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RIMMFing: RDA cataloguing sans MARC

Author, title, publisher, year of publication—that’s all the bibliographic description needed to find an item, right? Maybe for a monograph but, even for one item, this “streamlined” metadata does not capture the many relationships that a single work can have with other entities.  Which is why the international cataloguing community has spent more than a decade developing its new set of standards, Resource Description and Access (RDA).

But RDA does not seem to fit easily within a MARC (machine-readable cataloguing) environment. So last January, a group of Canadian cataloguers gathered in Ottawa for RDA-athon—a hackathon designed to help them use RIMMF. RIMMF stands for “RDA in many metadata formats” and is a visualization tool that facilitates cataloguing with RDA without thinking about MARC, i.e., sans MARC.

Librarians Deborah Fritz and Richard Fritz designed this prototype for an RDA-only cataloguing interface so that cataloguers, cataloguing educators and LIS developers could become familiar and comfortable with using RDA. The tool comes with 18 tutorials to lead a user through the process of cataloguing a variety of works, manifestations, expressions and items. Instead of building a MARC record, the user creates a record structured on the instructions found in the RDA Toolkit. The advantage of RIMMF is that it is freely available and downloadable. The downside? It is not open source and does not include a shared database.

Since 1992, Deborah and Richard have offered professional cataloging training, consulting and software through their company, The MARC of Quality (which will be called “TMQ, Inc.” once MARC is, indeed, dead). Deborah and Richard designed RIMMF because “RDA is useful to libraries and users of libraries.” The cataloging community has shown great interest in RIMMF and, for the past two years, Deborah has led similar hackathons around the world. Find out more about the transition to RDA and RIMMF by browsing this timeline.

Cataloguers from Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and the Carleton University Library co-hosted RDA-athon, the first Canadian RIMMF hackathon. In preparation for the day-long session, each participant completed some, if not all, of the online RIMMF tutorials. Individuals, coached by Deborah and team leaders, then worked in groups to catalogue a range of materials including monographs and serials. More than 30 cataloguers from Ontario and Quebec attended the session.

How did it go?

Emma Cross, Carleton University cataloguing librarian and RDA-athon co-host
We are lucky that Deborah Fritz was able to facilitate this workshop as she is a leader in RDA training … Everyone at my table said that using RIMMF really helped them to understand the FRBR model, the work, expression, manifestation structure and how it can work in a linked data environment.

Arouce Wasty, LAC cataloguing librarian and RDA-athon team lead
My group was eager to learn and helping them with software and RDA was a rewarding experience. The relationship approach that RDA emphasizes is actually good for cataloguing and cataloguers. Even if we set aside the concept of linked data, the current information landscape involves a certain amount of linking and relationships between information. It just makes sense that libraries attempt to do the same with the resources in their collections.

To do that, however, the information entered into the catalogue needs to be entered in a manner that is machine-readable, and easily manipulated by a computer, to create those links. Basically, RDA brings cataloguing into the 21st century. However, currently there is no integrated library system that can really bring out the full potential of RDA.

Laura May, Metadata and Taxonomy Librarian, Library of Parliament and RDA-athon participant
I found it helpful to be able to collaborate with others and visualize RDA outside of the MARC environment. I was really impressed by the ease with which, using RIMMF, I was able to bring in MARC records from other library systems. I was struck by the fact that, as much as we have been thinking in terms of RDA for the past few years, because we are using the MARC format to encode RDA we are limited in seeing RDA to its fullest potential. This workshop served to remind me how closely tied MARC is to AACR2.


I was the only non-cataloguer at the session. In my conversation with Karen Lynch, a senior Carleton cataloguer, you’ll hear our perspectives on using RIMMF to become more familiar, if not comfortable, with using RDA.

Music: Acoustic Breeze
RIMMF Karen Lynch and Martha Attridge Bufton in conversation transcript April 2017


Martha Attridge Bufton, BBA (Hons), MA, MLIS candidate, is the Open Shelf editor-in-chief and a subject specialist in Reference Services at the Carleton University Library. Her research interests include game-based learning, writing communities and the decolonization of information literacy. She can be reached at martha.attridgebufton [at]

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