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Cataloguing Standards

Resource Description and Access (RDA)

Resource Description and Access (RDA) was published in 2010. RDA has been developed to replace the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd Edition Revised, which were first published in 1978.

RDA builds on AACR2 foundations, but RDA is a new standard for resource description and access, designed for the digital world. RDA has been designed to be compatible with legacy AACR2 records.

The British Library participates in the development of RDA by contributing to the work of the RDA Steering Committee through the UK Committee on RDA (UKCoR) and the European RDA Interest Group (EURIG).

In 2007, the British Library also hosted a Data Model meeting which examined the fit between RDA and models used in other metadata communities, including the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative.

RDA is available as an online subscription to the RDA Toolkit or in print.

RDA and AACR2: a hybrid transitional environment

RDA records can be identified in MARC 21 by the presence of value "i" in the Descriptive cataloging form (LDR/18) AND value "rda" in Description conventions (040 $e). AACR2 records are identified by value "a" in the Descriptive cataloging form (LDR/18).

The British Library will continue to distribute AACR2 records in exchange files. The Library has no plans to retrospectively convert bibliographic records from AACR2 to RDA and will continue to distribute AACR2 records derived from external sources if no suitable RDA record is available.

RDA and MARC 21

Changes made to the MARC 21 format to accommodate RDA elements are documented on the MARC 21 website.

The British Library configures its systems to accommodate new or amended MARC fields. This will be a continuing process, as MARC 21 continues to develop to support RDA.  Details of the Library's configuration can be obtained from

The British Library also contributes to the Bibliographic Framework Initiative to explore options for the transition from current technologies for encoding, storage and transmission of bibliographic data.

RDA Implementation

The British Library:

  • implemented RDA 1st April 2013;
  • coordinated implementation of RDA with national and international partners.

Reconfiguration of British Library production systems to support RDA began during February 2012.  The British Library began to distribute RDA bibliographic records from 1 June 2012.

RDA Documentation

The British Library has made its RDA workflows, as well as the British Library Guide to RDA Name Authority Records, available in the RDA toolkit. These are available from the Tools tab, under Workflows/Global Workflows.

The following policy documents are available:

We have also made available for download our training materials for the creation of RDA Name Authority Records for NACO.

Details of the changes required to configure the Library's Integrated Management System for RDA can be obtained from

Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules

AACR (Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd edition) is an international standard for the cataloguing of all types of materials collected by general libraries. AACR2 was the cataloguing standard used by the British Library between 1981 and 2013. AACR2 has now been superseded by RDA: Resource Description and Access.

International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD)

The British Library's implementation of RDA is consistent with the provisions of ISBD.

British Library and Dewey 23

The Dewey Decimal Classification (23rd edition) was published in April 2011 by OCLC.

The British Library implemented Dewey 23 in mid-2011 for all records in the collection that require classification, including records for inclusion in the British National Bibliography (BNB).

Bibliographic Data Services Limited (BDS) also began to apply Dewey 23 class numbers in Cataloguing-in-Publication (CIP) records in 2011, ensuring all new entries in BNB have the most up to date classification. Records in BNB that were sourced from other organizations and had been catalogued slightly before the release of DDC23 were not revised by the British Library so BNB contained an overlap of DDC22 and DDC23 for approximately 6 months.

The British Library accesses and applies DDC using WebDewey which is constantly revised and updated to ensure the most up to date classifications are applied. However, British Library records continue to have classification from previous editions of Dewey where the record is derived from an external source and has not been reviewed, or on original records in the British Library catalogue created prior to to the release of DDC23. The British Library does not retrospectively amend DDC classification in records that were correct at time of cataloguing.

Further information on DDC23, including details on the new features in DDC23, is available here.

Discussion List

lis-ukbibs is an email discussion list for bibliographic standards in the United Kingdom.

It is used by the CILIP-BL Committee on RDA to disseminate information and seek feedback from the professional cataloguing community in the United Kingdom.

The list is open to anyone.

To become a member of lis-ukbibs, send an email with the following details:

  • To:
  • Subject: (leave blank)
  • Message: Subscribe lis-ukbibs YourFirstName YourLastName (and nothing else)

You can also join the list, as well as view emails sent to the list in the past, at the archives of lis-ukbibs.


For further information please contact:

The British Library
Collection Metadata
Boston Spa, Wetherby
West Yorkshire
LS23 7BQ
United Kingdom