This was one of the most interesting and informative sessions that I attended at the ALA Annual Conference. I liked it because it directly addressed the next big questions for catalogers: now that RDA has been approved, what will happen to MARC? Will RDA kill MARC?
In her presentation Karen Coyle's answer was that MARC will not be killed by RDA; it's about to collapse under its own weight and we can't redeem it. While it was a great invention in its day, MARC has had many long-term problems. To create a MARC record you must follow not only MARC rules but also AACR2 and over the years MARC has become more complicated as we came to use it for more and more formats--first, books, then serials, and so on. MARC can also require the same data to be entered in different fields. (An item's language code should be entered in the 008 and the 041. Some data in the 007 is repeated elsewhere in the same record.) In general, because it has been cobbled together, MARC is not flexible enough to describe the increasingly complicated bibliographic resources that are constantly appearing.
Karen sees the advent of RDA as an opportunity to free our data from the MARC structure. Our goal should be to define data apart from structure and thus enable ourselves to re-use data elements whenever they are needed. With RDA we could code once but display many times. As a first step toward realizing this goal, Karen has taken a do-it-yourself approach. She is creating a database of all the elements currently described by MARC. Her hope is that with this information we will be better able to systematically develop RDA into a flexible means of sharing bibliographic information.