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Green, green grass

April 11, 2012 1 comment

When I was quite young and in training for something that has benefited me my entire life, Mom tells me I used bring my “special chair” out of the training room and into the living room so I wouldn’t miss anything.  This has not changed. Oh wait, no I do not bring my “special chair” into the living room but I do hate to miss anything.

For me, the grass is always green. I don’t mean greener but just green – different shades of green, all very appealing.  I love what I have but I also want to experience that stuff over there and OH! Look over there! How cool! I want to do that too! Wait a minute, what’s that? Oh yes please, can I do that too?

I’ve been struggling to learn patience – to enjoy the bird in my hand and not also envy the other birds.  I cannot be everywhere at once. I cannot do everything. I have to pick and choose. And I love what I choose (generally).  I tend to find the joy or happiness in whatever it is – at least, I try to find it (sometimes it can be difficult). At the same time, however, I want to go do X Y or Z as well.

What I am saying is – there are lots of very cool things happening in our world. To RDA or not to RDA, to MARC or not to MARC, to Cloud or not to Cloud and the development of each of these (and their accessories – FRBR, FRAD,etc.). I want to know it all and do it all!  Instead I am watching and listening (sometimes from afar) and trying to keep up with all the cool stuff.  I am so happy to know there are such great people involved in all of these things – and that they patiently share their expeditions and forays into the uncharted world.

Keep it up guys. It may seem at times that you are swimming upstream and in a deep abyss but there are lots of us out here. Watching. Listening. Eagerly learning from you.

Categories: cataloging, frbr, marc, RDA Tags: , ,

Replacing MARC

March 7, 2011 11 comments

Recently conversation erupted on RDA-L that was initiated with a question about a subjective statement in a MARC Bibliographic tag 300 field (specifically the subfield b). Basically someone had input “illustrations (some coloured, all beautiful), maps ;”  in said subfield. The subjective bit is the “all beautiful” and the question was regarding if RDA allowed for subjective comments such as this within the MARC record. A side discussion arose regarding the spelling of color/colour. Much back and forth occurred and you can read about it yourself on RDA-L, OCLC-Cat, AutoCat, etc.

Jonathan Rochkind of Bibliographic Wilderness made a statement that no one else seemed to focus on. He said:

Which is why in an ideal world, if we care about whether the illustrations are colored or not (and I suspect the time is LONG gone when our patrons or we actually DO), there would be a data element in the record which marked, in a machine interpretable way, whether there are illustrations (checkmark HERE), and whether they are colored/coloured (checkmark THERE). Which could then be translated to the appropriate spelling or even language for the given audience.  [more to read in the original post]

Exactly! The data element should be in a machine interpretable way! The programming should be able to output as we required. This is what Karen Coyle and others have been saying for some time now. The majority of cataloging should be data entry-like.

WHAT????  I am saying the basics should be basic data entry. It will still require knowledge to input the data as well as determining call numbers, subject headings, etc. But the basics should be check here, type an arabic number there, etc – you know, like filling out a form online.  This would be part of parsing out all the data into different fields or subfields or data areas or whatever-you-wish-to-call-it.

Why do this? It promotes consistency. It promotes easier sharing. It promotes tons of options for searching the data.

One of the reasons for RDA is to separate AACR2 from MARC Bibliographic. It is said to move ahead in the semantic web world, we need to separate the rules from the format or input mode. Yes, we do. AACR2 and MARC were ‘married’ in the 1970s. It is time for the D-I-V-O-R-C-E. I do wish we’d moved away from MARC first before killing AACR2 or, ideally, done it at the same time. Yes, I think we’d still have tons of issues and discussion and perhaps arguments but trying to force RDA into MARC Bibliographic is like trying to play baseball with a badminton racket.

Categories: aacr2, marc, RDA Tags: , ,

I get it [RDA]

February 25, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s been, oh, about 4 years since I first heard of RDA. I read, I reviewed, I tried to comprehend.  The ideas of FRBR came naturally to me, learning the terminology took a bit longer but I understood the concepts.  RDA, not so much.

I disremember what I read initially but it has taken me four years to really understand. The idea of RDA is really to change the vocabulary and the way we think of cataloging. That is, instead of looking at it from an item perspective and starting with format as we do with AACR2, with RDA we look at the individual bits of data (name, title, etc.) and link them together. It is sort of cataloging by reverse engineering. I wish I could have seen more clearly 4 years ago but it took hearing from Shana (comments on Why RDA then in why RDA, revisited) as well as recent discussion on RDA-L, NGC4LIB, etc. which explicitly stated this – thanks everyone!

