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Bibliographic Transition in France

From very early on, France has taken a genuine interest in RDA, the new international cataloguing code. French professionals followed its development and took part in its translation into French. Soon after RDA was published in 2010, a national working group assessed and carried on the French position on its implementation.

Meanwhile, they have taken part in the global efforts of promoting, improving and internationalising the code through European and international bodies such as EURIG and IFLA.

The National Library of France (Bibliothèque nationale de France, BnF) and the Bibliographic Agency for Higher Education (Agence bibliographique de l’enseignement supérieur, ABES) are the two national bibliographic agencies respectively mandated to cover the metadata standardisation needs and policies of both public and research libraries. In November 2014, BnF and ABES jointly expressed the French position on RDA, defining the pivotal role of the Bibliographic Transition Program. Their roadmap reads as follows:

  • FRBRising French catalogs using automatic data processing as well as the technologies and standards of the semantic web.
  • Deriving new cataloguing rules from RDA in RDA-FR: A French Transposition of RDA, which might prefigure a French application profile of RDA. These new rules have been implemented gradually since 2015.
  • Launching a national Bibliographic Transition Program, which aims at supporting all stakeholders in France through the drastic changes induced by such a major normative and technological evolution.
Image "Shift"

(CC BY-NC-SA-2.0 Leo Reynolds, source : Flickr)

The French Perspective on the Current Version of RDA

Adopting RDA would doubtless represent a significant cultural shift for French cataloguers as France does not have an AACR or MARC21 tradition. As far as cataloguing rules are concerned, French libraries have always accepted IFLA’s standards, notably the detailed prescriptions of the International Standard for Bibliographic Description (ISBD): that is why they have promoted the use of the UNIMARC format and have implemented links between authority and bibliographic records.

French professionals agree that although RDA is FRBR-based, the model cannot be fully implemented by a code which to date does not take full advantage of the links between the two kinds of records upon which it lays – bibliographic and authority. Whether from a strategic or bibliographic point of view, adopting RDA as is cannot be considered a progress in the national context, where the wealth of those links constitutes the strength of all major French library catalogues.

Furthermore, the flexibility of RDA, which is one of its main assets, also encourages the multiplication of national application profiles, each stakeholder being free to choose from a vast array of options and alternatives. Deriving foreign records is therefore very likely to require human intervention. This is hardly in keeping with the cost-efficiency promise of what used to make RDA so attractive: its international interoperability.

FRBRising Catalogs

Rather than rushing through the adoption of a code still unsuited to the national context, France focuses on producing FRBR-compliant catalogs and demonstrating their serviceability. FRBRisation indeed takes off library catalogs from their document-oriented logic to provide users with information – in other words authority data on people, corporate bodies, concepts, events, etc.

First, this approach calls for massive processing, refactoring and publication of huge heritage datasets in the Linked Data cloud: the aim is to show the benefits of metadata thus structured, before impulsing a larger turn on the descriptive rules and practices for day to day cataloguing.

One of the first steps taken is the clustering of all editions related to a work. ABES is currently working on its collective catalogue for academic institutions – the Sudoc – so as to equip it with FRBR-compliant data.

Likewise, the BnF uses algorithms developed for data.bnf.fr – its Linked Open Data service – to automatically generate links between a work and its editions. In turn, those links enrich the catalogue, and initiate a truly FRBRised architecture.

RDA-FR: A French Transposition of RDA

Beyond such massive data processing, France ultimately aims to adopt a national RDA profile matching its bibliographic ambition.

A working group called “Standardisation – RDA in France” (Groupe “Normalisation – RDA en France”) is currently drafting the new French cataloguing code, RDA-FR: A French Transposition of RDA. The rules will be published gradually and applied over the years, eventually replacing the French cataloguing rules published by AFNOR, the French standardisation body.

The first elements of RDA-FR are freely available on this website, as well as the ongoing standardisation roadmap.

RDA-FR: A French Transposition of RDA refers to RDA while preserving the French bibliographic analysis as well as the advanced features of French library catalogs. It conforms to the international rules whenever possible, but bends them to the French context whenever necessary. It is based on the French translation of RDA, while arranging for additions, exceptions or adaptations to French-specific cases.

It can therefore be seen as the prefiguration of a future French application profile of RDA.

France’s Commitment to International Collaboration

The latest developments in the governance of RDA show the desire to turn RDA into a truly international cataloguing code. France is satisfied by this evolution and continues its long-time involvement in international work around RDA, feeding the discussion and advocating for converging practices. Since 2015, members of the RDA Steering Committee are no longer institutions but user communities. For instance, European nations are represented by EURIG (European RDA Interest Group).

EURIG was always the place France chose to put forward its RDA evolution proposals. The expertise developed by French libraries allowed France to rise as a particularly active member, whose lead on bibliographic information has been followed by other members of EURIG wishing to develop their own application profile.

Nation-wide Transitional Coaching for French Professionals

The website transition-bibliographique.fr was launched in 2015 to support French professionals through the Bibliographic Transition. It provides resources and news on all topics related to the latest changes in bibliographic information: new cataloguing rules, ongoing standardization, training sessions, the evolution of information retrieval, etc.

The national “Training” working group (Groupe “Formation”) coordinates French training on the evolution of library catalogues and cataloguing rules, relying on a national network of trainers. This group offers two modules targeting all professionals in France:

The Bibliographic Transition Program also aims to provide technology intelligence and consulting, particularly on the evolution of integrated libray systems and data conversion. This ambition is upheld by the “ILS and data” working group (Groupe “Systèmes et données”), which fosters dialogue between standardization experts, information professionals, ILS managers and providers of software solutions.

Last updated: mai 29, 2017 at 11:35

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