Proposal by CILIP: Colour content in RD

1 August 2014

Colour content in RD


Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP)

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19 Responses to Proposal by CILIP: Colour content in RD

  1. Matthew Haugen says:

    I’m wondering why the line in was removed: “For instructions on recording information on hand-coloured items, see 3.21.”

    On behalf of DCRM, I suggest restoring it, with some changes. While we can still point to 3.21 for item-specific coloring, some resources were issued hand-colored at the manifestation level and would be better addressed here, perhaps under (Details of color content), even if just in an example such as:

    hand coloured
    Map issued with hand coloring. Color content recorded as: polychrome

    Meanwhile, it’s also possible that some item-specific coloring may not have been hand applied, so the instruction pointing to 3.21 might better read:

    For instructions on recording item-specific colour information, see 3.21

  2. John Myers says:

    The shift to the binary of monochrome and polychrome is a significant change, but is rational and probably the cleanest way to cut the Gordian Knot of issues involving color and color content raised by our ALA/26. I am not entirely certain though that users will appreciate the appearance of these terms in a bibliographic description. In particular, anyone exposed to pre-Modern art history will have a different perception of “polychrome” than merely multi-colored — it has a connotation of brightly, possibly garishly, colored in Medieval and Ancient contexts. Anyone not so exposed will likely react with “if you mean color, why didn’t you say so?”

    • Allison Hausladen says:

      Like John, I question the appeal of the presence of monochrome and polychrome to library patrons. I much prefer 6JSC-ALA-26.

      I’m glad there’s an alternative that allows the continued use of color, black and white, b&w. I am a little confused, though, because the alternative says it allows the use of terms with the same definitions [as monochrome and polychrome] to indicate the colour content. If they have the same definitions, why can’t we keep using them? I thought this paper was arguing that they are not the same, so perhaps this spot could use some rewording.

  3. John Myers says:

    I am troubled, as I largely am by the existing 7.17, of how to actually produce a description from this guidance, particularly for illustrative content. How do Illustrative content, Color content, Details of Illustrative content, and Details of Color content interact? When there are mixtures of illustrative content and color content, how are the pairings made apparent and clear? To put it in MARC-speak, what does the 300$b look like? For instance, the first example under would have Illustrative content “Maps, Photographs” and would have Color content “Color, Black and white” (or Polychrome, Monochrome). Does the resulting 300$b string them along: Maps, photographs, polychrome, monochrome; with the actual useful information of how they go together relegated to a note for Details of Color content? Further, since the recording of color content is dependent on the cataloger’s adjudication of whether it is “considered important for identification or selection” how is one to distinguish between monochrome “color” content in black and white vs. monochrome “color” content in some hue, but which the cataloger has not deemed important enough to record?

  4. John Myers says:

    I really want to like this proposal for its logical, consistent treatment of the topic, but it leaves me as confused as the current guidance.

  5. Kathy Glennan says:

    I do not agree with the addition of “if desired” in This does not occur anywhere else in RDA.

    However, CILIP took this from the proposed wording in 6JSC/ALA/26….

  6. Kathy Glennan says:

    In, the two paragraphs that both start with “record” should be combined as follows (mirroring the pattern in

    Record the colour content if considered important for identification or selection. Use one or more appropriate terms from the following list:

  7. Kathy Glennan says:

    In, Alternative: The 1st sentence should begin “Use another concise term or terms” — this phrasing is used 13 times in Chapter 3, and “color” (in the example) is not a “pair of concise terms”.

  8. Kathy Glennan says:

    The phrasing of the first paragraph in is awkward (although this too came from 6JSC/ALA/26). I’m currently confused as to the difference between:
    – the colour content of the resource itself (
    – the colour content of the content of the resource, including illustrative content (

    In any case, there has to be a better way to phrase b). Suggestions?

    • Kathy Glennan says:

      OK, I think I have the difference — it’s between primary content & secondary content. (Illustrative content illustrates “the primary content of a resource” —

      RDA doesn’t use the concept of “secondary content”, at least not explicitly, but I really would prefer to get some clearer distinction between & b than what’s in the proposal now.

      What if started along the lines of the following:

      Apply these instructions to describe the colour of:
      a) the primary content of the resource
      b) the secondary content of the resource, including illustrative content (see 7.15).

      Any other ideas/suggestions?

      • Allison Hausladen says:

        Would it be simpler to just get rid of a and b and have it read:
        Apply these instructions to describe the colour content of the resource.

        It sounds like a) refers to situations like a film or photograph where the resource is primarily image-based (illustrative matter?) and b) is for resources that are primarily textual (so the illustrations are deemed supplementary).

        If it’s necessary to make this distinction, perhaps it should be phrased in terms of primarily illustrative vs. primarily textual resources.

  9. Kathy Glennan says:

    In, Alternatives, 2nd paragraph: I don’t think the reference to “the list” is clear enough. Since the list is in the same instruction, we can’t reference the RDA #; however, it would be possible to restate the two terms on the list:

    “…instead of or in addition to recording monochrome and/or polychrome.”


  10. Kathy Glennan says:

    In, 2nd-to-last example: should it be “greyscale” or “grey scale”?

