A brief history of MARC


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A presentation done for my first library science class (Fall 2008) on a history of MARC coding.

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  • The Constituent Assembly confiscated books and manuscripts, the staff at the depots recorded info that was sent to the Paris Bureau de Bibliographie. Collation was partly for the purpose of identifying valuable books to sell for government revenue. Henry Sharp wrote in 1935 that the modern card catalog appeared around 1876. Dewey and Thomas Edison studied, developed and perfected the approved library hand to be taught in schools. Most texts around the 1930s said typewritten cards preferable for clarity but that handwriting couldn't be abolished completely. Development of MARC and creation of OCLC(Online Computer Library Center) in Dublin Ohio changed future of cataloging. Paved the way for Online Public Access Catalogs (OPACs). Most libraries discarded physical card cartalogs by mid-1980s
  • LC begins investigating possibility of automated techniques in late 1950s. 1963 study recommended a group be established to design and implement the procedures required to automate the cataloging, searching, indexing, and document retrieval functions. 1965 conference concluded that availability of MARC records produced by LC would help libraries with automated systems; MARC should include all info on regular LC cards plus more to make a multipurpose record; agreement by community on elements and design at LC was best means for a standard. Grant received 1965 from CLR to conduct a pilot on the feasibility and utility of distribution of cataloging data in machine readable form from LC to user libraries.
  • Selection based on type of library (special, government, state, university, public and school), geographic location, availability of personnel, equipment and funds, proposed use of MARC data, and willingness to evaluate and prepare reports. 16 chosen out of 40 libraries that applied.
  • Feb 1966 conference for purpose of describing: A. concepts, objectives, schedules, functions, and requirements of experiment B. the operation at LC C. the MARC format D. the materials to be sent weekly to participants E. the content of reports expected from participants Computer programs provided to participants were not error-free and had to be modified.
  • Participating libraries experimented with card and book catalog production, current awareness listings, filing arrangement by computer, etc. Not all participants had a successful system but all reported the pros and cons to LC The need for timely receipt of data and quality of records stressed. Part of rationale was test of a machine format under operational conditions to help design a next gen format based on the experience. The interest expressed by the British National Bibliography (BNB) in mounting a UK/MARC pilot project and the interest of other nations prompted the thought about a standard communications format suitable for interchanging bib data
  • Philosophy behind MARC II was design of one format structure that could contain bib info for all types of material and related records. Three components of format are structure , content designators (tags, indicators, subfield codes) , and content (data itself)
  • Hardware limitations and time & funding constraints led to design as batch tape system
  • Computer & Magnetic Tape study was an analysis to determine which computers and peripheral devices could be used to process MARC tapes LC staff recognized that the system would need to be updated to use disk as a storage medium and provide online correction (as in, correcting inputted records directly on computer) Work begun 1971 on Multiple Use MARC System (MUMS) to provide online capability 1973: suggested to ALA RTSD/RASD/ISAD (Resources and Technical Services Division/Reference and Adult Services Division/Information Science and Automation Division) committee on Representation in Machine-Readable Form of Bibliographic Information (MARBI) that a MARC advisory committee be formed; MARBI became that in 1974 at ALA Midwinter meeting.
  • RECON study assigned to a task force. Their conclusions: A. MARC distribution service should be expanded to cover all languages and media as rapidly as resources and technology allow B. Conversion of some records to MARC should be an early goal of library automation C. Conversion for a nat'l bib database requires standardization of bib content and machine format. Standards should be same as for current records. D. Highest priority for recon given to records likely to be useful to largest number of libraries E. Large-scale conversion should be centralized project and under LC direction Magnetic tape selectric typewriter best for offline entry; Cathode ray tube terminals best for online corrections. Optical Character Readers (OCR) not performing adequately enough.
  • Can be used to describe materials in traditional formats but best as a means to adequately describe Internet resources The most controversial use would be as a replacement to MARC MARC has developed to meet the challenges presented by a networked environment Dublin Core can be embedded in HTML documents, empirical effectiveness of META tags remains uncertain. Dublin Core is a rich structure that will provide specific retrieval if adopted by search engines. Some internet sources will remain cataloged in MARC format Dublin Core has potential for change. CORC records can be entered in MARC or Dublin Core format, stored as XML, exported in MARC or Dublin Core
  • The future of MARC – likely not going away anytime soon as it is adaptable and there is a sheer volume of MARC format records. Many countries have their own MARC formats or use MARC 21. Likely will be harmonized with some metadata form to expand functionality (IMO)
  • A brief history of MARC

