National Library of Australia

System changes FAQ

What changes do I need to make to my local library system ahead of RDA implementation?

In order to implement RDA local library systems will need to support the creation and exchange of RDA data.

Changes have been made to the MARC21 encoding standard to accommodate some new RDA fields, subfields and updated terms and codes. These changes will need to be incorporated into the cataloguing input/verification modules of local library systems to enable the import and/or export of new catalogue records from Libraries Australia and other databases. Changes will also be required to the indexes in local library systems in accord with how individual libraries choose to search and display the new data elements.

The required MARC21 changes are summarised at The National Library of Australia document, MARC21 changes to support RDA, gives more detail on these changes.

For further information on MARC21 developments see Libraries should consult with their local library system vendor to find out how these changes will be implemented.

Will I need to convert our existing records?

Conversion of existing 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 may be required, for example the headings for "Bible" will change in RDA and also headings for corporate names that include the abbreviation "Dept." Libraries may be able to obtain updated headings from Libraries Australia or do global changes in their own library systems.

What relationship will there be between the RDA online product and my library system?

The RDA online product has been developed to allow for future integration with library systems. This integration would enable a cataloguer to click through directly from their cataloguing screen to the relevant RDA instruction for the data being input.

Initially, some library systems may not be able to support this seamless integration with RDA.  In these cases the RDA online product would run in the ‘background’ and the cataloguer would ‘toggle’ back and forth from their library management system.

Will changes to catalogue displays be required?

It is hoped that eventually library systems and OPACs will evolve to take full advantage of the data created using RDA, with its underlying FRBR structure of work, expression, manifestation and item. These changes will improve the ease and effectiveness with which users are able to find, identify and obtain the resources they require. For example, resources in a variety of formats such as print, online, microform, sound recording might be grouped for display purposes to show they belong to a particular work or expression, allowing users to view and navigate between related works much more easily.

However, realistically, given the time required for system developments, these changes might not be a reality for several years.

What about Libraries Australia?

Libraries Australia is committed to supporting the creation and exchange of RDA data from late 2012 or early 2013.

In addition, just as records created according to older cataloguing rules (for example AACR1 or the ALA Cataloguing rules) continue to be used and exchanged well after the implementation of AACR2, we should expect that these, and AACR2 records, will continue to be used for years to come and will co-exist in our library systems with records created according to RDA. Libraries Australia will continue to support the exchange of records created according to AACR2 or other standards as long as they are supported in MARC21.  Libraries Australia will also publish a policy guideline as to when AACR2 records can and should be upgraded to reflect RDA.

Libraries Australia will investigate whether it is feasible and/or desirable to use global change programs to create any new RDA data elements using data that is already present in the record, or to massage existing data elements so that they comply with RDA.  Investigation will be undertaken once the MARC21 changes have been finalised.  The timing of any such global changes will be carefully considered so that they meet the needs of the greatest number of Australian libraries. They are likely to occur some time after the initial RDA implementation.

Libraries Australia will provide users with as much notice as possible of any changes to the data format and cataloguing policy. RDA related changes will be reflected in LA training courses and system documentation. Libraries Australia will aim to provide a training system that supports RDA well in advance of the agreed Australian RDA implementation date.

How do I keep informed?

Information about Australian implementation will be made available on this web site and on the rdaaust email discussion list.

For any further questions contact the RDA Implementation Team at the National Library of Australia at    

Information and background on the development of RDA is available on the JSC website. JSC's URL is: