Are you curious about RDA in school libraries?

The story of knowledge is a story of history, and one that directly relates to the way we have wanted to infl uence and educate the young members of our society. Recorded information, and the documents or carriers which carry information forward, has come a long way since the emergence of oral traditions and records on clay tablets and the like. The Library of Alexandria was in many ways the fi rst grand repository of information, organised and made accessible as an offi cial repository for scholars.

For hundreds of years libraries consisted mostly of printed books and journals, and so these were mostly what library catalogues described. As information technology developed, new kinds of information resources were produced, which information agencies such as libraries also started to collect, such as photographs, sound recordings (phonograph records, tapes, CDs), films and videos. School library collections were almost entirely books up until the 1970s when audiovisual resources along with the proliferation of educational print resources such as charts and ‘big books’ brought a wave of change. At about this time librarians started to talk about ”materials’ or ‘resources’ as the generic name (rather than ‘books’ or ‘volumes’) for what they dealt with in their collections, and started to describe a much larger range of materials in their catalogues.

So from a school library point of view, library catalogues have been an important example of an information organization and access tool, since a catalogue is essentially a database with a complex range of access points (metadata) to information resources using data elements in the record, such as author or title. Until recently this structured and consistent approach to cataloguing in our school libraries was built on the Anglo-American cataloguing rules  (AACR2) ensuring uniform accessibility to information in whatever format was wanted, because of the resource description detail that is embedded in such a catalogue record. However, these catalogues were stand-alone end points to what was in a particular collection, and typically had to even be used within the walls of the library.

Fast-forward to the digital era, and the rapidly changing information environment that is has brought. We see that we have reached a period of time where information has never been more abundant and accessible, and conversely the need for efficient management of that information more critical than ever in the history of human information and knowledge endeavours. We now have the technology to provide global connection anywhere on computers – that also includes the digital capabilities of mobile and tablet devices.

This change in the information environment has generated a significant shift in our understanding of shared information resource description and access across connected systems, organisations, and in web environments outside of the catalogue.

So what IS RDA?

Librarians and other information professionals were among the first to realise the importance of the Internet in the provision of information services, and it is also they who have understood the impact of digital environments on the production, distribution, storage and consumption of information.   Information agencies have worked hard to provide the cataloguing details required to ensure that information can be retrieved, and it is because of this that the Resource Description and Access  (RDA) and it’s specific ‘vocabularies’ were developed and implemented around the world.

In fact, it was June 2010 that AACR2, the cataloguing standard in use for the last thirty years, was challenged with something new – the publication of RDA as a replacement cataloguing standard.  As the biggest change in bibliographic standards since the adoption of MARC21 ten years ago (coming from USMARC), the new rules have inspired much discussion in the cataloguing community and beyond. RDA is a new standard for metadata description of resources held in the collections of libraries, archives, museums, and other information management organizations. Building on AACR2 it aims to provide a comprehensive set of textual guidelines and instructions for creating metadata covering all types of resource content and media. RDA focuses on the data elements needed to meet the user tasks specified in the FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) and FRAD (Functional Requirements for Authority Records) conceptual models. The use of FRBR concepts allows the relationships between multiple versions of a resource to be presented to users in a meaningful way including being displayed in a simpler, clustered format making it easier for the user to locate the item required.

RDA essentially standardizes how metadata content is identified, transcribed and generally structured, although it is independent of any specific metadata encoding. RDA also identifies a general set of metadata elements, and can provide a controlled vocabulary for use as the content of an element. Although RDA is being developed primarily for use with resources curated in a library environment, consultations have been undertaken with other information management communities, including publishers and those operating in the digital world, to try to ensure effective alignment with the metadata standards used in those communities.

RDA is proving to be an important building block in the creation of better catalogues and resource discovery systems. It provides for the creation of metadata, which meets users’ needs for data content and also facilitates machine manipulation of that data for searching and display.

RDA in Australia

Metadata standards relating to elements, format and transmission used for descriptive cataloguing in RDA have gradually been adopted around the world, including Australia and New Zealand during 2013. So once the National Library of Australia announced that it would implement RDA in early 2013 it became important for all people working in the library and information industry to have some understanding of the purpose of RDA and its implications for the library catalogue.

