Print Page   |   Sign In   |   Register
TL v63n3: RDA for Catalogers
Share |

RDA for Catalogers: A Guide to Using the Cataloging Rules Created to be Relevant to Today's Materials


Georgia I. Baskett (
Catalog Librarian
Paul Meek Library, University of Tennessee at Martin

Christi M. Underdown-DuBois (
Ingram Content Group

Heidi Busch (
Media Librarian
Paul Meek Library, University of Tennessee at Martin



Originally presented at the Tennessee Library Association Annual Conference (Chattanooga, TN) in April 2013.

Conference Abstract:  With the Library of Congress leading the transition to RDA (Resource Description and Access) we will see an increasing number of RDA records in our bibliographic utilities. We will provide a field by field (MARC 21 format) guide to understanding and creating bibliographic records for monographs using RDA.


After the Library of Congress announced that the implementation date for the Resource Description and Access (RDA) unified cataloging standard would be March 31, 2013, catalogers’ primary focus changed from keeping up with the latest news about RDA to learning to catalog with RDA. The first challenge for the University of Tennessee at Martin and Ingram Content Group catalogers was the selection of a training program that would meet our needs. We chose RDA Toolkit, the online training program the Library of Congress created for use by its own staff. This training program has the joint advantages of being freely available to all and of allowing catalogers to proceed at their own pace. We also found it relatively easy to comprehend.

This article focuses on the description of manifestations and items for books in monograph format. We do not address the construction of headings and authority records. Our goal is to provide the information necessary to create a simple bibliographic record for a book. Our discussion follows the order of the RDA Toolkit. In reviewing the Toolkit, experienced catalogers will notice that, unlike Anglo-American Cataloging Rules (AACR2), RDA does not treat each format in a separate chapter. Before discussing various RDA fields, we begin by introducing RDA vocabulary. 

Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records 

The RDA Toolkit’s vocabulary is based on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR), which recognizes that different aspects of a creation connect it with others of its kind, thus creating a theoretical collocation. FRBR breaks those relationships down into three entity groups:

  • Group 1 Entities: Works, Expressions, Manifestations, Items (i.e., WEMI, which are demonstrated most often in bibliographic record Core Elements)
  • Group 2 Entities: Persons, Corporate Bodies, Families (which are demonstrated most often in name authority records)
  • Group 3 Entities: Concept, Place, Event, Object, plus all Group 1 and 2 Entities (which are demonstrated most often in subject authority records)

Because the Name Authority Cooperative (NACO) program and Subject Authority Cooperative (SACO) program respectively cover training for Group 2 and 3 entities, this article focuses on Group 1 entities, WEMI.

FRBR defines a work as “a distinct intellectual or artistic creation” or an idea (p. 13). It “is realized through” an expression, which is the “intellectual or artistic realization of a work in the form of alpha-numeric, musical, or choreographic notation, sound, image, object, movement, etc., or any combination of such forms” or the first intangible way the idea comes to life (p. 19). An expression “is embodied in” a manifestation, which is “the physical embodiment of an expression of a work” (p. 21). A manifestation “is exemplified by” an item, which is “a single exemplar or instance of a manifestation” or a single copy (p 24). In our cataloging work, we touch manifestations and items, which are tangible things, unlike the hypothetical expressions and works.

Figure 1
Figure 1. FRBR Relationships.

For example, Victor Hugo wrote a work called Les Misérables, which was written originally in French. This work was then translated into expressions in English and Spanish. All three of these were published into manifestations by such companies as Librarie Gallimard (1951), Modern Library (193?) and Editorial Porrúa. Of course, the individual copies at the Paul Meek library at UT Martin have been itemized with barcodes, like 35205005308196, 35205002268526, and 35205000945570. There are various different distinctions between each class in Group 1, which can be further explored by reading the FRBR report, published by IFLA Study Group on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records.

