Category Archives: presentation

RDA: an introduction [Presentation to Association of Pall Mall Libraries, 25th April 2016 at Royal Astronomical Society, by Alan Danskin]


Guest blog by Danny Smith, Royal Automobile Club

Firstly, for those unfamiliar with the Association of Pall Mall Libraries (APML), here is a brief explanation of its history and purpose as it appears on the organisation’s website. Founded in 2004, APML “grew out of an informal gathering of librarians working in the gentlemen’s clubs of London, but has grown to incorporate other club libraries, and also a number of independent and subscription-based professional libraries, both at home and abroad. The APML aims to promote the sharing of skills, knowledge and resources between members, and to increase knowledge of the collections held by their respective institutions and, in doing so, to develop its potential as a lively, multi-talented and innovative group.” For further information please see

A key aspect of APML’s work is in its organisation of training for its constituent members, co-ordinated by the Training Subgroup. Such sessions cover a broad range of subjects reflecting the broad range of issues that librarians of APML institutions, often solo librarians or members of small teams, are faced with. These circumstances typically require librarians to be all-rounders rather than experts in one field such as cataloguing, and so training sessions delivered by those who are experts, such as Alan Danksin, are very helpful.

Sian Prosser, Librarian and Archivist at the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), kindly organised and hosted this session. For those who have not visited, RAS is situated in Burlington House, Piccadilly, alongside institutions such as the Royal Academy, the Geological Society and the Linnean Society. On this occasion we were stationed in a lecture theatre on the ground floor, though we were lucky enough to be able to take tea in the Council Room and also pop in to the Library itself before we began, where there was a small but interesting display featuring books, photographs and models of the moon. Highlights included the map of the moon in Giovanni Battista Riccioli’s Almagestum novum (1653) and Johannes Hevelius’ Selenographiaof 1674.

Thirty people filled the lecture theatre for Alan’s session, mainly members of APML and/or the London Learned & Professional Societies Librarians’ Group (LLPSLG – similar in purpose to APML and with some cross-membership), with CIG contributing eight attendees. In an afternoon, three hours to be precise, Alan covered a great deal of ground.

As I found whilst studying for my library qualification at UCL, an understanding of the theory and background to the technical skills of our profession such as cataloguing are extremely helpful when later attempting to put said skills into practice, and so Alan’s initial points regarding the origins of RDA, it’s governance, purpose and FRBR origins were all very useful. The working through of examples to show the practical implications of FRBR and concepts such as attributes, entities, the distinction between Works, Expressions, Manifestations and Items and so on, was particularly welcomed. In order to be able to adequately apply ‘cataloguer judgement’ an understanding of this information is essential.

The next section covered the implementation of RDA, beginning, inevitably, with cost. Alan spoke here from personal experience at the British Library, and so it was difficult to imagine how implementation of RDA in a library such as my own or a similar institution within APML or LLPSLG might be achieved.  Naturally the ambitions, collections and resources of the BL are vastly different from our own and so the potential benefits and pitfalls of RDA implementation are equally different. However, as indicated in his title Alan’s intention was to provide an introduction to RDA rather than a targeted analysis of its suitability for APML and LLPSLG libraries, so this is not a criticism. The business case benefits of RDA listed by Alan, increased discovery, interoperability within and outside of the library community, embracing web technologies etc., are more universally applicable.

A significant undertaking in an implementation would be the necessary training and re-training of staff. A demonstration of the RDA toolkit was given which was perhaps the first time that some attendees had seen it, and it was interesting to note the possibilities that such a toolkit provides in comparison with traditional documentation. Translations, workflows, policy statements and full examples were all appealing, and there is interest among some attendees in trying the month-long free trial and subsequently comparing notes. Sadly, there appears to be little hands-on RDA training available in the UK, and so users are reliant on interpretation of the materials provided by the Library of Congress and the toolkit itself.

Alan’s third section dealt with ‘Application’, in essence, actually cataloguing in RDA. He provided a quick primer to act as a guide to the terminology and concepts used in RDA, before moving on to the core elements, pointing out that “core is the floor, not the ceiling.” Two key points delivered here were firstly, the absence of the ‘Rule of Three’ that appears in AACR2 regarding iteration (i.e. one or more instances of an attribute), as RDA allows the cataloguer to record all, some, the first or none of the instances (unless core).  The second point was the concept in RDA of ‘preferred sources’ rather than the ‘chief source’ outlined in AACR2. Though RDA’s preferred source of information is still the source containing the title proper it allows the cataloguer to consult other sources as dictated by an order of priority outlined in instructions (not rules) – These were what I considered to be the two key points, though Alan also covered transcription choices (language, script, capitalization) and authorized access points.

