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RDA Cataloging Resources: Home

Compilation of freely-available resources on RDA

Using this Guide

This reference guide is comprised of freely-available online resources with basic guidelines and instructions on cataloging with the Resource, Description & Access (RDA) standard for bibliographic data. It is intended to support librarians and catalogers who may not have full access to the RDA Toolkit subscription. 

Groupings of core and frequently-used RDA elements for cataloging manifestations can be found at the bottom of the page. Each super element tab has a drop-down menu with its respective sub-elements. Click on the file link to access basic instructions for that particular sub-element. The last slide of each file offers a list of resources with additional context and unique cataloging scenario examples to reference as needed. 

Welcome to RDA

RDA is a content standard which was developed to better capture metadata within digital environments and to record attributes and relationships between entities. RDA provides instructions on recording the content of records. One of the benefits of RDA compared to previous cataloging standards is that it's more focused on the patron and end-user, enabling better finding, identifying, selecting, obtaining and exploring of information resources. Records created using RDA are also more adaptable to newly emerging database structures.

See additional links below for the development of RDA, a summary of user tasks and use cases, and an article on RDA use in public libraries.

Core Elements

"RDA Core" elements are the minimum elements required for describing bibliographic resources according to RDA. 

"RDA Core if" elements are core, if applicable, and if the information is available.

The Library of Congress (LC- Core) and Library of Congress -Program for Cooperative Cataloging (LC-PCC Core) are elements prescribed by LC and PCC in addition to RDA Core and RDA Core if.

For more information on specific core elements visit this Library of Congress Table of RDA Core Elements.

Transcription Basics

RDA distinguishes between transcribed elements and recorded elements. Instructions to "transcribe" means record the content of the data exactly as it appears on the resource. This includes if the content is miss-spelled or inaccurate. Instructions to "record" indicate that the data might be recorded differently than how it is presented on the source. For example, "copyright 2001" might be recorded as "© 2001". 

For more information on transcribing core elements visit this Library of Congress Training Document. The Core Elements document in the box above also indicates which elements are transcribed versus recorded.

RDA Punctuation

Instructions on use of prescribed punctuation for the display of descriptive data in International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD) form:
Outline: Consolidated ISBD Guide (2011) | Punctuation summary.
Full Guide: ISBD Consolidated Guide (2011) | See pages 21-38 for in-depth punctuation guidance.

OCLC Bibliographic Formats and Standards Punctuation Guidance:
Punctuation Introduction (Sept 2022)
Bibliographic Formats and Standards Content List | Specific punctuation instructions provided at the bottom of the page for each field.

Additional Resources:
RDA in Brief — End-of-Field Punctuation | Mark K. Ehlert (2013)
Capitalization, Abbreviations, Numbers | LOC RDA Refresher - Performance Support (Nov 2014)
Guidelines for Minimally Punctuated MARC Bibliographic Records (Sept 2019)

Ethical Cataloging

A Code of Ethics for Catalogers (January 2021) | A Cataloguing Code of Ethics provided by the Cataloging Ethics Steering Committee. Includes working group reports, updates and presentations.

Ethical Cataloging Panel Discussion (April 2021) | Explores judgement calls made by catalogers that can affect access to material on or by artists from underrepresented groups and marginalized identities. Local solutions and best practices are presented along with tools for enhancing access to diverse collections in any library.

Critical Cataloging Resource Guide | Readings and tools around ethical implications of library metadata, cataloging and classification standards, practice and infrastructure.

Metadata Best Practices for Trans and Gender Diverse Resources (June 2022) | Best practices for the description, cataloguing, and classification of information resources and creation of metadata about trans and gender diverse people, including authors and other creators. [NOTE: Section 3.2.3 is no longer applicable. RDA gender element (MARC 375) in personal name authority records is no longer recorded. For more information visit this updated report].

RDA Element Groupings

The edition statement is a word or phrase indicating a difference in content or form between the resource and a related resource.  An edition statement can also be a revision or include information about new material. 

The publication statement consists of three parts: 

  • Place of publication
  • Name of publisher
  • Date of publication

The publication statement may have more than one instance of a particular part, such as two publishers or multiple places of publication, but all three parts are required as part of the publication statement. Distribution statements and Manufacture statements have the same three parts (place, name and date) and can be recorded in addition to the publication statement but only the publication statement is a core element.

Copyright dates are included in discussions of publication but they are not part of the statement. If no publication date exists, the copyright date can be recorded in brackets to infer the date of publication. See instructions below for more details.

The series statement is a descriptive attribute of the manifestation. It requires inclusion of a Title of Series and may also include parallel title(s) of series, other title information for series, Statement of responsibility for series, ISSN of series, and numbering of series.

If a resource belongs to more than one series, record each series statement separately. If there is ambiguity around what the series statement should be visit page 3 of this PCC Training Document.

Under RDA instruction, notes are not required but they are allowed if considered important for clarification or justification for authorized access points for the resource being cataloged. RDA does not prescribe a particular order for note fields so they can be recorded as one sees fit.

For a full list of bibliographic note options visit this OCLC Training Guide document.

What are relationships?

  • Connections between entities
    • Author/novel; composer/music; serial title/title change; work/expression; person/family

Why are relationships important?

  • Help users find what they want!

Include a relationship designator for all creators, whether coded 1XX or 7XX

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