MARC, FRBR and a whole new world
I was reading the latest posts on the NGC4LIB list and various posts on Planet Cataloging (specifically Bibliographic Wilderness’s posts “And more on software data formats” & “Of MARC, serialization formats and element schemata” as well as various posts on First Thus). Then, I listened again to the “Implications of MARC Tag Usage on Library Metadata” session on the OCLC Webinars (you can get the PDF transcript or listen to the .wav). It is an excellent session discussing what MARC tags are actually utilized by most ILS. And my mind slipped sideways.
Recently after a very basic copy cataloging course, a student asked me if it was ok if she added the electronic version of an item to the bibliographic record for the print, even when they are not exactly the same edition. This is not the first time this question has come up and I doubt it will be the last. I told her that technically, no. This is not sanctioned by The Powers That Be. However, if it works in her library catalog and the patrons like it and the other librarians like it – why not? I emphasized that this would be a Big No-No if she was adding the record to OCLC or selling it but if it is in her library, in her catalog, she can do whatever she needs to do to help her patrons - this is pretty much the point of the catalog. Make it easier for the patrons to find information. I suggested (strongly) she note down why this was being done and have some data element to easily find those bibliographic records again so that if things change in the future, it can be modified or changed as necessary (always document for the next person coming down the pike – you are not going to be there forever and why make future workers lives difficult?)
As I wrote above, this is not the first time I’ve had this question. I usually end up confessing that at my previous library I did this too. It was something all the librarians discussed and determined to do – and the patrons loved it. Usage of the electronic as well as print went way up too. Oh, and before the steam rises from your ears, we made clear which was which edition and/or year.
At ALA …oh gosh, was it 2008 Anaheim or 2009 Chicago? Hmm. At an ALA session in the recent few years (I think it was 2008 Anaheim), John Estes from VTLS stood up and spoke of “super” records. It was the most brilliant thing I’d heard from an established ILS in a very long time. He demonstrated how they basically ‘bumped’ up the generic data that applied across all instances of an item and then hooked the non-generic information to it in a cool way. To put it in FRBR terms, they create an Expression then hook the Manifestations to it (with the Items hooked to the Manifestations). BRILLIANT! This would solve the dilemma of ‘how do I connect my electronic and print versions into one record?’.
Back to the recent posts on NGC4LIB list and First Thus, librarians are being creative. They are trying to fill the needs they see in the best possible way using the only tools they have. Yes, there will always be those who sit back and deny the world is round but I guarantee the trenches are filled with librarians who want to sail around the world.