population of 25,000 or less.”
Number of staff members is certainly a possible way of defining a small library. I think when it comes to RDA, you could take that one step further and think about the number of staff members in technical services, or cataloging. To me, that is certainly a relevant figure when it comes to discussing how well a library will adapt to RDA.
I think that size of collection is a relevant area to look at, too. For one thing, a library with a smaller collection would probably have a less sophisticated ILS, which might present more challenges when adopting RDA.
Obviously, when it comes to RDA, the budget of an institution is an important concern.Really, all of these different aspects of small libraries are intertwined; a library that serves a small population is also likely to have a small number of staff and a small collection, for example. But I thought it was important to start out the presentation by identifying some of the factors that I’m talking about when I talk about small libraries.
This is an issue of which I am very aware, because I work at the state library in a state with many small public libraries. Out of the 272 public libraries in Nebraska,
only two serve populations of over 50,000.
14 have populations between 10,000 and 50,000, and the rest are below 10, 000, which leaves 256 out of 272 libraries.I realize that small public libraries are not the only small libraries out there, and that the impact of RDA will be different for other types (small special libraries, for example) than for these small public libraries. This presentation may skew slightly toward the public library angle, just because of my experience, but I have tried to consider the effect on different types of small libraries.
It probably goes without saying that one of the major obstacles to small libraries is the price of access to the RDA product. Even the cheapest price, the solo-user cost of $195, is significantly higher than the $95 price tag of AACR2, and this is an annual subscription fee, not a one-time purchase.Even if the price of access is not considered to be too outrageous, there is still the issue of access vs. ownership. You’ll notice that I’ve been using the phrase “price of access,” and that’s exactly what I mean. If a library suddenly finds itself unable to pay the yearly subscription fee, they will no longer have access to any of the information. I would hazard a guess that small libraries find themselves in more precarious financial situations than larger libraries and are more in danger of facing sudden cuts that might leave them without the budget to pay for RDA.I do commend the publishers of RDA for making a print version available; I can only assume that this was a response to overwhelming feedback, since there were originally no plans to do so. Cost-wise, this makes RDA a lot more accessible to small libraries. I don’t know a lot about the proposed update schedule and costs (obviously, with large portions of RDA unfinished, there will be some major updates), and I haven’t actually seen a print copy, so I don’t know how navigable it is, but I do applaud the effort.Poll: Have you purchased access to RDA (either in print or via the online Toolkit)?
Group purchases are a possible solution to the pricing issue. I know that discounted group pricing is available. Library consortia should definitely explore this option. Library networks are another source of discounts offered to groups of purchasers.
For libraries where the majority of cataloging is copy cataloging, the idea has definitely been promoted that implementation doesn’t necessarily require access to the full code. Cheat sheets exist to help copy catalogers be on the lookout for differences from AACR2 records. I think that these cheat sheets will definitely help with the transition period, but I do think that they will be decidedly less useful for people who are new to cataloging and never worked with AACR2. I worry somewhat that cheat sheets will create a culture of only learning RDA from an AACR2 standpoint. I find myself falling into this trap when I do training on RDA - I approach it very much from a “what’s different from AACR2” standpoint, and while that’s useful, I don’t think it will be the most helpful thing for small libraries in the long run.In addition, there are small libraries where copy cataloging is not the only cataloging that takes place. Small public libraries with extensive local history collections will be creating records for their unique materials. Special libraries with a very specific user base will have resources that no one else has created records for yet. In order to create RDA records, these libraries will clearly need access to RDA.
I do feel that a concise version of RDA would be helpful. Cheat sheets simplify it a bit too much, but a concerted effort to simplify RDA would be useful.
I think that we are somewhat unique among state libraries in that we don’t do cataloging for libraries in the state. There is no Nebraska union catalog. I have heard others around the country remark that they think interest in “outsourced” cataloging will most likely increase if RDA is implemented.Will the effect of RDA be fewer local catalogs? Are services like WorldCat Local the way of the future?
Setting aside the issue of access to the rules, small libraries will also face the challenge of importing RDA records into their systems and making them useable for their patrons. Again, to a certain extent, this goes back to money. The cost of RDA is not simply the cost of accessing the rules, but also the cost of re-vamping an ILS to work with RDA records, or even purchasing a new ILS if your current one won’t work with them.Another issue relating to the cost of RDA is the time and money spent on training staff. Productivity will almost certainly decrease until staff are comfortable either creating original RDA records, dealing with RDA records while copy cataloging, or both.
