I find myself reluctantly in the RDA fan club. There's a lot of things I wish RDA was (or wasn't) and if someone made me cataloging queen-for-a-day, I'd definitely make some changes to RDA. For one, it'd be a leaner, simpler cataloging code.
But, I can honestly say--I'm for RDA. I'd like to see it become the foundation for future library metadata: implemented, revised, and improved.
A recent outburst among catalogers on a discussion list got me thinking. The unhappiness with RDA is bringing to light just the type of dysfunction found in traditional cataloging that we need to get away from: it's rigid, inflexible, and overly complex. To move metadata to the web we need the opposite: agility, flexibility, and, where possible, simplification. In the complex world of library metadata, we should not underestimate this task. But we need to accept it and stop kicking against the goads of digital technology.
My hunch is that within 10 years you won't even recognize library cataloging it will have changed so much. Maybe not the fundamental purpose--to organize and provide access to library resources--but who creates metadata and how it's created will be very different.
If you look at the metadata workflows of digital repositories/collections the picture emerges of metadata created by authors, users, outsourcers, computer algorithms, you name it, fill in the blank. You see metadata partially created or generated and later refined or enhanced by metadata specialists (i.e., former catalogers).
You also see metadata worked on in large batches: hacked, harvested, mined, analyzed, linked together, etc. Working on metadata is (and will be) done in a world of links and relationships on the web. In the future, we'll be using new tools (that we often develop ourselves) and implementing technologies that haven't yet been thought of.
If it remains, traditional library cataloging--the fine art of crafting an individual record--will be reserved for the most precious of resources, a niche area in our profession, and seldom the preferred method for metadata creation.
It's taken me a long time to fully embrace this new type of cataloging, but there's no doubt this is the direction our work is taking. Those librarians out in the digital realm creatively trying new things (and sometimes failing) are paving the way for everyone else. And one of those new things is RDA. So, yeah, I'm a cheerleader for RDA, for FRBR, and the digital future of libraries.
h/t I borrow this blog title from a cataloging Twitter friend (hope she doesn't mine :) )