    • Dominique Bourassa says:

      At the moment, RDA uses grey scale in and the index. But OED says greyscale. And obviously other dictionaries will say grey scale, gray scale, and grayscale. Does RDA follow one dictionary over others?

  11. kelleym says:

    Even though there may be some quibbling about details, I actually really like this approach. It is logically consistent and the alternative grandfathers in legacy data and allows more patron-friendly terms to be used while we’re in systems that have to display exactly the term that is entered. The treatment of tinted and toned seems to me to work.

    I think the primary vs. secondary distinction is clearer. Alternatively, maybe b could be rewritten as

    the colour content of *selected* content that forms part of the resource, including illustrative content (

    or something to the effect that it is referring to part of the resource rather than the resource as a whole.

  12. Allison Hausladen says:

    I am a little confused about how to interpret the examples in The first line of each example sounds like it may be how you record it in the 300 (e.g., Colour maps, black and white photographs). At the end of the example, it says “Colour content recorded as: colour, black and white”. Does this imply that there will also be a new field in which color can be recorded in a machine-actionable way in addition to a descriptive statement of the color content (currently the 300)?

    • Kathy Glennan says:

      This is how I currently interpret the proposal in MARC terms – examples:

      Main instruction:
      300 … $b monochrome
      300 … $b black and white

      Main instruction:
      300 … $b polychrome
      500 2 maps in colour.
      300 … $b color
      500 2 maps in color

      Main instruction:
      300 … $b polychrome, monochrome
      500 Colour with black and white sequences
      300 … $b color, black and white
      500 Color with black and white sequences

      Main instruction:
      300 … $b monochrome
      300 … $b sepia
      Possible interpretation of alternative, same case (using the “instead of or in addition to” option — this might call for different MARC coding…):
      300 … $b monochrome, sepia

      If there’s a need for greater MARC granularity for better machine-actionability for any of the above alternatives, then this probably needs to be taken up with the MARC Advisory Committee — that’s not a JSC issue.

      • Allison Hausladen says:

        Perhaps the editors of DCRM(G) ( should be consulted. If you look at p. 95 for the physical description area in DCRM(G), you will see that they prefer to combine color with carrier and content in 300. I’m not sure how they’d feel about moving most of this to a note, if that’s what this proposal would require. This would be a radical departure from what art catalogers are used to doing.

        Here’s an example on p. 107:
        1 print : hand-colored etching on pale green laid paper

        Marie-Chantal also had the following thoughts:
        “RDA insists very much on the importance of segmenting information; that is why colour content is considered as something seperate than applied materials or carriers (following FRBR logic, colour is covered in chap. 7 because it is a work-level element; applied materials, carriers, etc, are covered in chap. 3, because they are manifestation/item-level elements).

        Yet, in actual facts, colour often is a physical property of either the carrier or the applied material. This is why art cataloguers frequently record in 300 $b something like « lithography, orange and yellow ink, heightened with white chalk on black vellum paper »; with this proposal, I think all this information will be pushed down in the note area when, in fact, it is crucial for our users …

        Also, I am not sure users won’t be puzzled when reading something like « monochrome, polychrome » recorded as colour content … (see the examples under”

  13. Allison Hausladen says:

    ARLIS/NA CAC members would like to thank CILIP for their proposal concerning colour content in RDA.

    Generally speaking, the members of the Cataloguing Advisory Committee of ARLIS/NA appreciate the fact that this proposal allows for more flexibility than the current RDA instructions when dealing with the colour content of visual resources. For example, if an institution decided to catalogue a collection of still images at a minimal level (perhaps because they do not employ cataloguers who specialize in the description of visual documents), it would be possible for them to simply use the terms monochrome and polychrome to describe colour content. The proposal also allows cataloguers who deem it pertinent to name the specific colour(s) (and there would be no more limit as to the number of colours that can then be recorded). Likewise, additional details of colour content may be recorded in free-text format if considered important for identification or selection. Looking, however, at the examples provided under, we are concerned that relegating such simple statements as “chiefly colour” to the note area might prove unnecessarily cumbersome for cataloguers and would make information that is important for art history less accessible to users.

    Also, we believe, that the definition provided for “monochrome” on page 5 should be revised. The definition reads as follow: “colour content consisting of black and/or white and one other colour”. Therefore, a painting in black and white, or, inversely, a monochromatic painting (such as IKB 191 – Monochrome bleu by Yves Klein) would not qualify as “monochrome” (in the first case, there is no colour beyond black and white; in the second case, there is no tone but just the blue colour). Moreover, it should be noted that in the fine arts domain, objects in black and white, in grisaille, or in camaieu are considered monochromatic; however, the term “monochrome” is seldom used to describe the content of a work of art combining black and white, with the addition of one colour*.

    Finally, the alternative under mentions that we may substitute for monochrome / polychrome a pair of concise terms (e.g. black and white / colour) “with the same definitions”. It would perhaps be preferable to rephrase this instruction since it seems to imply that “black and white” is a synonym for “monochrome”, and “colour”, a synonym for “polychrome”.

    *The Merriam-Webster online gives several definitions for the term « monochrome » — e.g. « involving or producing visual images in a single color or in varying tones of a single color » ; « using or showing only black and white and shades of gray » — but none of these definitions refers to the combination of 1 colour + 1 or several tones (e.g. black, white or greys).

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