MARBI Matters, pt. 3

Sunday, January 22, 2006 4:00-6:00 p.m. (Sheraton Gunter Hotel Yellow Rose)

In the second Sunday session of MARBI, the agenda order of the discussion papers was reversed.

Discussion Paper No. 2006-DP03 (http://www.loc.gov/marc/marbi/2006/2006-dp03.html): Incorporation of former headings into MARC 21 authority records. Sally McCallum introduced the paper and gave the background to it. She reported that historic practice was that former headings were given in a note, but many had felt that it should be in more parseable form (“Duh,” commented my neighbor, a sentiment I echo).

Several MARBIes contributed comments initially, endorsing the notion that it was important to include enough information to process on the heading, but pointing out additional problems with some of the proposed solutions. Sherman Clarke asked for a tighter definition of “former heading” since there were several examples that might qualify as such in some local situations and have deleterious effects on the shared body of authorities maintained for the use of all.

Bill Jones pointed out an unstated assumption in the report that a cancelled record or deleted heading is actually removed from the file, which is not necessarily true for the shared file, where such records can be retrieved. Adam Schiff wondered whether the proposal might include changed or deleted scope notes, though there were no reasons in those cases for use of 4XX.

Mary Ann O’Daniel from FCLA reported that they kept a file of deleted and obsolete headings for the use of catalogers, and she suggested that a reference to a deleted record be retained. Stephen Hearn pointed out that the recent changes to the Indian headings resulted in some application instructions on old headings being deleted and important information lost.

One of the members of the committee responsible for the report pointed out that in their discussions they identified situations when a 4XX solution might result in unintended results, such as when a conflict in names is resolved by adding information to one name and not another—in such cases a 4XX for the former heading would conflict with a still valid heading for the other name.

John Attig agreed that it was important to note whether processing is possible using a particular 4XX but the problem is not solved by using a 6XX, and additional instruction in a $w might be necessary to prevent bad outcomes.

There was general consensus that there should be another discussion paper looking at the 4XX possibilities explicitly, and suggest options for resolving the identified problems.

Discussion Paper No. 2006-DP01 (http://www.loc.gov/marc/marbi/2006/2006-dp01.html): Recording geographic coordinates in the MARC 21 Authority Format.
As anyone who is still breathing can attest, geo-referenced information is the hot new thing. Google Maps has undoubtedly been responsible for some of the current buzz, but catalogs with functionality based on understanding of geographic information have been around for more than a decade. That said, anyone outside of the specialist map and geography community who looks at the implications of adding information like this can’t help but be a bit overwhelmed. I recall vividly the MARBI Meeting some years ago when many similar capabilities were added to MARC, and wondering at the time whether the efforts would pan out.

That said, there seemed to be general agreement that attempts to accomplish this should be undertaken—or, at least, those that felt differently remained silent. As in most things, the devil is in the details, and how to implement the recording of such data in MARC records seems fairly daunting. John Attig suggested plaintively that the experts just tell us what we should do (the alternative, one presumed, would be an endless late Sunday afternoon discussion on relentlessly technical matters in which only a few in the room would be conversant, much less awake) and that we would move ahead.

It all seemed to boil down to coordinates. Old desires to record scale were dismissed as useless, but clearly there was no feeling on the part of the experts present that coordinate systems were currently at rest (nor would they tend to follow the laws of inertia in future)—but this need not concern the MARBIes, apparently. “Give us a bucket, and let us put data there,” seemed to be the suggestion by the expert contingent.

Most of this data will reside, at least at first, in authority files, and there seemed to be some interest in applying as well notions of temporality, to support the delivery of historic data. Also, since data might be supplied in bulk in some instances, $2 for source was explicitly requested. Inevitably, given the hour, the question of defining what planet the coordinates might apply to was undertaken, and one wag (who shall remain nameless for his own safety) inquired what planet would be used for California?

The discussion will continue, no doubt, with the probability of an additional discussion paper on adding feature information to the records as well.

As a last item, Sally reported on 2006-04 (on FRBR authority models) that appeared and then disappeared from the agenda. The disappearance occurred because it was felt to be premature—suggested experimentation had not occurred or had not been reported.

Adjourned early again–Martha, you’re a marvel!