Recently in MARC Category

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.

Replacing MARC?

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You may have seen an announcement from LC about the "Bibliographic Framework Initiative." As most titles go, this one isn't necessarily as straightforward as it could be, but the initiative itself will likely be a Big Deal.

As highlighted in a recent Library Journal article, this initiative may signal the beginning of a move away from the MARC format. (Did you just feel the earth shake?)

Take the time to read the LJ article, at least. If you want to follow the progress of the Initiative, check in on their website at:

I'm sure we'll be communicating more about this in the future. Any changes will be a while in coming, and gradual when they do, but they will be significant.

But, hey, we're used to change, aren't we?

OCLC Technical Bulletin 258 Available

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Technical Bulletin 258 is now available.

This Technical Bulletin covers all of the Library of Congress's MARC Update 10 and most of MARC Update 11 (exceptions are noted). Many of these changes relate to the WorldCat testing of Resource Description and Access (RDA), the proposed successor to AACR2. Also covered are comments and requests from OCLC users and staff.

Implementations of the OCLC-MARC updates covered in the Technical Bulletin may occur in stages, which OCLC will announce via logon Messages of the Day, Connexion News, and the OCLC-CAT listserv. It is recommended that users not begin to use the new capabilities, fields and subfields, indicators, practices, and codes until OCLC announces that they may be used.

View the list of all OCLC Technical Bulletins

The Library of Congress recently released the results of its analysis of the creation and distribution of bibliographic data in U.S. and Canadian libraries.

The Library commissioned R2 Consulting LLC to search and describe the current marketplace for cataloging records in the MARC format, with primary focus on the economics of current practices, including existing incentives and barriers to both contribution and availability.

Paired with the study online is a report of an internal working group indicating how recommendations from "On the Record: Report of the Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control" may be implemented at the Library. Both reports are available on the LC website here.

R2 summarizes its 10 findings concerning Library of Congress cataloging and how it supports bibliographic-description needs across the U.S. and Canada. Below are the first five findings from the R2 Study. This should make for an interesting read! Read the other findings and the full report here.

Library of Congress cataloging continues to be widely valued: Libraries, vendors, and cooperatives speak with their actions. There is heavy reliance on LC's output throughout all segments of the profession and industry. This is demonstrated by 500,000 searches per day against LC's Z39.50 servers and WebOPAC; by extensive re‐sale and re‐use of records distributed by the MARC Distribution Service (MDS); and by the variety and scale of use across all library sizes and types, and all vendor sizes and types. LC records are the cornerstone of the entire market. School and public libraries are especially reliant on them, but all market segments have built services on the foundation of inexpensive and easily obtainable LC records.

The Library of Congress subsidizes portions of the market: LC catalogs many titles that ultimately are not retained in its collections. As a result, LC bears significant costs from which it receives no direct benefit, for activity that is not explicitly in support of its core users. The 1902 law that governs distribution of its records deliberately excludes the cost of production from the pricing for those records. There is no revenue to offset those costs, other than the value of the free copies of the CIP books provided by publishers. The market relies to a surprising degree on LC's willingness to bear these costs and forgo this revenue. If LC were to redirect its catalogers' efforts solely to materials deemed necessary by its users, CIP production would diminish significantly. Other organizations would need to assume those costs. At present, libraries and vendors enjoy the largely unrecognized benefits of an LC subsidy.

LC records are significantly underpriced: Not only does LC bear a disproportionate share of the costs associated with producing records for titles it may not retain, the law governing its sale of those records allows only the cost of distribution (plus 10%) to be recouped. The cost of production is assumed to be part of LC's ongoing operations. Such low prices contribute to the impression that cataloging should cost less than it actually does.

Cataloging backlogs continue to grow in many areas and market segments: As outlined in the library survey responses, non‐Roman languages, maps, and DVDs pose particular problems. But to our surprise, many libraries are also losing ground on mainstream materials such as English‐language monographs.

There is adequate cataloging capacity in North America to meet the collective need: This finding surprised us, especially given the aging of the profession and imminent retirements. However, a conservative interpretation of survey data shown on pages 9‐10 strongly suggests that there are more than enough catalogers to handle everything. In the academic market alone, for instance, the survey indicates that more than 8,000 original catalogers are employed. If each original cataloger produced on average one record per work day (or 200 per year), that would indicate capacity for 1.6 million original records annually. Unfortunately, that capacity is not well distributed, disciplined, or coordinated, despite decades of experience with cooperative cataloging.

Registration Open for NISO Webinar - RDA, AACR, and MARC

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Registration is open for NISO's October webinar on Bibliographic Control Alphabet Soup: AACR to RDA and Evolution of MARC, to be held on Wednesday, October 14, 2009 from 1:00 - 2:30 p.m. (Eastern Time).

Librarians, ILS vendors, and commercial cataloging service providers--as well as a wide variety of related service providers--all know that the proverbial, heavily acronym-spiced "bibliographic control alphabet soup" involves the intelligent and well informed use of many ingredients. Chief in these are constantly evolving standards, combined with more than a sprinkling of creativity and insight. Three expert metadata chefs will analyze and discuss specific alphabetic ingredients already in use or soon to be implemented in the bib control kitchen.

Diane Hillmann (Director of Metadata Initiatives, Information Institute of Syracuse) will provide an overview of RDA Elements and Vocabularies: a Step Forward from MARC. RDA elements and vocabularies represent the distillation of library descriptive knowledge, optimized for use within an environment that speaks XML, RDF, and linked data, and expressed in an FRBR-aware manner.

Barbara Tillett (Chief, Policy and Standards Division, Library of Congress) will review There to Here to There -- AACR2 and RDA. Learn how what started as AACR3 evolved into an entirely new approach with a new name.

William Moen (Associate Professor, School of Library and Information Sciences, University of North Texas) will discuss results from the IMLS-sponsored research project: Data-driven Evidence for Core MARC Records. The project team examined 56 million WorldCat bibliographic records and analyzed patterns of use by catalogers of available fields/subfields.

For more information and to register, visit the event webpage. Registration is per site (access for one computer) and includes access to the online recorded archive of the webinar. NISO and NASIG members receive a discounted member rate. A student discount is also available. Can't make it on the 14th? Register and gain access to the recorded archive for one year.

Informing the Future of MARC

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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.

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?"

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the MARC category.

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