I can’t encourage you enough to talk to your ILS vendor about RDA if you have doubts. I feel, and I’ve seen others writing about the same thing, that we’re stuck in a chicken-and-egg situation where the vendors don’t want to make changes that the librarians haven’t asked for, but the librarians don’t want to push the vendors about changes that they haven’t initiated.If you want to feel more in control when you talk to your vendor, play around with some RDA records first. There are sample records available now.Poll: Do you have RDA records in your catalog? Have you encountered them in copy cataloging?
I feel very strongly that training is important. Affordable training is important. I realize that it’s not always feasible for organizations to do this, but at the Nebraska Library Commission, the majority of our training is free of charge to librarians in the state.
Here in Nebraska, the Technical Services Round Table of our state library association has started an online discussion group (using Google Groups) to address RDA questions.I think just feeling like other people are in the same boat can go a long way toward helping people cope with the change.
In a recent Library Journal column, Andy Woodworth calls for the idea of “big tent librarianship.” His focus was on the struggle for existence faced by many libraries, but I believe that this concept is useful for thinking about RDA as well, and necessary if RDA is to be implemented across a wide variety of library types. I would encourage those of you in larger institutions to work with other libraries in your community to help them feel comfortable with the transition.“Past American Library Association president James Rettig wrote of this shared fate, referring to it as a “library ecosystem” in which different types of libraries provide inherent support for one another. As in nature, the impairment or loss of one part of the cycle directly affects the other parts.”“In my dreams of big tent librarianship, I envision a field where librarians of all types are exchanging ideas on common themes and issues facing their libraries.”
Now that I’ve talked about what I see as the current challenges and some ways that they can be handled, I’d like to talk about some longer term issues with RDA. There are a couple of questions that come to mind when looking at RDA in the long term.
The reports I’ve seen from the ALA Midwinter presentation by RDA test participants seem to indicate that working with RDA records during copy cataloging was more of an issue that creating original RDA records, so if RDA is implemented by the Library of Congress, unless you create all of your records from scratch, you will be working with RDA records.
There are questions coming out of the RDA test, and I sincerely hope that these concerns will be taken seriously. I feel that the implementation of RDA will be more disruptive to small libraries than to larger libraries, and so it should only be undertaken if the outcome is worth it.If the current impact of RDA can be reduced to a cheat sheet, is it worth doing? If small libraries don’t necessarily need access to the rules, is changing the rules still worthwhile? Personally, I believe that while a lot of the more visible changes of RDA (fewer abbreviations, content/media/carrier type) come across as minutiae at the moment, there are bigger, more important changes behind RDA. I also believe that these changes could benefit small libraries.I think the emphasis on cataloger’s judgment and taking what you see could benefit small libraries where staff time is at a premium, as could the eventual goal of bringing in metadata from a wide variety of sources. I also think that the layout of the rules could help simplify the cataloging of items that fall into more than one AACR2 chapter.If RDA does make FRBR-ization of a catalog easier, I think there could be some benefits in terms of time and energy saved if information about a work does not have to be re-entered for every different manifestation of that work (at least for libraries that do a lot of original cataloging).However, in our current environment, I don’t see the opportunity for a lot of these more sweeping changes. I think MARC is keeping us very locked in to our current systems and leaving us with a very unwieldy change to make when implementing RDA.I’d really like to see usability testing done with RDA records, and I don’t know if that’s a component of the evaluation of records created by the test libraries or not. I think it’s really important for us to see how RDA will affect library users.
Talk to vendors, talk to each other
Group purchasesTraining opportunitiesShared catalogs
Think about library users
RDA and Small Libraries: What Will the Challenges Be?
RDA and Small Libraries: What Will the Challenges Be?<br />Emily Dust Nimsakont<br />Nebraska Library Commission<br />RDA @ Your Library<br />February 4, 2011<br />Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jk079/5143948892/<br />
What is a small library?<br />Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/superhead/2751493314/<br />
Population Served<br />Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/calliope/4337395309/<br />
Number of Staff Members<br />Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/manchesterlibrary/2630418855/<br />
Size of Collection<br />Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_mistress/261320989/<br />
What challenges related to RDA do small libraries face?<br />Photo credits: <br />http://www.flickr.com/photos/nomadicentrepreneur/4910403326/<br />http://www.flickr.com/photos/paqman/3984543980/<br />