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Frequently Asked Questions

The Subcomissió Tècnica d’RDA (STRDA) has prepared the following answers to some of the questions made last months. However, for any doubt, suggestion or comment, please contact

What is RDA ?
Why to change to RDA?
What about ISBD?
What is FRBR and what is its relation with RDA?
Where can be found information on RDA principles and conceptual models?
What does RDA include?
Does RDA contain instructions for codifying data in MARC21?
Does MARC 21 allow recording all RDA's elements?
Will have to make major changes to existing records in the catalogues?
How will affect RDA to current integrated library systems?
Is it necessary a specific training to apply RDA?
How is RDA published?
What translations are available?
When will be ready the catalan translation?

What is RDA ?

RDA is the acronym of Resource, description and access. It is the title of the new cataloging rule that will replace the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules (AACR), 2nd edition.

RDA provides guidelines and instructions for describing and accessing all resources. The records created under its application can be used in several digital environments (Internet, OPAC web, etc.).   

Why to change to RDA?

AACR2 was first published in 1978. Even though it has been updated, it was a rule mainly designed for an environment dominated by card catalogue. In 1997, the International Conference on the Principles and Future Development of AACR held at Toronto identified a set of deep problems; some of them were fixed by subsequent updates, but it was evident the necessity of an essential reassessment of the code to facing the challenges and opportunities of digital world.

In April 2005, the Joint Steering Committee for the Revision of AACR (JSC) and the Committee of Principals (CoP), after considering several alternatives, decided to design a new standard focused on digital environment.

RDA provides:

  • A flexible framework for describing all analogic and digital resources
  • Data that is readily adaptable to new and emerging databases structures
  • Data that is compatible with existing records in current online library catalogues

RDA is built on the foundations established by the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR) and is developed for use primarily in libraries, but it has potential to be used by other communities of the information world (archives, museums, publishers, etc.), due to the effort made to align RDA and the metadata standards used in these communities.

What about ISBD?

RDA is not structured under the same order of areas of the ISBD neither prescribes the punctuation that should be used for each element. RDA is focused on the data that should be recorded, but it does not give any guideline about how to show them to user.

ISBD is still valid as one of the formats for showing information. For this reason RDA contains a specific appendix (appendix D.1) about the way to present RDA data in ISBD. A table that specifies the order of the ISBD elements, the mandatory fields, the prescribed punctuation as well as the corresponding RDA element, is also included.

What is FRBR and what is its relation with RDA?

FRBR is the English acronym of Functional requirements for bibliographic records. This report was made by the Study Group on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records. It was approved by the IFLA Standing Committee of the Section on Cataloguing.

FRBR are a conceptual model of entity/relationship independent from any code of cataloguing. The model gives the opportunity of a best organization of catalogue according to user needs: the entities which are object of interest of the users are identified as well as the features or attributes associated to each entity and the most important relationships according to user needs.

FRBR are the conceptual basis of RDA:

  • The vocabulary from FRBR (for instance, the names of bibliographic entities: "work", "expression", "manifestation" and "item") is present in RDA.
  • RDA's structure corresponds to the attributes and relationships identified by FRBR.
  • User tasks that were specified by FRBR (find, identify, select, acquire) were key to define the set of basic elements that any description should comprise.

RDA also uses FRAD (Functional requirements for authority data) as a basis for instructions on authority control and to define the basic elements that should make easier user tasks.

Where can be found information on RDA principles and conceptual models?

The Catalan translation of the RDA principles and conceptual models are online available at the web of the Biblioteca de Catalunya:

What does RDA includes?

RDA includes instructions and guidelines for regulating the description of resources, choosing access points and their form, and creating the relationships defined in FRBR i FRAD.

RDA comprises 10 sections first focused on recording attributes for FRBR entities, and then on the relationships between them.


  • Section 1: Recording Attributes of Manifestation & Item
  • Section 2: Recording Attributes of Work & Expression
  • Section 3: Recording Attributes of Person, Family, & Corporate Body
  • Section 4: Recording Attributes of Concept, Object, Event & Place


  • Section 5: Recording Primary Relationships Between Work, Expression, Manifestation, & Item
  • Section 6: Recording Relationships to Persons, Families, & Corporate Bodies
  • Section 7: Recording Relationships to Concepts, Objects, Events, & Places
  • Section 8: Recording Relationships between Works, Expressions, Manifestations, & Items
  • Section 9: Recording Relationships between Persons, Families, & Corporate Bodies
  • Section 10: Recording Relationships between Concepts, Objects, Events, & Places

Each section contains general guidelines and one chapter for each entity. Each chapter is associated with a user task by FRBR. It also includes appendices of abbreviations, capitalization, etc.

Sections 4 and 10 about concepts, objects and events are pending development at present. In the future, it is expected that RDA will include instructions for creating subject access points, although is not planned to include any instructions on classifications.

Does RDA contain instructions for codifying data in MARC 21?

RDA and MARC 21 are two different standards designed for different purposes. RDA is a rule on content while MARC 21 is one possible standard for encoding information. Records created using RDA can be encoded with other schemes as MODS or Dublin Core.

Does MARC 21 allow recording all RDA's elements?

Over the last years MARC 21 format has been updated to allow encoding the RDA's elements. A list of new fields, subfields and main changes are available at the web of the Biblioteca de Catalunya:

There is also available a mapping from MARC21 to RDA and vice versa for both bibliographic and authority formats:

Will have to make major changes to existing records in the catalogues?

In theory, records created under RDA are compatible with current records created using AACR2 or ISBD.  Even though, there will be some cases that will require to be modified, it is the case of access points for “Bible” (for example, AACR2: “Bible. A.T. Pentateuch”; RDA: “Bible. Pentateuch”). Current ILS are able of making the expected changes through updates and/or changes at the catalogue in a flexible and inclusive way.

How will affect RDA to current integrated library systems?

RDA is designed to be independent from any format, medium, and storage or exchange data system. One of the main goals of RDA is being easily adaptable to any database structure.

Over the years it is expected an evolution of ILS and OPACs in order to explode data created under RDA and to provide users with the efficiency coming from the FRBR structure for finding, identifying and acquiring resources that they

Is it necessary a specific training to apply RDA?

As well as with any new standard, cataloguers should be training to apply it correctly. If they are used to work with AACR2 or ISBD, it is not expected to have troubles to apply RDA, but it is necessary to become familiar with its structure and FRBR new vocabulary. Information about the main changes between AACR2 and RDA is available at Support to libraries for the transition toward RDA.

Being informed about international RDA's developments can help to get ready and to clarify doubts. We recommend:

How is RDA published?

RDA is an online resource subscribed through RDA Toolkit. It allows to navigate, annotate online, print out any of the content, bookmark specific instructions, search at several levels, store and share workflows and access other related cataloguing tools.

Every year, an English print version is also published and replaces the previous one. More information available at: RDA print,

What translations are available?

Currently there are several translations of RDA:  Spanish, French, German, etc., available at RDA Toolkit, and there is a print version in Chinese.

When will be ready the Catalan translation?

From January 2016 to April 2017 the Catalan translation has been available in PDF format on the website of the Library of Catalonia. From April is available online through the RDA Toolkit, under subscription.