I feel like I should duck after hitting submit on this post – I might be opening up the flood gates – but here it goes!
My friend (and colleague) Chris Schwartz has written about the future of MARC (and probably will have many more posts on this topic).
When it is mentioned, MARC usually gets a bad rap. It’s often viewed as worn out legacy metadata better suited for card catalogs with an antiquated late 1960’s data structure that mystifies computer programmers when they first encounter it.
Personally, I wasn’t mystified when I first saw MARC – it all made perfect sense What doesn’t make sense to me are the silly ISBD punctuation rules – these are what’s really being carried over from the card catalog days.
My opinion on the matter? Well, I don’t think MARC can go anywhere. It’s at the center of nearly every library system – and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. The way that MARC breaks up our data into parts makes it much more searchable. By breaking things down into pieces you have access to very detailed levels of data.
Now, you might be saying – who in the world needs that level of accuracy? Well, there are many researchers out there who want to find the edition that was published by publisher X in town Y and by having a schema that allows access on that level we make it easier for them (now the fact that our systems don’t offer that functionality is a whole other issue – but the point is that it is possible).
It is this level of detail that has me pushing for our library to use MARCXML for our digital collections – it just makes the most sense for our very specialized collection and patrons. I want to be able to provide searchabilty down to the tiniest level if the user wants it. My only complaint about MARCXML (if you want me to get techie on you) is that every field is titled “datafield” and the attributes are were you get the MARC fields.
<datafield tag=”245″ ind1=”1″ ind2=”0″>
<subfield code=”a”>A. Janse over Karl Barth /</subfield>
<subfield code=”c”>samensteller: J. L. Struik.</subfield>
Why not have it like this:
<m245 ind1=”1″ ind2=”0″>
<a>A. Janse over Karl Barth /</a>
<c>samensteller: J. L. Struik.</c>
Which probably has some validation issues – but you get the idea.
I didn’t mean for this to turn into an evaluation of MARCXML, so I’ll leave the XML discussion at that for now.
The way I see it, MARC does what it needs to do – it’s the rules surrounding our cataloging (AACR2 & ISBD) that are holding us back – and for that reason (and the one I mentioned earlier about it being central to our systems) I don’t think MARC is going anywhere soon.