Community of cataloguers in Iceland

New cataloguing rules

The work environment of cataloguers in Iceland is unique in that the majority of libraries use a common library system, Gegnir, (Aleph) which is a nationwide union catalogue. Cataloguers, whether they catalogue for public libraries, university libraries or special libraries, have common interests and collaboration between them is extensive. This is one of the main strengths of the cataloguers’ work environment in Iceland as well as the common integrated search portal

The first step taken in preparation for the implementation of the new cataloguing rules, Resource Description & Access (RDA), in Iceland was a conference held in Iceland in 2007. The conference Back to Basics – and Flying into the Future was a two-day international conference about the RDA cataloguing rules which were then being developed.

The conference was well attended and speakers from USA, UK, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Germany discussed the subject from various angles. Since then Gegnir cataloguers have done their best to follow all further developments. Many cataloguers have attended conferences abroad and brought back relevant information.

Online courses from ALA have been downloaded, such as general courses on the implementation of RDA as well as cataloguing of maps and music. The National and University Library is a member of the European RDA Interest Group (EURIG) and has formed important links with foreign experts. Cataloguers of Gegnir have been kept up to date in regular seminars.

Preparation for RDA in Iceland

In 2014 a number of major steps concerning the implementation of RDA in Iceland were taken. That year the decision was made to implement the RDA cataloguing rules in Gegnir. On 2 February 2015 the decision on the implementation of RDA in Iceland was formally confirmed. The main responsibility for the decision, as well as the financial responsibility for the project, lies with The National and University Library.

The Consortium of Icelandic Libraries, a corporation owned by the state and local governments, is responsible for the operation. The Cataloguing Council works on its behalf and its role is to formulate policy, monitor developments and provide guidelines and instructions for cataloguers.

In the autumn of 2014 the Cataloguing Council began to draft a plan for the implementation of RDA at the request of  the national librarian. The Council submitted a draft schedule and appointed an implementation team, a translation team and a teaching team. The Cataloguing Council and these teams carried out the main tasks involved in the implementation along with a team of system librarians from the Consortium of Icelandic Libraries.

Began in January 2015

The national librarian appointed a Project Steering Committee to aid and ad-vise on major policy decisions. Members of the steering committee included the national librarian, the director of the Consortium of Icelandic Libraries, the director of Reykjavik Public Library and the chairman of the Cataloguing Council.

Implementation officially began on January 1, 2015. From that date onwards the implementation team was responsible for managing the project. A project manager was appointed for one and a half years in a part-time position.

After RDA has been implemented, all  original cataloguing bibliographic records will be according to RDA. However, there are not only original cataloguing bibliographic entries in Gegnir. Approximately 30 percent of the bibliographic records in Gegnir are uploaded annually from foreign databases.

The implementation process

The project manager’s role is to coordinate the project and keep a record of all information related to it. Among the tasks is overseeing the organization, ensuring that all data pertaining to the project is available to those who need it, acting as a contact person between the various working groups and providing all relevant information about the project.

A decision was made to obtain information on procedures that libraries in other countries are using to implement RDA. For that purpose a group of cataloguers visited the British Library in Boston Spa and the University Library in Amsterdam. A foreign expert in RDA, Alan Danskin from the British Library, was invited to come to Iceland. He was a keynote speaker at a meeting of cataloguers in the spring of 2015 and also held courses for key people involved in the implementation process.

From the beginning it has been clear that it would be impossible to translate the complete RDA rules into Icelandic. But due to new definitions and terminology compared with the previous rules, the translation team needed to translate basic concepts at least and assess the need for further translations. The Introduction and part of the Glossary have been translated into Icelandic. The aim is to continue translating according to need.

The Cataloguers’ Manual

The National and University Library has compiled an online manual for cataloguers, A Manual for Gegnir cataloguers (HASK). The manual plays a key role in providing cataloguers with access to information on cataloguing and in coordinating cataloguing practices. It was decided to update the manual with information pertaining to RDA instead of relying only on the RDA Toolkit.

The Cataloguing Council appointed work teams which compiled guidelines to cataloguing of different formats according to RDA for publication in HASK, for example, guidelines for the cataloguing of music, books, audio books and movies. The above mentioned translations are published in HASK, along with various information about RDA. The manual is updated regularly in line with the development of RDA and as the work on the Icelandic guidelines progresses.

The teaching team

The teaching team consisted of four cataloguers. It was responsible for organizing the courses and training sessions of RDA cataloguing for all Gegnir cataloguers. The team also created teaching material in Icelandic. In February to April 2016 ten training courses were held for 161 cataloguers, each course lasting eight hours. The courses were a mixture of lectures and practical exercises and were held in a computer room where each participant had access to a computer.

These training courses are a prerequisite for all cataloguers who wish to maintain their cataloguing permissions in Gegnir. In May 2016 the team also held courses on music and score cataloguing, as well as a separate course for cataloguing of derived records such as journal articles, book chapters and single music recordings according to RDA.

The library system team in collaboration with other teams has re-configured Gegnir and ensured that new cataloguing practices are compatible with the library system. The re-configuration has resulted in a more accessible working environment and better work practices.


The formal implementation date for RDA in Iceland is May 20, 2016. This means that from then on, all original cataloging will be according to RDA. Subsequently, it will be necessary to consider training for groups other than cataloguers, for example, librarians working in acquisitions, reference and circulation.

It is also necessary to monitor and develop how the system works with the bibliographic records, how they appear in the portal and how the interface looks and ensure a secure and acceptable interaction with older data. Additionally it is necessary to monitor the development of the rules in the RDA Toolkit.

Alot of work ahead

The implementation process, which a great many people contributed to, has been intense but the results have been successful. Between twenty and thirty people participated in teams and working groups, most of them still doing their daily tasks not being able to fully devote themselves to the implementation. The process was one of cooperation and solidarity among cataloguers all over Iceland.

It is also not to be underestimated that the implementation of RDA is an important opportunity for continuing education for existing cataloguers. Although the formal implementation has been completed, a lot of work lies ahead in monitoring the results and quality control.

It is especially important to see how cataloguing according to RDA looks in the user interface. The implementation of RDA is a step towards a more user-friendly approach to the dissemination of information.

RDA implementation manager and Librarian The National and University Library of Iceland.