Resource Description and Access, is designed to help us transition to the technological capabilities of the Internet, today and into the future by having us identify the entities and relationships at the element level that machines can use better than they have been able to in the past in our MARC records.  RDA will also work when we package the elements in MARC records as we will have to do for some transitional period. RDA is not an encoding system or a presentation standard for displays, but instead specifies how to describe the things in our bibliographic universe – resources, persons, corporate bodies, etc., and the relationships among those things.

The RDA Toolkit provides instructions necessary for implementing RDA in libraries. Although the preferred way to access RDA is online via the RDA Toolkit, print copies of the RDA instructions are also available for purchase. http://www.rdatoolkit.org/

RDA is not completely different from AACR2, but it is more than just a new edition. Some of the most notable differences include:-

  • Fewer abbreviations
  • Allowance for local cataloguing standards to meet the needs of the community
  • Specific format descriptors for non-book and electronic resources
  • Record information as it is presented on the item
  • Explicit identification of each possible element for inclusion
  • Record all authors and contributors
  • Dropping of the rules to do with the (ISBD) arrangement of elements, making the new code ‘format neutral’
  • Elements covering both the attributes of the library resource and the attributes of the people and organisations associated with the resource (so that it covers the creation of authority as well as bibliographic records)
  • These elements are based on the FRBR user tasks (finding, identifying, selecting and obtaining), and, in the case of the attributes of people and organisations, the FRAD user tasks
  • Covers the construction of records for abstract ‘works’ that an item might be a manifestation of, as well as for the manifestation itself
  • More international in outlook (e.g. doesn’t prefer English names)

Whether RDA will give rise to a ‘cataloguing revolution’ is as yet unclear, as it will be possible to continue producing records using it that look remarkably similar to those based on AACR2. The question is whether libraries will implement it more fully, and use it as an opportunity to integrate their cataloguing data with other metadata elsewhere across the web!

The real power of RDA is derived from the implementation of the new conceptual models for catalogues:

  • Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records focuses on what the user needs to find, identify, select and obtain.
  • Functional Requirements for Authority Data focuses on what the user needs to find, identify, contextualise and justify.

A library management system that embeds RDA, along with FRBR and FRAD, can provide a very rewarding search experience for the user. Once library management systems embrace these concepts and fully implement RDA, catalogues will truly be there for the convenience of the user! We will have complementary ways of organizing things to open up more pathways for users to find what we have in our library collections and related resources beyond our libraries.

Access the National Library of Australia information about RDA at http://www.nla.gov.au/acoc/resource-description-and-access-rda-in-australia

Extract from:  O’Connell, J. (2013). RDA for school libraries: The next generation in cataloguing. ACCESS. 27(3), Vol. 27. September, 4-6.

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Vicki & Chuck Rogers

Don’t like the new Google Reader?



To be honest, I’ve always hated Google Reader, so the current round of complaints since the update have had no impact on my RSS reading habits.  One quick look tells me that the interface is more palatable, having adopted the new Google look common to it’s other product upgrades. However, my RSS reads also tell me that many are unhappy, and that one of the key issues is the social interface.

Google Reader’s  redesign  removes social features to other websites. The Google Reader team has prepared for the release to be unpopular with some users in the userbase saying in a preemptive post “we recognize, however, that some of you may feel like the product is no longer for you” adding that they extended the amount of exportable data.  “Starting today we’ll be turning off friending, following, shared items and comments in favor of similar Google+ functionality” and iterated “we hope you’ll like the new Reader (and Google+) as much as we do, but we understand that some of you may not. Retiring Reader’s sharing features wasn’t a decision that we made lightly, but in the end, it helps us focus on fewer areas, and build an even better experience across all of Google”.

Google Reader is certainly changing. In truth I am not at all ‘qualified’ to comment on the current iteration of Reader. Why?

I’m been a long time fan and user of Feedly. If you’ve been around in any of my presentations, you’ll know that I like Feedly so much that I recommend it all the time.


cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery

If you currently manage all your feeds in Google Reader, Feedly is a nice way to transition to a different style of feed reader. Feedly syncs with your Google Reader account, but uses a more magazine-style interface. The minimalist interface thankfully doesn’t put as much emphasis on whitespace as the new Google Reader, either. The service offers support for a plethora of social media services, but doesn’t include any built-in substitute for Google Reader’s social features.

