Resource Description and Access (RDA) is being developed as a new standard for resource description and access designed for the digital world.
Built on foundations established by the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR), RDA will provide a comprehensive set of guidelines and instructions on resource description and access covering all types of content and media. The new standard is being developed for use primarily in libraries, but consultations are being undertaken with other communities (archives, museums, publishers, semantic web, etc.) in an effort to attain an effective level of alignment between RDA and the metadata standards used in those communities.
Digital technologies have significantly changed the environment in which libraries, archives, museums, and other information management organizations build and maintain the databases that describe and provide access to resources in their collections.
The resources represented in those databases include a rapidly growing number that have been produced and disseminated using digital technologies. RDA is being designed to provide a flexible and extensible framework for both the technical and content description of such resources while also serving the needs of libraries organizing resources produced in non-digital formats.
Database technologies are also undergoing significant change, and an increasing number of information management organizations are migrating the data that describe and provide access to their resources to new platforms. RDA is being developed to provide a better fit with emerging database technologies, and to take advantage of the efficiencies and flexibility that such technologies offer with respect to data capture, storage, retrieval, and display.
A key element in the design of RDA is its alignment with the conceptual models for bibliographic and authority data developed by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). The FRBR and FRAD models provide RDA with an underlying framework that has the scope needed to support comprehensive coverage of all types of content and media, the flexibility and extensibility needed to accommodate newly emerging resource characteristics, and the adaptability needed for the data produced to function within a wide range of technological environments.
A second key element in the design of RDA is that it establishes a clear line of separation between the recording of data and the presentation of data. The major focus of RDA will be on providing guidelines and instructions on recording data to reflect attributes and relationships associated with the entities defined in the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) and Functional Requirements for Authority Data (FRAD) models. The aim is to provide a set of instructions for recording data that can be applied independently of any particular structure or syntax for data storage or display. Guidelines and instructions on formatting data elements for purposes of presentation according to specifications set out in standards such as the International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD) will be provided separately in appendices.
RDA is being designed for ease and efficiency of use. The guidelines and instructions in RDA will be structured to facilitate application to a wide variety of resources, ranging from those that can be described in a relatively simple and straightforward way to those for which more detailed guidance is required. General instructions covering basic aspects of resource description and access that are applicable to all types of resources will be formulated in clear, concise, simple terms. In cases where further guidance may be needed to describe specific characteristics exhibited by a resource, RDA will provide more detailed instructions applicable to particular types of content, media, and modes of issuance.
Notwithstanding its new approach, the need to integrate data produced using RDA into existing files (particularly those developed using AACR and related standards) is recognized as a key factor in the design of RDA.