After reflecting on the sessions I attended at ALA 2007, I thought I would share a summary of one I attended.
Informing the Future of MARC: An Empirical Approach
William E. Moen and Shawne Miksa from the School of Library and Information Sciences, University of North Texas.
The future is only partially about MARC. There is a broader digital information landscape (web standards, metadata landscape), new technologies, and changes in cataloging practice (FRBR, RDA) on the horizon.
SUMMARY OF STUDY
MARC Content Designation Utilization Project--Funded by IMLS, they used a set of 56 million MARC records from WorldCat, and analyzed the frequency of variable and fixed field use by catalogers. For the purposes of their project, they defined MARC as a metadata scheme. They decided to do the study because they did a smaller study initially, and saw that a very small percentage of fixed fields used account for something like 80% of the records in WorldCat, so they wanted to analyze this further with a larger set of records. They analyzed 20 different data sets separately, and these reports can be found on their Web site.
They plan on making the tools they used available to individuals so institutions can do their own analysis locally. This was perhaps the most interesting tidbit of information to me. Libraries could use these tools to do some pretty creative data analysis of their own MARC records. This study was not meant to recommend which fields a cataloger should use in the MARC record. The questions for the larger cataloging community that came out of their study was "what is needed in the bibliographic record?"