IFLA Survey on Rare Materials Cataloguing with RDA
Standardized cataloguing of rare materials has always been a complex matter, historically fragmented within geographical regions until the arrival in the 1980s of standardized models, such as ISBD and DCRM, which were quickly adopted internationally. In general, rare materials are never the first to adopt new standards. Manuscripts are a good example: DCRM(MSS) was first published in 2016 and ISBD has not included unpublished resources until its current revision. Complex in themselves and full of details that need a thorough guidance for an accurate description, rare materials’ relationship with standardization has always been a love-hate one: such a structured description is needed to make them accessible and, at the same time, their very nature seems to be specially designed to escape standardized models.
After decades of refinement and use of the above mentioned traditional standards for rare materials, RDA has burst into the cataloguing landscape, but its wide adoption for rare materials is slow. Why? When dealing with a new standard, the main question is probably what a rare book cataloguer expects from its cataloguing rules. A question that leads to the next: what does the researcher need in the description of a document for its identification and retrieval? Members of the rare books community have often expressed the opinion that RDA proper has not yet delivered a standard which meets these needs. As a model which, unlike its predecessor AACR2, depends on policy statements to be implemented, RDA requires specific policy statements for rare materials to be developed.
How does the rare-materials-cataloguing-community feel about this? Are they willing to adopt RDA? Do they miss the detailed guidance that ISBD and DCRM used to provide? And, if they are going to adopt RDA, how are they planning to do it? In order to get an accurate and worldwide overview of the plans, institutions have regarding these matters, the Rare Books and Special Collections Section recently developed a survey on the implementation of RDA in rare materials cataloguing. Now we are glad to publish the results, both a simple report and an analysis of the feedback we have received from institutions all around the world. In addition, we have produced a comparative study by world regions, to get a clear overview of the geographical distribution of responses.
We hope this information will contribute to a better understanding of the direction institutions dealing with rare materials are going to follow in the near term and, maybe, even to a broader reflection on what is really needed to enable their best description and access.
Link to the IFLA Survey on Rare Materials Cataloguing
Link to the Report Rare Materials Cataloguing
Link to the Survey Results compared by regions