So, I understand RDA – at least, I think I do. The actual changes (such as rule of three, GMD, etc.) are not tremendous and truly, as things are, will not make a huge impact (other than work load perhaps).  However, the idea is the future – when MARC21 is gone and we use a new input;  when the ILS begin to program to the new rules/ideals; when other industries might also pick up RDA and use it as a standard – this is when the real change occurs.

The very difficult thing right now is trying to force new concepts into the old molds. Pushing and shoving RDA into MARC21. Trying to get the ILS to change, drastically change, the way they program their cataloging modules. Having other communities (Publishers, Museums, etc.) adopt and understand the RDA rules.

It seems to me, to make this whole thing work – EVERYONE has to buy in and make the change. The format too – MARC21 has to go. Will that happen? I don’t know. The world’s largest bibliographic database is wedded to MARC21 – can that be changed? How much will it cost? How much will it cost us all?

Categories: aacr2, cataloging, frbr, marc, RDA Tags: , ,

RDA blog posts, comments and informal testing

January 10, 2011 1 comment

Two blogs posts I read today, plus a comment on one of my posts made me think again. Oh, and the CRCC RDA informal test results – they also peaked my interest.

So – let’s start with Diane Hillmann’s Irresistible Apology of the day. This is part of Diane’s report from her attendance at ALA Mid-Winter this past week. I quote:

I still think that it’s hard to justify the time and expense of the testing that has just concluded, which tests RDA only as used in a MARC environment, not RDA itself.

OK, what? I thought there were test records made using other ‘containers’ than just MARC. So I checked at the Library of Congress RDA test records site, and find the test records are indeed almost all of MARC. Hmm. This changes my opinion. I had thought the test was also testing in other ‘containers’ as the formats have been termed. If RDA is meant to separate the rules from the format … should not the test incorporate as many of these formats as possible? Otherwise what is the point? How is that a valid test for the intent of RDA? Can anyone give me more examples than the 11 MODS records on the Library of Congress RDA test records site? Was a similar test done in Dublin Core? How about RDA work with EADS? What about MARC in XML? Or ONIX?  I have to agree with Diane’s statement:

The result of this from the point of the community has been useful insofar as it has provided an avenue for some initial training and participation, but not so useful from the point of view of really providing any understanding of RDA implementation.

Now look at What’s the point’s RDA and OPACs. Again, I quote:

I think RDA is looking into the future and predicting what we will all want and trying to make provisions for it. We (some of us, including me) criticise RDA because it neither sticks with the standards we’ve already got, nor offers anything our present OPACs can make use of in any kind of a helpful way.

I have to agree again, currently RDA is not being used by any Integrated Library System out there – not to my knowledge. From everything I read and see, the vendors are waiting to see what we want. The latest cataloging modules I’ve seen are all still written so that the cataloger (or clerk or whatever) has to have an intimate knowledge of MARC, not AACR2 and not RDA but MARC. I have the same question as What’s the point”:

What do we want, really really want – something that used to work, something that works now or something that might work in the future?

Finally, James Weinheimer commented on my post Why RDA, revisited.

I still maintain that the RDA folks must demonstrate the business model that will show precisely how things will change for the better: what will libraries get from the changes? I haven’t seen anything at all convincing yet and after all, we’ll still be stuck in the “horse-and-buggy days” of transferring MARC records in ISO2709 format! Why not change that first?

I agree. I think replacing MARC  has real potential for proving a difference and demonstrating the benefits of change.  When we force MARC to try to do what RDA is intending … I think failure occurs. MARC requires quite a bit of handling to making the desired linking/FRBR-like concepts (that RDA is based upon) occur. And please note, I have been of the camp stating MARC is fine but I finally saw the light after a Karen Coyle talk.

After they demonstrate the real advantages of RDA in concrete terms that all can understand, everybody could begin to discuss it, do some research and ask the various groups: reference librarians, selectors, and yes: even the users themselves. Then we may be able to figure out if it is worth the expense and disruption during one of the most difficult moments in the history of libraries–that I can remember, anyway.

You’re right of course James. The actual physical benefit is not clear. I am now at least understanding RDA more – that it is a restructuring and re-wording of AARC2 to try to engage and communicate with Systems and others (that is, not just ‘catalogers’). That RDA is meant to be more flexible than AACR2 as new formats come around is clear. But what is not clear is the benefit to the libraries right now – and let’s be honest, now is what matters to budget.