Just in time for the launch of the new Google Reader, Feedly also just launched version 7 of its web service

As an added bonus, there are also  various mobile and tablet apps for Feedly which work nicely now. However, when it comes to my iPhone I also have a friendly relationship with FeedlerPro!

Top image: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by stylianosm

Doing social media ~ experience the space



Since some time in July  I have been wrangling with the multiple dimensions of social media as they impact on the spaces of information professionals. I chose that word deliberately, because doing social media so it matters is at the heart of the what it means to be a socially networked information professional. It’s only by becoming active in social media spaces that you can really hope to be able to determine the best  social networking strategies for your library services.

You cannot read and write about social networking in order to learn social media strategy without engaging in the full dimensions of it. It is only through engagement that practice turns theory into understanding.

I always felt that had to be the case, but my recent teaching in INF206 Social Networking for Information Professionals has brought that message home to me loud and clear.

I have had the outstanding opportunity to engage with a group of information professionals scattered across Australia who are working in as diverse a range of libraries as you could ask. The services their institutions provide are, in some cases, second to none, and I was delighted to see that during the course of our study program some of the students were able to step up to join committees  formulating and/or delivering social networked services.

Tweeting for Trove, Australia’s national online resource of books, images, historic newspapers, maps, music, archives ?

How good is that!

What is unquestionably the case for anyone wishing to delve into the spaces of social media is that engagement is participation! How else can you determine what, how, when, or why you might adopt a particular tool or strategy for your organisation?

There is no single “right” social media service that will fit every library. Comparing social media sites is part of the research, as is determining what kind of social media your library is interested in. Given that social media sites come and go, side-by-side comparison charts will not give you all the answers. Interaction and conversation with others active in social media will be an essential part of your litmus test while you keep your library’s objectives in mind.

My main message is that a participatory culture is unavoidably participatory!  I have discoved that students in a program about social networking,  who do not actively embrace experimenting and exploring, inevitably have gaps and weaknesses in applying social networking to the provision of library services. But by jumping in and giving it a go, fluency begins to emerge, and the transformation is quite exilerating!  Library 2.0 is vibrant, viral, communicates, promotes, and engages with it’s ‘people’.

It’s like learning a new language and going on a trip to a new country – you can get by with a tourist translation or develop fluency that allows you to become immersed and enjoy every aspect of the new cultural experience.

I know which option I prefer!

Top Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photoshared by Έλενα Λαγαρία
Bottom Image: cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery

Google reading levels and more


cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Cayusa

Google does have traction, and can be used for many useful things, especially when people are not familiar with many other options. So it’s good to keep up-to-date with new features added to Google.

Google Docs has added pagination to their product. Useful?  YES!  I can’t tell you the number of times I have used google docs to work on something over a period of time, because I know I might be accessing the document from different computers in different places. I don’t always want to use dropbox, especially while brainstorming, and collaborating on a document. The downside was always the pagination stuff.

Pagination, or the visual display of actual page breaks – demonstrating how words will actually look on a page, how changes in margin/spacing will change page flow, etc. – has been a standard for offline word processing since the 90s. Having it available in Google Docs is both important in matching the standard and in adding a number of other vital features. This includes putting headers/footers on each page, putting footnotes on the bottom of corresponding pages, and in-browser printing (in now, a feature restricted to Chrome). However, pagination may also lead to other in-demand features such as page numbering. Users who prefer the unpaginated approach can switch to the classic format by going to View > Document View > Compact. If you’re eager to use paginated documents and haven’t seen the update yet, be patient: the feature will be come your way soon.

There are also some new sidebar options in reading leve and dictionary. Back in December, when Google first introduced its reading level limit on the advanced search page, it appeared there but not in the “search tools” section of the sidebar. So after complaints about the reading level limit not being in the sidebar at last month’s Computers in Libraries conference, it’s great to see the addition of the reading level limits to the sidebar today. It seems to be rolled out to all the browsers I’m using today. At least a few more teachers might  notice it when it is in the sidebar, even though searchers still need to click on the “More search tools” link to see them.

