L-150. Modern Special Collections Cataloging

Brenna Bychowski

Course Length: 30 hours
Course Week: 9–14 June 2024
Format: in person, University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA
Fee: $1,395

While rare book and special collections libraries are associated with antiquarian, hand-press books, these collections increasingly include twentieth- and twenty-first-century materials that are not “rare” in the traditional sense of the word. While these materials are more suited to description with RDA rather than one of the Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials (DCRM) manuals, they still have unique features and challenges that require a different cataloging perspective than is found in general collections cataloging.

This class is intended for catalogers who are or will be working with modern special collections, regardless of experience with hand-press books and DCRM(B), and it will focus on applying RDA with a special-collections inflection. While the emphasis will be on twentieth- and twenty-first-century materials, there will be some discussion of late nineteenth-century materials and how describing them with RDA compares to describing them with DCRM(B). Topics include:

  • application of RDA, especially the “rare materials” options
  • transcription and physical description (including bindings)
  • notes, both general and copy-specific
  • edition, impression, issue, and state as they relate to modern materials
  • controlled vocabularies, including subject headings, genre/form terms, and relationship designators
  • copy cataloging and evaluating existing records
  • overviews of specific material types, including ephemera, limited edition books, prepublication books, and comics

The course is restricted to practicing catalogers with experience in applying RDA or AACR2 in MARC 21. No prior experience with rare books or special collections is necessary or expected. The focus of the course will be on monographic cataloging; while there will be a brief foray into materials that can be cataloged as serials, the course will not offer in-depth serials instruction or instruction in non-monographic formats or manuscript materials.

Note on RDA: This course will be based on RDA as it appears in the original toolkit, NOT the official toolkit; while PCC will officially begin adoption of the official toolkit in May 2024, the rolling adoption period will not end until April 2027, during which time many institutions will still be using the original toolkit.

Application Requirements: In their personal statements, applicants should describe their experience creating MARC bibliographic records according to RDA or AACR2 and the types of materials they will be expected to catalog with RDA. In addition, applicants are required to submit three typical bibliographic records of materials they are cataloging. The submissions may be original or copy cataloging; if the latter, please submit before-and-after versions or an explanation of changes made to the records. The three bibliographic records should be submitted as PDFs and may be combined into a single file.

Course History

Brenna Bychowski teaches this course in person in Charlottesville, VA.


Brenna Bychowski

Brenna Bychowski

Brenna Bychowski is a Catalog/Metadata Librarian at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University, where she creates catalog records for a broad range of material, with a focus on books, serials, and maps. She is also heavily active in Yale University Library’s efforts to create a systemic approach to responsible and reparative description. She has also worked on special metadata and cataloging projects, such as the Black Bibliography Project and LD4P (Linked Data for Production). She is active in the American Library Association’s Rare Book and Manuscript Section (RBMS). She is RBMS’s former Co-Chair of the Controlled Vocabularies Editorial Group, which maintains standardized vocabularies for use in special collections cataloging.

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