It is over fifteen years since it was first declared that ‘MARC Must Die’ ( and yet it still remains. In the final section, ‘Future Developments and Strategy’, Alan covered the problems of accommodating RDA records in MARC, such as the conflation of information related to a work, expression, manifestation and item, before discussing the future. Bibframe was proffered as a possible replacement for MARC, with ‘possible’ emphasized, and a demonstration of an RDA record without MARC was given as we were shown an RDA record in RIMMF (RDA in Many Metadata Formats). Alan also explained the potential application of RDA in the semantic web as linked data, but due to time constraints there wasn’t an option to fully investigate these aspects, which was unfortunate given their fundamental importance. They are of course all works in progress also.

In sum, in a three hour session a lot was covered and certainly a good introduction to RDA provided. I left with lots of questions which I consider to be a good sign, and Alan provided some links at the end for further research. Many thanks to Alan for his talk, and to Sian for organising.

Originally published on the CILIP Cataloguing and Index Group blog.

Developments in Copyright Law

Guest blog from Sian Prosser of the Royal Astronomical society

Conference report: Keeping Within the Lines: Approaches to Copyright in Art and Design Archives (London Metropolitan Archives, 13 March 2015)

sian1In March I attended a copyright study day organised byARLIS Committee for Art & Design Archives in partnership with The National Archives’ ‘Archiving the Arts’ initiative. In spite of the art and design focus, this event covered issues relevant to anyone looking after library and archive collections. It was a chance to learn about recent changes in copyright legislation that affect archives, and to explore challenges and opportunities in the use of copyright-protected archive material in exhibitions or publications.

Changes to copyright law

The first speaker was Benjamin White, Head of Intellectual Property at the British Library. He gave an update on changes to UK copyright law in 2014 that affect the work of archivists. Many of the key changes have been summed up in a series of documents created by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), including a leaflet about changes in exceptions to copyrightthat affect libraries, archives and museums. For example:

– It is now possible to make multiple digital copies of materials for preservation purposes.

– Copying for research and private study used to be limited to literary, dramatic and artistic works, but is now extended to sound recordings and films.

Other relevant changes in exceptions include the following:

– Section 30 used to be an exception that allowed quotation for criticism and review. This exception has now been widened to cover any reasonable quotation, including illustrative use, not just review (see p. 5). As the leaflet points out, this is good news for authors, academics and casual bloggers.

– Section 31 used to be an exception that allowed accessible copies to be made for people with visual impairments. This exception has now been widened to apply to all impairments that prevent equal access.

– Section 32 relates to the fair dealing exception for instruction. Now, copyrighted works in any medium can be copied for use in a teaching environment as long as certain conditions are met.

Orphan works: exception and licensing

Despite these relaxations in copyright exceptions, Benjamin White pointed out that during this parliament, there will be no change to the law that unpublished works remain in copyright until 2039. Two recent developments provide two routes to making such works available to the public: the orphan works exception, and the orphan works licensing scheme. Both routes have limitations. The EU orphan works directive has now been implemented in the UK, and this exception can be used by libraries, archives and museums. It does NOT apply to standalone artistic works.

A diligent search for copyright owners is required, and the details have to be registered on the OHIM database in Brussels. If the rights holder materialises later on, they would have a claim to reasonable remuneration.

As for licensing, the Intellectual Property Office has launched a scheme to allow people to apply for licences to copy orphan works, including standalone artistic works. The IPO receives the licence fee on behalf of relevant collecting societies. One problem with this scheme is that the collecting societies want licences to last for a limited amount of time e.g. 5 years, but this doesn’t correspond with the way that digitisation projects are funded.

Copyright and digitisation

Victoria Stobo gave an excellent talk on how archives are tackling copyright clearance when digitising collections. She gave several examples of how certain institutions in the US and UK are managing risk, as detailed in the slides which she has kindly allowed to be shared in this blog post.

The cost of rights clearance can outstrip the cost of digitisation and the monetary value of the material to be digitised. Across the sector, there is a clear tendency for digitisation strategies to focus on depositor copyright materials or public domain material, leading to an incomplete digital public record. The case studies showed how institutions like the Wellcome Library used risk management to achieve their digitisation objectives, and went through the procedure of obtaining rights clearance.

