A Comparison of the New RDA Carrier and Content Typologies with End-User Categorisations
The projected Resource Description & Access (RDA) standard, set to replace the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, aims to facilitate a more user-centred library catalogue display by breaking down the current General Material Designations (GMDs) and Specific Material Designations (SMDs) into two semantically distinct facets, one representing a resource’s carrier, the other its content. As well as offering search limiting by these two facets, RDA-based catalogues could sort by either facet, and group results by the carrier and content categories for users to explore.
However, although the theory behind the carrier and content typologies may be convincing, the sets of terms proposed to represent the various categories of carrier and content were not constructed through analysis of end-user classifications, nor have they been tested on end-users. One way of investigating how users categorise things, commonly employed by information architects, is the free-listing technique, in which participants are asked to ‘name all the x’s you know’. This technique was applied in a simple online survey that aimed to examine the nature and scope of carrier and content categorisation by users of a university library. The results of this survey are reported and compared with the typologies proposed for RDA. The paper concludes by discussing the potential of the free-listing method to help determine a library’s application of the RDA typologies, and, more generally, to assist in the design of faceted navigation systems in catalogue interfaces.