When using the RDA Toolkit, it is important for one to realize that this whole bundle of theory and philosophy is the foundation for the terms used and how the tool is arranged, dividing familiar ideas into groups based on FRBR. Once one becomes accustomed to the workflow, the practical elements become more evident.

Core Elements

Instead of AACR2’s descriptive levels of detail (First Level, Second Level and Third Level), RDA has core elements which are required for all records as appropriate (see Figure 2). When describing a manifestation or item, a cataloger should include, as a minimum, all of the core elements that apply and are readily ascertainable. Core elements may be identified in the RDA Toolkit by the words CORE ELEMENT written below them in blue capital letters.

Figure 2
Figure 2. RDA Core Elements.

RDA Terminology

Some of the basic AACR2 terminology has been replaced in RDA. These changes are highlighted in the table in Figure 3, which is adapted from the Library of Congress training slides (Library of Congress, RDA Training Materials. RDA: Module 1, slides 32 and 33).

Figure 3
Figure 3. RDA Terminology.

LC Program for Cooperative Cataloging Policy Statements (LC-PCCPS)

The Library of Congress Rule Interpretations have been replaced by the Library of Congress – Program for Cooperative Cataloging Policy Statements (LC-PCCPS). The policy statements are available in the RDA Toolkit. To gain access from RDA, click on the letters LCPCCPS in the green box. We have found the policy statements to be very helpful.

Let's Get Started

Conveniently, OCLC provides an option of using an RDA workform in Connexion Browser and Connexion Client. They also offer a macro for Connexion Client titled “Add33x.” Before excitedly creating original records using RDA, allow some time to familiarize yourself with the changes via copy cataloging. Change is the only constant, but familiarity in small doses will help.

Figure 4
Figure 4. Use of Description in Leader and 040 Field to Identify RDA Record.

Because RDA permits so much cataloger’s judgment, creating policies for your institution is vital in maintaining consistency and a sturdy foundation. You will see hybrids appearing in OCLC. OCLC will be changing non-RDA records in the WorldCat database to include selected RDA practices such as the new 3xx fields. OCLC members will be notified of planned changes via various listservs. The practice of creating hybrid records for your local catalog is not recommended, since it may cause confusion in an already chaotic migration, much like the era of migration from AACR to AACR2 (see Figure 4).

Please remember that RDA is not necessarily about eliminating abbreviations, rather “to transcribe an element as it appears on the source of information” (RDA 1.7.1), or trusting the item and its data verbatim.

Transcription, Not Recording

As stated in RDA 1.7.1, general guidelines are to transcribe an element as it appears on the source of information. This is a significant change of procedure for experienced catalogers who are accustomed to recording the information required for the various fields of a bibliographic record in the format specified by AACR2.

Now we no longer have a single chief source of information, but a list of preferred sources of information that are given in order of priority (see Figure 5). Only information taken from outside the item itself is to be placed in square brackets.

Figure 5
Figure 5. Chief Source of Information Replaced by Preferred Sources.

Title and Statement of Responsibility Fields

Because we are instructed to copy the information as it appears on the item, creator and publisher errors are allowed in the title field. If an error will result in the patron’s inability to find the desired item, we are directed to include the corrected title with an explanatory note, as depicted in Figure 6.

Figure 6
Figure 6. Title with Error.

Another significant change in policy is the elimination of the Rule of Three (see Figure 7). If the statement of responsibility includes more than one name, only the first name is a core element; however, all names may be included in the statement of responsibility. It is Library of Congress’ policy to include all names; however, RDA leaves this decision to the individual cataloger. It is also up to the individual cataloger whether one traces each name, in addition to the first creator, who will be listed in the 1xx field, as a core element.

Figure 7
Figure 7. Rule of Three is Gone!

Edition Statement (250 field)

“Transcribe an edition statement as it appears on the source of information.” Apply the general guidelines on transcription given under 1.7 (RDA, e.g., 250 ## First American Edition.

AACR2 dictated that catalogers abbreviate the edition statement, both the number and the word. RDA trusts what is on the item and takes the data verbatim. No matter what, the edition field will always end with a period.

