Is RDA really necessary?
“The rules called Resource Description & Access (RDA) are an expensive answer to a non-existent problem.” These are not my own words but Michael Gorman, the reputed British-born librarian, in his last article RDA: the Emperor’s New Code published in JLIS.it (Vol. 7, No. 2, 2016).
It’s known the Gorman’s animosity towards RDA even since their first drafts. In RDA: the coming cataloguing debacle Gorman already showed himself “horrified” by them.
Someone can guess that this hostility has some relationship with his strong link with the Anglo-American cataloguing rules, the cataloging rules that RDA is called to substitute (Gorman was the first editor of AACR2 second edition at 1978 and 1988), but if we read carefully RDA: the Emperor’s New Code we can find serious and well-argued arguments.
His central idea is that ACCR2 is a cataloguing rule that “could accommodate useful change; and was perfectly adequate to the realities of modern cataloguing”. To demonstrate it, Gorman refers to the MRIs: AACR2 Rule Interpretations, a draft of unofficial AACR2 that incorporates all the changes produced in RDA.
After that, Gorman exemplifies the senseless of the cataloguing code change in three items: the “inexplicable and irresponsible” abandon of the ISBD, “the most successful bibliographic standard in history”; the right decision to abandon abbreviations in catalogue records, but that “could easily have been accommodated within AACR2”; and, by last, the fact that RDA “makes both cataloguing and catalogue use more confusing” because of the amount of “errors, confusions, misleading examples, and unclear wordings” that the code includes.
All in all, you can agree or not Gorman’s arguments, but it’s difficult to be indifferent about his opinions.
University of Barcelona