This week, the National Archives took yet another step toward the Open Government goals of transparency, participation and collaboration, by joining the wider archival community in adopting the Resource Description and Access (RDA) standard for its authority records. The RDA standard was developed in 2010 as the successor to the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, Second Edition (AACR2).
We came to this decision through a series of internal meetings, blogposts, phone calls and discussions with staff across the agency. The input into this agency-wide discussion was remarkable. The initial internal blogpost on the subject received over 5000 views and hundreds of comments from staff. I was pleased to see that the debates were vigorous, which is exactly what should happen in an open and innovative agency. Our critics provided comments that helped to guide and shape our thoughts on the subject and ultimately led to important changes in the way we plan to implement this standard. We also reached out to our peers and after external benchmarking over the past year, NARA decided that moving from our internal standards to RDA was the best choice for the usefulness of our authority records.
But this is much more than simply a practical decision for our authority records. In making the decision to use RDA, the National Archives is opening up to the professional community, to participate with our peers in new ways. We are becoming an organization that is seeking out new connections to the professional community and there is a sense of new leadership possibilities for us as we take these steps.
I am also looking forward to all the opportunities that adopting RDA will provide our staff and our users. These include:
- participation in cross-institution collaborations and cooperatives
- establishing linked hierarchical relationships that can be leveraged for navigation and visualization
- linking and repurposing NARA’s data to other sources
- leveraging open source tools built by and for the archival community
- managing federal records across the lifecycle
- developing NARA staff professionally to enhance their skills and increase collaboration with other institutions
Moving to RDA from our current standards is far from an overnight process, but we have the right staff with the skills and the desire to implement effectively. Over the next year, an internal working group, consisting of staff from across the agency, will analyze our processes, systems, and data model to determine next steps toward implementation of RDA.
Please join me in celebrating this Open Government turning point for the National Archives!