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NLM among Three National Libraries Endorsing Recommendations for Implementation of New RDA Cataloging Rules


The National Library of Medicine (NLM), the world's largest medical library and a component of the National Institutes of Health, the National Agricultural Library (NAL) and the Library of Congress (LC) announce an agreement regarding the implementation of RDA (Resource Description and Access), new cataloging rules published in June 2010 to replace AACR2 (Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, 2nd edition).

Concerns were raised in 2008 about how well RDA met its own self-stated goals, the costs of adopting new rules, and the lack of clear explanations of the new rules' benefits. Therefore, the US community, led by the senior management at the NLM, the NAL, and the LC had agreed to coordinate a US test of the rules and make a joint decision about whether or not the rules should be adopted. The US RDA Test Coordinating Committee was appointed in June 2008, with three members each from NLM and NAL and four members from LC.  The test involved 23 partner institutions (libraries of various sizes and types, museums, archives, vendors, educators and students), in addition to the three national libraries. The test was conducted from July-December 2010, the results of the test were analyzed from January-May 2011, and the Coordinating Committee submitted its report and recommendations to their senior management on June 6, 2011.

Executives of the three national libraries, Dr. Simon Liu (NAL), Sheldon Kotzin (NLM) and Dr. Deanna Marcum (LC), issued a statement June 14, 2011, endorsing the recommendations made by the US RDA Test Coordinating Committee regarding the implementation of RDA - namely that RDA should be implemented no earlier than January 2013 and is contingent upon the satisfactory progress/completion of nine specified tasks and action items outlined in the report. The statement is available at:

The executive summary of the report is available at:

The full report will be made available prior to the upcoming American Library Association (ALA) Annual Meeting, which begins June 23, 2011.

The tasks that must be completed or underway before implementation are: 

  • Rewrite the RDA instructions in clear, unambiguous, plain English
  • Define process for updating RDA in the online environment
  • Improve the functionality of the online RDA Toolkit
  • Develop full RDA record examples in MARC (MAchine-Readable Cataloging)

and other encoding schema

  • Announce the completion of the Registered RDA Element Sets and Vocabularies
  • Demonstrate credible progress towards a replacement for MARC
  • Ensure and facilitate community involvement
  • Leadership and coordination of RDA training by LC
  • Solicit demonstrations of prototype input and discovery systems that use the RDA element set

Each of these tasks has a proposed timeline for completion, so that progress in achievement can be ascertained. Members of the Coordinating Committee will continue in an oversight role to ensure that these conditions are being met in a way that will allow a 2013 implementation.


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