Publication, Distribution, etc. Fields

The 260 field has been replaced with a new field, 264, which allows particular details to be expressed in the second indicator. Rather than trying to fit all the information into a single line, a cataloger can now repeat and specify distinct institutions’ involvement, e.g.,

  • 264 #0 Production
  • 264 #1 Publication
  • 264 #2 Distribution
  • 264 #3 Manufacture
  • 264 #3 Copyright notice date

The Publication Statement is the only required field. If any part of the Publication Statement can be implied, for example, the Copyright Date, it can be included in brackets and no repeated fields are necessary. On the other hand, if any part of the Publication Statement is missing, a cataloger must continue repeating the 264 until the blanks are filled or all information from the item is listed.

Missing information is no longer noted using the Latin abbreviations, “[S.l.]” and “[s.n.]”. Instead, use the bracketed phrases “[Place of publication not identified]” and “[publisher not identified]”. Please note that any items divided by subfields will need to be bracketed separately.

Of course, for the sake of thoroughness, some institutions may choose to insert a second 264 to reflect a copyright date. If a cataloger includes more than one 264, it must be reflected in the Leader. Please note, both Example A and B are correct choices.

Example A: 008 s Single known date /probable date
264 #1 $aToronto :$bUniversity of Toronto Press,$c[2011]

Example B : 008 t Publication and copyright date
264 #1 $aToronto :$bUniversity of Toronto Press,$c[2011]
264 #4 $cc2011

Field 264 #4 $cc2011

In the case of Publication, Production, Distribution and Manufacture Statements, the place, name of institution, date of activity, and ending punctuation are required. For the Copyright Date, only the date is necessary, preceded by the word “copyright” or © within a subfield $c.

The first indicator will only change in the case of serials, which will follow this pattern:

  • # - Not applicable/No information provided/Earliest
  • 2 – Intervening
  • 3 – Current/latest

Many institution policies require inclusion of the first listed city and the first United States city, as well as the larger jurisdictions of both/either. RDA only requires the first city and a jurisdiction, as it is listed verbatim on the item, e.g., Lanham, Maryland. If a jurisdiction is not listed, but the cataloger feels it is necessary for patron identification, one may include it in brackets.

Content, Media Carrier Type Replace GMD

The 3xx Field

 So what has happened to the GMD 245 $h field? The new 3XX fields will be taking its place. Here we use the terms Extent (300), Content (336), Media (337), and Carrier (338). These are all Core Elements and must be included in each record. They are also repeatable fields.

The Extent (300) field is where we list the number and type of units that make up a resource. (RDA - 3.4.1). One obvious difference between AACR2 and RDA is the lack of abbreviations. Words are spelled out. For example, instead of the abbreviation “p,” one would spell out the word “pages.” However, just to keep things interesting, some abbreviations are still allowed; Appendix B covers these allowed abbreviations. (RDA - B.7.2). Metric symbols, for example, “cm” for centimeters, are not abbreviations and are not followed by a full stop...unless preceding a series statement, which is being kept as a holdover from AACR2, although it has not often been observed until now (see Figure 8).

Figure 8
Figure 8. Extent.

The 336 field is used to describe the content of the material. (RDA - (see Figure 9). This term refers to how the information is expressed and the human senses that are used. Content types include, spoken word and two-dimensional moving image. To show we are using RDA terminology the content term is followed by subfield 2 rdacontent (336 ## text $2 rdacontent).

Figure 9
Figure 9. Controlled Vocabulary for Content Type.

Media type is shown in field 337 (RDA - (see Figure 10). Media refers to the type of intermediary device that one uses to experience the content. Computer, video, and unmediated are all terms used here. The media term is followed by subfield 2 rdamedia (337 ## unmediated $2 rdamedia).

Figure 10
Figure 10. Controlled Vocabulary for Media Type.