The results from the CRCC informal test seem to support that view. There are positives but, perhaps it is my reading, it seems the negatives are stronger.  If nothing else, the idea seems to be RDA is not ready – not yet anyway.

Categories: aacr2, marc, RDA Tags: , ,

why RDA, revisited

January 6, 2011 3 comments

Shana (see comments on my why RDA post) wrote an erudite and thoughtful post on why we must move to RDA.  She said,

In a sentence: RDA is fundamentally different in it’s approach to describing materials/resources/things/[insert pithy term here].

then went on to explain what she meant. Basically, the big switch for RDA is to reformulate or restructure the rules into a format-neutral structure.  That is, instead of referring to “chapter X of AACR2” when you are dealing with a book or sound recording, you would deal instead with the actual elements involved in the description. Whaaaatttt?   RDA is looking more at the individual things that build up the record, such as looking up the title element or the author (main/added entry) element or whatever rather than each chapter devoted to a format such as Monograph or Sound Recording.

Shana and I continued this conversation via email, if I get this wrong please blame me.  I asked if my interpretation above was a fair description. She said it was and we discussed the idea that RDA is the description of what you put in the “container” (such as MARC or Dublin Core, etc.). The idea, Shana explained, is to separate out the rules from the container. That would be like [my example], a stop sign is a stop sign regardless of if you are driving a car, a motorcycle or a bicycle. It still means STOP.

Going back to RDA, we have some relatively minor changes such as the rule of three, abbrev. and such.  The big switch is to change the format and the language of cataloging. J. McRee (Mac) Elrod has written a fantastic guide, Major RDA Changes From AACR2 By MARC Field, about the specific changes. 

I also read Jonathan Rochkind’s post RE: Straight Jacket? on the RDA-L list serv. This makes sense to me. Jonathan addresses the way “MARC serves as our ‘data vocabulary’ and even our rules for entry in many cases come either from MARC itself or are formulated in terms of marc fields“.  Exactly.  Jonathan points out that the switch to RDA is an attempt to separate out the data vocabulary and entry guidelines.  Basically, pulling the two apart so we can restructure.

And, I listened to the ALCTS session “FRBR as a Foundation for RDA” by Robert Maxwell.  I do understand FRBR (or so I think) and this was a jolly good reminder of the ideals of FRBR.

OK, so I see that RDA is a re-structuring of AACR2 to incorporate the terminology of FRBR. This I have understood.  I see there are very minor (to me anyway) changes to the actual rules of AACR2 within RDA. 

I can understand the need for the new vocabulary. I can see Systems and Programmers and Catalogers all need to speak the same lingo (and have ranted on this before).

So.  We are restructuring the language of our rules (from AACR2 to RDA), but we are not significantly changing the rules – or so it said. Is this a fair statement? The rules themselves are not leaping away from what we know today but the language we use to describe the rules has jumped? That is, we are perhaps switching from using Mandarin to Swahili?

Hmm. I guess I’m back to costs and access to the rule then.  If I agree (and I am still teetering on the fence folks) with the switch from AACR2 to RDA, I wonder about the costs involved.  I do not just mean the costs of the “toolkit”.  I do understand ALA’s need to recoup the costs of production and maintenance of this toolkit. I can’t imagine the gnashing of teeth that occurred to develop the pricing structure (whether  I agree with the final sum is moot, it is incredibly difficult to place a price on a brand new and controversial item). 

Costs include training and retraining. Conversion of old records. Conversion or change of ILS.  And more that I cannot fathom at the moment.

Conversion of old records? One of the things being stated is that AACR2 can co-exist with RDA.  That makes no sense to me. If they can co-exist and work fine, then why switch in the first place? Shouldn’t at least the major elements be converted to the new? How will the GMD ‘exist’ with the 336, 337, and 338? Wouldn’t the inconsistency drive the patron nuts – or just me? And wouldn’t the search results be greatly affected?

Conversion or change of ILS? Won’t there have to be changes made to the existing ILS to accommodate the needs of RDA? And will those be part of the current service plan or an update or cost the library $$$?

So – after all this, what do I think? I am now leaning on the RDA side a bit. I can see the need to change the vocabulary. The restructuring of the rules to take the format out of it makes good sense to me. Pain in the posterior to readjust how I look things up? Why yes!  I do still think that perhaps changing MARC first or in conjunction with the rules would have been more beneficial (and an even bigger pain in the posterior). I still worry about the costs involved. How can this be brought down to manageable for the majority, especially in the economy of today versus when AACR to AACR2 happened?

Oh – and what exactly are the ILS doing? I know VTLS has been on board since the beginning (and have very much enjoyed their presentations) but what of the others? And what about Systems people? Are they involved in the new vocabulary? Do they understand it better than the old? And how does this make the linking possible that is desired? Oh, that’s right, it’s the first step. What’s the second?

Categories: aacr2, marc, RDA Tags: , ,

Fixed fields and exploitation

November 3, 2010 2 comments

MARC Bibliographic fixed fields are marvelous little things.  So much information in *real* machine usable format. Sure, some of the fields might be less than useful today (Festschrift anyone lately?) but many could be put to fantastic use.

Imagine an ILS that uses the codes found in the 008 positions 18-21 for books.  Or expanding on and using the 008 position 22 for books! Ohh, no longer having to use the location to denote audience! Awesome. Have an index? Pop a “1” in the 008 position 31 and your system will automatically inform the searcher that the book has an index. Sweet!

MARC Authority fixed fields are heavily used. In fact, you have to use them in order to know if the heading can be utilized the way you wish to utilize it.

Why then are the MARC Bibliographic fixed fields often neglected by catalogers and ILS vendors? Don’t understand them? Can’t access them? Tradition?  It’s a puzzlement.

If we are not going to change the format (as we need to), then we need to fully utilize what we have.

RDA, AutoCat, FRBR and MARC

October 19, 2010 1 comment

This last week AutoCat has had a lovely discussion on “Displaying Work/Expression/Manifestation Records” (look for that subject in the archives for Week 2 & 3 October 2010).

The entire discussion is well worth reading but I am going to focus on a quote from Mike Tribby’s post on Tuesday, October 12, 2010 8:31 AM

“And I think that Karen Coyle is absolutely correct when she states that we need to develop a data format. That seems a much better goal than a restatement of rules for cataloging content with arbitrary rules that simply replace other arbitrary rules.”

Exactly. We’re putting the cart in front of the horse. 

I like rules. I am a cataloger, I like rules and organization and structure. It’s really a part of my nature (do you write lists? organize your closet? you too could be a cataloger…or an accountant). If RDA passes the USA National Library test come Spring 2011, I’ll move to using it.  Well, that is if my ILS allows it and if I can afford it.

However, I think that perhaps not having a new format (to replace the venerable MARC) first or in conjunction, we are setting up future problems and angst. MARC is cataloging. I’ve discussed this before, many times. MARC is the language of cataloging. MARC is not only the backbone but the entire fleshed out being of cataloging in today’s world.

As Karen Coyle, and many others, have pointed out MARC is not as flexible as it should be to allow true linking and re-use of data. I’ve discussed this too (when I had my epiphany). I was a hard sell on replacing MARC. If you look at my earlier posts I obviously do not get it but I do now and agree it needs to be brought into this century (you can still call it “MARC” if you want).

In order for the lovely linking that is desired with FRBR and RDA, we need to redesign how we record our data. I’m not talking about “should we abbreviate or spell it out” or “rule of three” but the actual nitty gritty of the input and code.  And don’t get me started on the whole thing about catalogers in 2010 having to know to put a “4” in the second indicator of the 245 when the title proper begins with “the”! I have raged against that machine previously.

So I repeat myself. We need to get Systems, Catalogers, and ILS vendors together. Lock’em in a room and don’t let them out until they Build It. Maybe we can continue with what Karen Coyle has already begun.

Categories: cataloging, frbr, marc, RDA, systems Tags: , , ,

336, 337, 338

September 28, 2010 2 comments

Or, the RDA types Content, Media and Carrier.

In my last post, Systems and Cataloging, Céline and Jason had some quite wonderful and thought provoking things to say. Go on, go read it and don’t neglect the comments this time!

Céline says what I have heard previously (she also says new stuff and states all quite beautifully), that is RDA is geared to separate the rules from the format. MARC is the format whereas AACR2/RDA are the rules. AACR2 bleeds into MARC (or vice-versa) quite a bit and part of the purpose of RDA is to separate the rules from the format.

Except, of course, that it doesn’t. Did you see the title of this post? Are you a cataloger? Your mind went immediately to MARC and the new fields.  Except these are really RDA elements (attributes?) shoved into new MARC fields. Guess what? Many already refer to them as 336, 337, and 338 instead of  “Content, Media, and Carrier types” . This will continue to happen so long as we have MARC. It is the nomenclature of cataloging and has been for quite some time. Vocabulary is quite a powerful thing.

It’s easier to say “245” than “title and statement of responsibility”.  We (that is, catalogers) tend to use the tags to describe whatever rule OR field we’re working in. Jason did it in his comment – he talked about the Desc which is what OCLC calls the 000 (or ‘leader’) position 18. He didn’t say “the descriptive rules utilized to create the cataloging record.” I do the very same thing.

I know we want to separate the rules from the format but it ain’t gonna happen whilst we still talk about it all using MARC tags or OCLC labels instead of the actual name of the type, attribute or element.

And please know, I am not dissin’ MARC. I rather like MARC. I like that I know MARC, I like that is it easy for me as a cataloger to determine what MARC field has what information and where to record the information I gather about the item I am cataloging. But I do recognize MARC has outlived it’s usefulness. When the majority of libraries stopped using cards, MARC was fairly outdated and continued to be so. I know there are better ways to record the information we currently record in MARC – heck I can look at ANY database program and see so much more is available because of the way the data is recorded.

However, I think that until the ILS, Systems folk and catalogers all get on board and all together we create a new place to put the information … well, I just don’t see the change a’comin.  I hope I’m wrong (and I probably am, I’m truly not that bright).

Psst…if you wandered on this post looking for information on how to use the 336, 337, and 338, go on over to the Library of Congress MARC Standards for the 3xx fields. Honestly you should just go ahead and bookmark the Library of Congress MARC Standards page for reference in the future…

Catalogs and records

May 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Diane Hillmann commented* on my post MARC and machine readability (revisited):

I think we need to purge the “master record” paradigm from our heads before we move into a newer notion of data. That, and the notion of “records” being the proper (and only) medium of exchange. I’d really urge folks to look at Karen Coyle’s Jan./Feb. issues of “Library Technology Reports,” where she carefully and clearly explains why those two ideas are past their usefulness. It’s impossible, in my opinion, to really address the data quality questions properly in the current record sharing environment, and frankly I think we’re going to have to move on!

I respect Diane [as well as Karen Coyle] and thank her profusely for her comments (check out her blog Metadata Matters, excellently written and rather a fun read).  Thus, I went looking for Karen Coyle’s article “Understanding the Semantic Web: Bibliographic Data and Metadata” in the Jan/Feb issue of Library Technology Reports.  I searched and found http://alatechsource.metapress.com/content/p3022442071g7655/fulltext.pdf which seems to be the article as a book chapter [correct me please if I am wrong and I will ILL the actual article since I do not have access to Library Technology Reports].

Please go read it. It is incredibly interesting and breaks everything down within historic context. Karen also defines metadata, a complete definition and not just the old “data about data” but an explanation of what this means.  I believe I see what Karen means – that the data, if parsed out properly, could provide so much more than just what title is held in your library.  I think this is what OCLC is aiming for with their Worldcat.org and WorldCat Identities. That is, taking the data and breaking it out into various facets.  Karen uses maps to illustrate her points – brilliantly uses them I have to say. I see it, I really do … or so I think.

However, I cannot get my head around the idea that records themselves are dead.  We have to input the information somewhere – whether this is via XML or MARC or JoeBob’sDataSpot, the metadata itself has to be entered.  I still like the idea of a ‘master’ record – the new-to-me concept I heard first from John Espey at VTLS (and blogged about it in post “MARC, FRBR and a whole new world“) but again, the information itself has to be parsed into something the machine can understand and manipulate with higher degree of sophistication than is currently possible with MARC bibliographic.

I think Diane and I are on the same page albeit I’m probably still in ‘once upon a time’ whilst she is onto the moral of the tale [Please Diane, if I am erring, let me know. I want to understand this].  The idea of silos of information which are implied within the concept of ‘records’ is what is dead. The information that is contained in those silos needs to be broken out  – parsed out really, broken down to the base to make it easier for the computer to utilize the information in nice complex algorithms and display however we determine is best for our users. For want of a better term, I am still calling those records (call them data entry points or whatever you prefer) but the idea is the same. Individually parsed out bits of information that collectively become something and link to other somethings to make more somethings…

[BTW the comments on this blog are totally geeking me out. Good golly, people ARE reading this and even more, people I respect and read-Ivy, Ana, Karen, Diane, William, Bryan…wow! My geek-meter runth over]