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Stacie Traill's picture

ALCTS/LITA MARC Formats Transition Interest Group

The ALCTS/LITA MARC Formats Transition Interest Group met on Saturday, June 29, from 3-4 PM. The Interest Group hosted presentations addressing potential future transformations of MARC data from two different perspectives. About 80 people were in attendance.

Kevin Ford of the Network Development and MARC Standards Office at the Library of Congress presented “On BIBFRAME Instance.” Ford began with a discussion of the principles behind BIBFRAME development and its linked data model: reliance on identifiers rather than strings, reduced ambiguity, decentralization of data, the ability to annotate or otherwise augment data, and flexibility for both cataloging and other uses. Ford then described efforts to identify BIBFRAME instances, which are individual resources that embody a work, based on the Library of Congress’s existing MARC bibliographic records. Instances are generated from MARC data based on varying combinations of ISBN and data in MARC 260 and 300 fields. Instances do not necessarily have a one-to-one correspondence with MARC records. Although there is some ambiguity, analysis shows that a relatively small number of LC’s MARC records are likely to represent multiple instances. Ford continued with a discussion of use cases for the level of atomicity provided by BIBFRAME instances, noting that it is better aligned with contemporary practice outside libraries and allows for improved linking, where instances can be easily combined under the work.

Brian Geiger, Co-Director of the English Short Title Catalog for North America, and Carl Stahmer, Associate Director of the English Broadside Ballad Archive, gave a presentation titled “Redesigning the English Short Title Catalog.” As part of a grant-funded project, ESTC is currently engaged in a process to convert their catalog from MARC to data-agnostic triplets. The ESTC’s existing MARC catalog does not allow the flexibility that scholars need to harvest and analyze the data, or to annotate it. Geiger and Stahmer emphasized that ESTC’s new approach is intended to be “agnostic” in order maximize flexibility, extensibility, and longevity. To this end, they are moving toward converting ESTC data to an event-driven RDF triplets model (which resembles BIBFRAME in some aspects). The outcome is that the data can be used to generate as many views as are desired; all that is necessary is the coding for machines to properly present each view of the underlying data.

Though specific approaches differ, the two presentations both highlighted the challenges of moving to a linked data model, as well as the great potential of linked data models to improve access and discovery.