Along with the new Reading Level search tool, Google has also added a “Dictionary” search tool. Google has had a long history of connecting search words to dictionary definitions. Searchers used to be able to click on their search terms in the now-gone blue bar at the top. The words (or the definition link) went to dictionary.com and then in 2005 to Answers.com. By the end of 2009, Google was using its own definitions, including automatically generated ones from the web. Now, the new dictionary search tool may retrieve information in these various sections:

The Web definitions seem to match the results searchers can get from using the define: operator (compare define:library with the new results).  It’s much more visually accessible.

The older Google Dictionary which used to be available at http://www.google.com/dictionary seems to be gone.

via SearchEngine Journal; SearchEngine Showdown

Ever friendly Evernote

Not much to say about this – except you should take a look at Evernote if it’s new to you. Capture anything. Remember everything. Access it all. Find it fast.  Use it on any platform, browser or device.

Drop the act, and get Dropbox

Luckily, there are plenty of schools around the globe that are ‘up to speed’ with technology change, with good folk who share their knowledge and experiences.

Hello Dropbox – here I come :-)

What is Dropbox?

Put away your flash drive, and stop emailing yourself files, because once you get Dropbox, the ways you deal with moving, sharing and backing up your files will change forever.  Whether you are sharing things with your family, working on school projects, collaborating with colleagues, or just securing your own work, Dropbox is an amazing tool.

Drop Box it is a service that provides 2GB of free online file storage (with paid upgrades possible for heavy users).

What impresses me the most is the speed at which it backs things up.

Dropbox for Teachers

Jonathan Wylie has put together a Top Tips for Using Dropbox at School, explaining how it works for a busy teacher, expanding on the advantages for teachers. Did you know this includes being able to run a drop box for your students? DROPitTOme is a free service that works with Drop Box to allow people to upload files to your Drop Box account without giving them access to the contents of your Drop Box account.

Essentially though:

  • It’s free
  • It’s convenient
  • It saves you time
  • It synchronises your files across all your computers and devices.

Would you like to quickly access your Dropbox files while you’re browsing or using web apps in Chrome? You’ll need to head over to the DropBox extension page and add Dropbox to your Chrome browser.  You can pick up instructions on how to do this  by reading Access your Dropbox quickly in Google Chrome.

With the ‘Dropbox for Chrome’ extension, you can:

  • Browse all files in your DropBox account
  • Instantly download files from your account
  • View recent events (uploads, downloads, and file modifications)

But essentially, this extension allows you to peek into your dropbox on the fly, without further ado!  Neat!

If you are already using Dropbox, and are wondering what else you could be using it for, here are a few additional reads:

Is Dropbox and Google Docs Integration on the Way? That would be grand – but it seems that we’ll see Dropbox Rewind first. This will let you “hop to your Dropbox at any point in the past.” For its users, this could be the perfect defense against deleting files by accident and never remembering to make backups. Dropbox users can also expect to see file system usage analytics.

If you’re still on holidays and want a challenge – why not take part in the The Inaugural Dropbox Dropquest and win nice things like 50 Gb storage for life!

Finally – a handbook/guide from MakeUseOf:

PDF sharing online

What do you do when a graduated student  sends you a pdf (on the weekend), needing it for a reference file for uni accommodation application?

What do you do when you have no scanner or appropriate software on hand – and the silly form is meant for print use only?

You ask your contacts on Twitter for help of course!  I got lots of recommendations, but the one from @sandnsurf was the  one  that won the day.

FillAnyPDF free PDF Editor.

FillAnyPDF.com is a website where you upload your PDF form and link to it so other people can fill it out and sign it online. No software is needed. Any PDF form can be used, even if it’s not “interactive”, so you can get started right away. You can even invite a group to fill out your forms and track the results. Anyone that collects signatures or filled out forms will find FillAnyPDF.com to be a valuable time-saving resource.

I loaded then filled out the form – and then was given a link to either download the edited pdf or a url to send to the student. The link expires in 7 days. Pretty cool!