The final new 3XX field type is Carrier, shown in the 338 field (RDA - (see Figure 11). This field provides more specific information about the format. It describes what “carries” the content. For example, an audio disc carries spoken word or performed music. The carrier type is followed by subfield 2 rdacarrier (338 ## volume $2 rdacarrier).

Figure 11
Figure 11. Controlled Vocabulary for Carrier Type.

There has been some concern regarding the new fields and how they display to the public, particularly regarding subfield two information. This information is there to identify to other groups, such as archives and museums, that we are using RDA terminology. This will be helpful when we try to link data between libraries and other entities. You can suppress these fields and not have them display to the public, but they must be included in the bibliographic record.

Series Statement

The title proper of a series is a core element. Although it is Library of Congress policy not to trace the series, the University of Tennessee at Martin Library & Ingram Content Group, like many libraries, has a local policy of copying the series title as it appears on the item in the 490 field and recording the title proper of the series in the 830 field. The basic rule hasn’t changed. Like AACR2, RDA instructs to “record the title proper of the series by applying the basic instructions on recording titles” (RDA

Preferred Title (RDA 6.2.2)

Note the change in terminology. Instead of a uniform title, we now have the preferred title, which is the form of the title used for the authorized access point, plus any additional elements that may be required to distinguish it from other access points (see Figure 12).

Figure 12
Figure 12. Preferred Title.

Relationship Designators

Relationships are addressed in detail in chapters 5 through 10 of RDA (see Figure 13). Several lists of relationship designators may be found in the appendices. Appendix I includes Relationship Designators for relationships between a resource and persons, families, and corporate bodies associated with the resource. The cataloger may choose an appropriate designator for use in a bibliographic record, but the use of the designator and subfield e is optional.

Figure 13
Figure 13. Relationship Designators for Creators.

Planning Ahead: Transition from MARC

While we are adjusting to this new world of RDA, we should also be aware that there are plans to replace MARC21 with Bibliographic Framework Transition Initiative (BIBFRAME). When one reads the predictions of the hypothetical adjustment between the two formats, one is easily reminded of the present situation of change. On, the development team describes a hybrid environment where we will simultaneously witness the use of the old and new. They also speak of BIBFRAME as a constant work in progress. RDA, like AACR2 before it, has created a hybrid environment and will also not stay static, but constantly be updated with adjustments.

While OPACs may have trouble with displaying new fields, such the 264 and 3xxs, librarians should not be shy in discussing options with ILS vendors and find the best solution for patrons. Vendors, as well as libraries, are in a constant position of change due to this brave, new world.

RDA is about connections and is not meant to be the end goal, in its’ present incarnation. Thus, it is good to be reminded that it is less about an absence of abbreviations and more about transcribing verbatim. As the Library of Congress has said, “Take what you see and accept what you get.” Computer speak might refer to this as “wysiwyg” or “What you see is what you get.” Instead of being asked to act as proscriptive editors and translators, catalogers will act as descriptive witnesses and accuracy transcriptionists.

In conclusion, we suggest you take advantage of the Library of Congress Catalogers Learning Workshops. You should feel free to refer to the R-Documents (Refresher for RDA testers) and other RDA Training Materials, available from Library of Congress (LC) webpage. Check out the Program for Cooperative Cataloging Web Page. Do not rush into RDA without establishing institutional policies that your entire staff understands. Moreover, and most importantly, enjoy the learning.

Slides that accompanied the original presentation are available at


American Library Association, Canadian Library Association, & CILIP: Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. (2010). RDA Toolkit. Retrieved from

IFLA. (2009). Functional requirements for bibliographic records (February 2009 update). Retrieved from

Library of Congress. Catalogers learning workshop. Library of Congress (LC) RDA training materials. Retrieved from

Library of Congress. Module 1: Introduction to RDA; Identifying manifestations and items. Slides. Retrieved from Library of Congress (LC) RDA Training Materials webpage

Library of Congress. Program for cooperative cataloging. Retrieved from

Library of Congress. R-Documents (Refresher for RDA testers).  Retrieved from



Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial











Membership Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal