Coyle’s InFormation: Murdering MARC

Coyle’s InFormation: Murdering MARC

Karen Coyle has gone a posting rampage in listserves (ngc4lib and marc) and back on her new blog.
The thought that comes from:

c) A functional analysis of library systems. There’s a discussion taking place on a list called ngc4lib about the “Next Generation Catalog” for libraries. In that discussion it quickly becomes clear that the catalog is no longer (if it ever was) a discrete system, and our “bibliographic record” is really serving a much broader role than providing an inventory of library holdings. This was the bee in my bonnet when I wrote my piece for the Library Hi Tech special issue on the future of MARC. I’m not sure I could still stand by everything I said in that article, but the issues that were bugging me then are bugging me still now. If we don’t understand the functions we need to serve, our basic bibliographic record will not further our goals.

One of the things that really gets me as a cataloger and the MARC is how all the various library systems have different semantic expectations for each data element.

Even with national cataloging standards and a union catalog in the form of Worldcat, modern MARC records are of varying quality, detail and meaning. This is even worse with the proliferation of format and content that we’ve seen over the last ten years. An example of this is the way that integrating resources (updating websites and loose-leaf publications, are the prime examples) are being handled in the cataloging code. It is a nightmare trying to figure out what is happening and examining records with various places is even more confusing. In a sense even with standards, AACR2, cooperative cataloging, and national libraries its even more of a Tower of Babel when trying to utilize, interpret, copy or adapt catalog records coming from disparate origins.

With MARC and its successors I have the expectation of being able to catalog in a standardized data format anything. Books, videos, audio, websites, databases, globes, scores, anything. But this leads to the problem (which I guess RDA/FRBR are trying to solve) of how to deal with a proliferation of functional requirements and get at the core of what everyone should need.

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