National Library of Australia

Implementation of RDA

Many libraries, including the National Library of Australia, the Library of Congress and the national libraries of Britain and Canada implemented RDA in March 2013. A list of Australian libraries that have implemented RDA can be viewed here.

RDA implementation at your library 

Each individual library will need to decide when they will implement RDA and to devise their own implementation schedule.

When planning for RDA implementation and developing an implementation schedule, it is important to first identify all the tasks required to implement RDA. These tasks will vary for each library depending on a range of factors, for example whether they do their own cataloguing, if they purchase all or some of their catalogue records, which library system they use, if they intend to engage an external trainer.

The human, financial and other resources required to undertake the identified tasks should also be considered. For example, libraries will need to budget for the cost of access to RDA. They will also need to consider possible impacts on productivity during the implementation and “settling-in” period.

Communication is also an important component of the RDA implementation process. Libraries should consider who they need to inform or consult about implementation and how they will do this.

Access to the RDA Toolkit

Access the RDA instructions will be necessary for implementing libraries. The RDA Toolkit is available as an online, web-based product. Although the preferred way to access RDA is online via the RDA Toolkit, print copies of the RDA instructions are also available for purchase.

Before subscribing to the online product, libraries should determine the most suitable licence agreement based on the number of concurrent users they expect to be using the RDA Toolkit. A free 30 day trial is available.

System changes

In order to implement RDA, local library systems need to support the creation, exchange, searching and display of RDA data. This may require some changes to the local library management system and the library catalogue. Changes may also be required to other local systems that utilise catalogue data.

Changes have been made to the MARC21 encoding standard to accommodate RDA, such as new fields, subfields and updated terms and codes. The MARC21 changes are summarised at The National Library of Australia has prepared a document giving more detail on these changes.

The MARC 21 changes need to be incorporated into the cataloguing input modules of local library systems to enable the creation of new catalogue records and also to enable the import and/or export of new catalogue records from other databases. Libraries should consult with their library system vendor to find out how these changes will be implemented.

Libraries should also consult their system vendor about the display options for the new fields and subfields available for their local catalogue.

Policies and documentation

Libraries may choose to include only core RDA elements in their catalogue records, with additional elements used when required to differentiate the resource or entity from one or more other entities with the same name or title.

Alternatively, libraries have the option to establish policies and guidelines on levels of description and authority control to be applied either generally or to specific categories of resources and other entities, or it may leave decisions on the level of detail to the discretion of the individual creating the data.

RDA also includes a number of guidelines and instructions that are designated as alternatives and options. Libraries may wish to establish their own policies and guidelines on the application of alternatives and options. Alternatively, libraries may choose to follow the Library of Congress-Program for Cooperative Cataloging Policy Statements (LC-PCC PS) or the National Library of Australia policies (NLA PS) that are incorporated in the RDA Toolkit.

Cataloguing documentation and in-house manuals will need be reviewed and updated in line with RDA instructions and policies.

If catalogue records are obtained through any type of record service or authority service, a library may need to make changes to their profile to be sure that new records meet RDA requirements.

Record and heading changes

Conversion of existing catalogue records will generally not be necessary as records created using RDA are intended to integrate with AACR2 records in existing databases. However, some global updating of headings and/or authority records will be required, such as changes to the structure of Bible and Koran uniform titles and also headings for corporate names that include the abbreviation "Dept."

Libraries may be able to obtain updated headings from OCLC or do global changes in their own library systems.

The Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC) established the Acceptable Headings Implementation Task Group to plan and schedule changes to the LC/NACO authority file. A summary of programmatic changes to the LC/NACO Authority File is available.

More detailed information about changes to the LC/NACO authority file is also available.


Libraries will need to arrange for their staff to be trained in RDA. The training required by cataloguers will differ in content and duration from the training that other library staff such as reference librarians require. Additional training may also be required by cataloguers of particular types of material such as serials, music or film.

Libraries have the option to engage an external trainer or to train of their own staff.

If libraries decide to train their own staff, it is important to allow sufficient time to adapt training materials in line with local policies and practices.

The Library of Congress has made their training materials freely available.

The National Library of Australia has made their training materials freely available on the ACOC website.

Information about Australian courses and contact details for Australian training agents are provided on the ACOC website.