I watched the RDA Toolkit webinar today, put on by the RDA group. I thought I’d share some of the impressions that I got out of it in the hopes that it would be somewhat useful. I should start off by noting that they did not intend this webinar to be very in-depth, but rather a kick-off of more information to come.

RDA will fully replace AACR2. This should go without saying, but I thought I’d better say it anyway. Even though the rules will be replaced, the RDA Toolkit will contain the full text of AACR2. The idea may be that if you know where a rule is specified in AACR2, you can look it up and it will cross link to the RDA rule. This should be a fairly handy feature for those of us who have worked with AACR2 for a long time.

Also mentioned was the ability for user generated content to be accessible in the RDA Toolkit. Whether this will be restricted to sharing information within your institution, or how it will be spread to other institutions is up in the air.  I’m not sure if this is something they’ve thought too much about yet.

A subscription can be for a single individual user or multi-user. If multiple users will be connecting, you will have a profile login in addition to your user login. This allows one institution to have a single or a few RDA licenses but have many more users, but there can only be as many users logged in at a time as there are licenses. For example, if you have 3 subscriptions you could have 10 (or more) users with their own profiles, but only 3 could connect at a given time.

The RDA Toolkit is a web-based collection of documents, and it’s been put together in a pretty slick manner. The current visuals don’t do justice to the functionality that the website offers, though I’m sure those visuals (graphics, fonts, and design) will be updated prior to launch. For example, the RDA tab (found on the upper left side of the screen) gives one access to an expanding tree-view of the RDA rules. Clicking a category will take you to the section in the chapter you’ve selected. You can place and share bookmarks and notes inside of the document. It’s very well done, as I said. My concern is that clicking on a subheading or a chapter opens the entire chapter; the example he showed would have been 95 pages if printed. The processing power needed to run all of the javascript code and the sheer amount of data being worked with leads me to believe that there could be some very slow pages, especially for users with older computers, slow internet connections, or heaven forbid are still running Internet Explorer 6.

Inside the documents you’ll find a plethora of links and cross references, nicely color coded and branded as to what sort of information they lead to. For example, links to other sections in the RDA rules book are coded in blue, while links to glossary terms have a triangle.  They also include links between the AACR2 rules and corresponding RDA rules.  This will be really useful when moving from AACR2 to RDA.

Searching RDA will allow you a nice number of options.  I particularly liked the fact that you could sort the results in terms of relevancy or order they appeared in the document.  You are also able to limit searches to specific chapters, sections, media types, content, examples, etc.

A fair amount of time was spent discussing how they wanted to work with vendors to allow them to link into the Toolkit within their products (to give specific helps and instructions).  However, the institution will still need a subscription or the links won’t work. Another topic people are worried about is a print version. They seem to believe that it isn’t necessary, or a good idea.  You can print each chapter on your own, however, like I mentioned earlier, chapter 3 alone was 95 pages which would be quite costly to print.  Plus you would lose all of the cross linking that you get with the electronic edition.

They mentioned an open access period from launch (expected June, 2010) to August 31st, 2010.  After the open access period, you will be able to get a 30-day free trial to test the RDA Toolkit before purchasing a license. One nice feature:  if you set up bookmarks and links during your trial you won’t lose them when you purchase a license.

For more information and to be added to an email list, email rdatoolkit@ala.org or visit http://www.rdaonline.org