ERIC Identifier: ED321773
Publication Date: 1990-07-00
Author: McQueen, Judy
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources Syracuse
Creating and Maintaining the Bibliographic Database
for Library Automation. ERIC Digest.
System software and vendors come and go, hardware becomes obsolete,
but a bibliographic database can survive for decades. A high quality, well
maintained bibliographic file can be transferred from one generation of
a system to another or migrated between successive systems from different
By the year 2000, the bibliographic file mounted on an integrated automated
library system installed in 1990 may be the only original system component
still in place. The file will have been amended, updated, and expanded
by the addition, deletion, and change of records. In addition to being
the most lasting system component, if not properly constructed, the bibliographic
database can also be the most limiting element of a multifunction integrated
automated library system.
The purpose of this digest is to highlight bibliographic file creation
and maintenance practices that will affect a library's ability to use various
automated system capabilities for both current and future applications.
DATABASE CREATION OPTIONS
There are a number of ways of creating the bibliographic database to
be mounted on a local automated library system. Most approaches rely on
a resource file of machine-readable records to provide cataloging copy,
in preference to creating and keying all records from scratch.
Cataloging resource files come in a variety of forms: a library database
mounted on a local automated system, a CD-ROM stand-alone cataloging support
system, or a remote file accessed via telecommunication linkages (such
as OCLC). The resource file is searched for a record that describes the
item being cataloged. If an exact match is not found but the file contains
a record for a similar item, a derived catalog record is created by selecting
and editing the near-matching record to represent the item in hand.
If no copy record can be identified, an original record is prepared.
All copy cataloging requires some editing to add local library-specific
data such as call number or local subject headings. Record creation and
record editing can be performed either on the system that supports the
resource file or on the local automated library system.
THE IMPORTANCE OF ADHERENCE TO MARC
Some libraries unknowingly impose limits on future applications of their
system (or make the implementation of such applications more expensive)
by following the overall structure and conventions of MARC formatting,
but failing to maintain data elements that seem obscure or redundant or
otherwise appear to have little or no importance for the current automated
system. This is particularly common when records are created by original
cataloging or by editing a near-matching record to conform to the slightly
different item in hand.
The data elements most frequently overlooked are those recorded as coded
data in the record leader and the 008 fixed length field. For example,
a record assigned the local library classification of PER and a local subject
heading "Periodical" is clearly a record for a serial; why go to the added
effort and expense of ensuring that the value "s" for serial is recorded
in the bibliographic code element of the leader? Why not use a bibliographic
level default of "m" (for monograph) or blank (in assigned meaning) in
What may appear to be a reasonable time and labor saving variation from
standard MARC practice can become a major limitation or expense. A library
wishing to use its automated library system to inspect its bibliographic
file, select all records for serials, and output these records in machine-readable
form for submission to a union list of serials or as a printed list of
holdings, will be unable to do so if the system bases the identification
of serial records on the expectation that all serial records, and only
serial records, contain "s" in the bibliographic level element of the record
Other important data elements are standard numbers such as the Library
of Congress Card Number (LCCN) and the International Standard Book Number
(ISBN). Although often regarded as of little importance in local system
databases, these numbers assume significance in external applications,
such as when a library is seeking to produce a microfiche or CD-ROM catalog;
to migrate the database from one automated library system to another; to
merge its records with those from other libraries on a shared automated
system; or to report holdings to a union catalog.
APPROPRIATE FIELDS: CONSISTENT FORMATS
It is not enough to record data in the appropriate field. It must also
be recorded in a consistent format. Some automated library systems and
cataloging support systems enforce formatting consistency by providing
input validation routines that either alert the operator to an incorrectly
formatted number and prevent it from being added to the database, or automatically
reformat the data once it has been keyed. However, most multifunction integrated
automated library systems neither check nor manipulate input data; they
accept whatever is keyed and output it unchanged.
Appropriate and consistent formatting conventions must be followed if
standard numbers are to be readily available for machine manipulation.
Local automated system vendors' data recording guidelines tend to focus
on formatting data for internal, local applications--use within the automated
library system. Capabilities to support the output of MARC records from
local automated systems are relatively new. Their introduction emphasizes
the need for libraries to expand their data entry horizons beyond the confines
of current local system usage.
CORRECTING A DEFECTIVE DATABASE
It is expensive to develop and maintain a bibliographic database, and
the cost can escalate dramatically if ill-considered shortcuts result in
records that cannot support the full range of automated library system
applications, necessitating major revision or upgrade of the file.
A library can correct defective records by calling them up and changing
them one at a time or, if the problems are widespread and consistent, it
can contract with a bibliographic tape processing service to prepare custom
software to correct the records automatically. Some automated library system
vendors also provide these services. The more customization a vendor is
required to perform to prepare a file for loading or transfer, however,
the more the library can expect to pay for the service.
GUIDELINES FOR A HEALTHY BIBLIOGRAPHIC FILE
1. Follow the established national standard for the recording and formatting
of bibliographic data: the US MARC Format for Bibliographic Data.
2. Include and maintain all relevant data elements in the records, especially
the coded data in the record leader and the 008 fixed length data elements
3. Look beyond current system requirements to the time when additional
system capabilities will be implemented, the file will be transferred to
a new system, or standard output will be required for other applications.
Specifically, include and maintain standard control numbers such as LCCN
4. Pay special attention to coded data elements and standard numbers
in original record creation and in the editing of near-match records drawn
from a resource file.
5. Select an automated library system that has the ability to output
bibliographic records in the MARC format. (All current systems have the
ability to accept the input of MARC formatted bibliographic records.)
6. Document changes in database creation practices, procedures, and
policies. Many problems and inconsistencies in bibliographic databases
can be overcome by external tape processing. It is easier, faster, and
less expensive to fix known problems. Memory is not a reliable guide.
ARL Statement on Unlimited Use and Exchange of Bibliographic Records.
(April 1989). Washington, DC: Association of Research Libraries. ED 309
Banach, Patricia, & Spell, Cynthia. (June 1988). Serials conversion
at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND
LIBRARIES, 7(2), 124-30.
Co, Francisca K. (1988). An Investigation into the Economics of Retrospective
Conversion Using a CD-ROM System. ED 305 932.
Mandel, Carol A. (October 1986). Classification Schedules as Subject
Enhancement in Online Catalogs. A Review of a Conference Sponsored by Forest
Press, the OCLC Online Computer Library Center, and the Council on Library
Resources. Washington, DC: Council on Library Resources. ED 275 326.
Reed-Scott, Jutta. (May 1984). Issues in Retrospective Conversion. Report
of a Study Conducted for the Council on Library Resources. Washington,
DC: Council on Library Resources. ED 247 959.
This digest is a condensed version of the original article, "Creating
and Maintaining the Bibliographic Database," by Judy McQueen, which appeared
in INFORMATION TODAY, 7(3), March 1990, pp. 41-42, 46. Printed with the
permission of INFORMATION TODAY.