    1. 1. Card Cataloging: A History France 1789, earliest card catalog Library Bureau formed 1876, Melvil Dewey Library of Congress cards beginning 1901 Typewriters emerging from 1890s "Library Hand" in wide use until approx. 1930s 1960s is beginning of change for the future
    2. 2. Machine Readable Cataloging discussed Council on Library Resources (CLR) issues a grant to study feasibility of automating library systems at the Library of Congress (LC) (1963) A second study on methods of converting LC cards to machine-readable format is discussed at a conference January 1965. Three members of LC staff analyse catalog data from a machine point of view (June 1965) Funds granted for a pilot project Dec. 1965, project is dubbed MARC (Machine Readable Cataloging)
    3. 3. MARC Pilot Project: 1966-1968 Planning begun in early January 1966 A total of sixteen libraries chosen for pilot: Argonne National Laboratory, Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Indiana University, Mongomery County Public Schools, Nassau County Library System, National Agricultural Library, Redstone Scientific Information Center, Rice University, University of California Institute of Library Research, University of Chicago, University of Florida, University of Missouri, University of Toronto, Washington State Library, and Yale University.
    4. 4. MARC Pilot Project: 1966-1968 Conference held in February 1966, the official opening of the pilot project LC set a goal of 8 months for completing procedures and programs MARC I format needed to be stabilized by April 66 First distribution set for September 1966 First test tape mailed in October 1966 Weekly distribution service actually begun in November 1966 Pilot program initially set to end in June 1967
    5. 5. MARC Pilot Project: 1966-1968 Pilot project extended to June 1968 and four participants added: California State Library, Illinois State Library, Cornell University, and the State University of New York Biomedical Communications Network. June 1967: Announced that operational MARC Distribution Service was in planning stages and MARC II design had begun At the end of the pilot project, approximately 50,000 MARC format records had been distributed and a report was issued in 1968 on the experience.
    6. 6. MARC Distribution Service After termination of pilot project in June 1968, LC began testing the new procedures and programs for the distribution service from July 1968 through March 1969. MARC Institutes, to inform librarians about MARC, held beginning July 1968 Subscribers Guide to the MARC Distribution Service (later Books: A MARC Format) published August 1968, and a test tape in fall 1968 to allow users to check programs.
    7. 7. MARC Distribution Service Operational System launched March 1969 Approximately 1,000 records per tape, with a weekly distribution cycle The new MARC system designed as a batch tape system composed of four subsystems  Input  File Maintenance  Retrieval  Output
    8. 8. MARC Distribution Service In 1969 LC issued through ALA the first edition of MARC Manuals  Data Preparation Manual: MARC Editors  Transcription Manual: MARC Typists  Subscribers Guide to the MARC Distribution Service  Computer and Magnetic Tape Unit Usability Study Other material formats added to MARC  Serials & Maps added in 1970  Films added in 1971  Manuscripts added in 1973
    9. 9. Retrospective Conversion A Retrospective Conversion (RECON) begun 1968, with report issued 1969 August 1969, RECON Pilot Project initiated, continuing through August 1971 Various technologies for automatic conversion studied, including Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Format Recognition development was most important achievement of pilot project Approximately 58,000 records converted
    10. 10. MARC moves into the 21st century MARC is constantly changing  USMARC and CANMARC (United States and Canadian versions of MARC) were harmonized in 1997 to create MARC 21, the current standard  British Library plans to drop UKMARC in favour of using MARC 21  New tags and fields are always being added to accommodate new media  For example, Field 856 "Electronic Location and Access" added in 1993 to make web-based records accessible from MARC records
    11. 11. Metadata and MARC Metadata is simply data about data Metadata can be added to web pages to make indexing more automatic and comprehensive LCs Network Development and MARC Standards Office (NDMSO) has developed Document Type Definitions to support MARC data in a web environment  DTD for Standard General Markup Language (SGML) developed in 1997  DTD for XML (eXtensible Markup Language) in 2000  2002, MARCXML released, for working with MARC data in an XML (web) environment
    12. 12. Metadata and MARC Dublin Core Metadata Initiative conceived in 1994 by Stuart Weibel, OCLC research scientist Consists of fifteen elements: Content, Title, Subject, Description, Source, Language, Relation, Coverage, Intellectual Property, Creator, Publisher, Contributor, Rights, Instantiation, Date, Type, Format, Identifier Cooperative Online Resource Catalog (CORC) is sponsored by OCLC and uses both MARC and Dublin Core to create a database of quality Internet resources
    13. 13. Conclusion