Although there were varying rates of response from rights holders across the different case studies, respondents tended to grant permission for digitisation, and they often do so without asking for a fee (in the case of the Wellcome Library’s Codebreakersproject, 84% of rights holders were identified, 77% were contacted, and 98 % of those who responded granted permission). Rights holder concerns are not always about copyright. Content and sensitivity is important, and the age of material is important, particularly for artists and writers.

It turns out that carrying out rights clearance can have a positive impact. For example, archivists have found that getting in touch with depositors has led to them becoming involved in outreach and fundraising. It establishes trust and increases engagement.

During the panel discussion, the speakers shared their top tips for rights clearance: Stobo recommends building six to nine months into a digitisation project for rights clearance, and Ben White advises taking time to explain the positives of digitisation to the rights holder, and never saying permission is needed urgently (even if it is because it’s been left to the last minute).

Case studies

Naomi Korn led an excellent workshop, featuring case studies and exercises in ‘managed risk-taking’. Naomi highlighted the gap between print-oriented legislation and the digital landscape, leading organisations to select items for digitisation on the grounds of lowest risk, thus distorting the historic record. We can fill the gap by doing due diligence, seeking licenses and permission, and having a notice and take down policy. One of the best things about this conference was the chance to work with qualified archivists during the practical sessions, during which I learned that Tim Padfield’s 2004 flowchart of copyright duration is available online (a new edition of Padfield’s Copyright for Archivists and Records Managers is coming out in July).

We also heard from two speakers who looked at the effect of copyright law on creativity. Claudy Op den Kamp gave a paper based on her thesis on the impact of copyright legislation on archival access, focusing on how the EYE Film Institute Netherlands enables access to fragments of unidentifiable moving images in its collections by presenting compilations of these “orphan works par excellence”, and allowing them to be used in found footage film projects.

Artist David Mabb described the impact of copyright on his artistic freedom. The starkest example of this was when his request to display adapted photographs belonging to the Magnum photo agency was met with a threat of legal action. His response to the threat is revealed in this video(7m 10s). Mabb pointed out that copying used to be an accepted part of learning one’s craft, but evolved into a subversive act, as seen in the moustache that Duchamp drew on a postcard of the Mona Lisa, or in the Situationists’ practice of détournement. However, Mabb recognised that copyright stopped the exploitation of artists’ work by other artists, for example, when Jeff Koons based his ‘String of Puppies’ sculpture on Art Rogers’ photograph..

This study day was a great opportunity to learn about the latest changes in copyright legislation, as well as the obstacles that still remain. It’s clear that the constraints of copyright legislation are causing a distortion in the online historical record as material for digitisation is selected on the grounds of copyright compliance. However, there are strategies available for managing the risk involved in making orphan works and other copyright-protected material available to the public.

Victoria Stobo’s presentation

Discovering Hybrid Resources

Guest blog from Gill Briggs of the Royal Horticultural Society

gill1When I volunteered to write something for this blog about what I had learned from Bill Stockting’s talk (Discovering Hybrid Resources) at the last meeting, I hadn’t at the time realised how paltry my knowledge and understanding of some of the tools of our trade really was. Do I really understand the concepts of Linked Data? What exactly is RDF? What does HTTP stand for and why does it matter? Several hours down the line I had gleaned enough information from the world wide web (including a definition of the difference between this and the internet) to be able, hopefully, to enthuse about the opportunities in store for us all as we lay bare our metadata and share like there’s no tomorrow.

Here’s an example. The British Library provides public access to SoCAM – Search our Catalogue Archives and Manuscripts. Mr Stockting demonstrated how a search here for Harold Pinter gives biographical notes and a high level of detail about archives relating to him in the BL, plus some information about other resources which one can go away and search for. Doing the same search in SNAC (Social Networking and Archival Context, under development in the US ), gives the biographical notes which, thanks to some crafty data linking, have been uploaded from the BL metadata. Additionally, resources can be accessed under a range of different headings – person, family and organisations – created by harvesting the data within the available resources rather than just linking the documents.


There are also direct links to other archival collections similarly organised around the data (at Harvard, and the University of Guelph, for example), a picture from Wikipedia, a list of other collection locations and a nifty radial graph diagram which shows at a glance that Edna O’Brien was not only connected to Mr P but also to Philip Roth and Elizabeth Jane Howard. A world of information at my fingertips, allowing me to refine my search to take me in the direction I want to go, rather than aimlessly following hyperlinks to mystery destinations.

Is it the future? I hope so, and the quicker the better.