A Bibliographic Framework for the Digital Age

New from the Library of Congress:

The Working Group of the Future of Bibliographic Control, as it examined technology for the future, wrote that the Library community’s data carrier, MARC, is “based on forty-year-old techniques for data management and is out of step with programming styles of today.” The Working Group called for a format that will “accommodate and distinguish expert-, automated-, and self-generated metadata, including annotations (reviews, comments, and usage data.” The Working Group agreed that MARC has served the library community well in the pre-Web environment, but something new is now needed to implement the recommendations made in the Working Group’s seminal report. In its recommendations, the Working Group called upon the Library of Congress to take action. In recommendation 3.1.1, the members wrote:

“Recognizing that Z39.2/MARC are no longer fit for the purpose, work with the library and other interested communities to specify and implement a carrier for bibliographic information that is capable of representing the full range of data of interest to libraries, and of facilitating the exchange of such data both within the library community and with related communities.”

This same theme emerged from the recent test of the Resource Description and Access (RDA) conducted by the National Agricultural Library, the National Library of Medicine, and the Library of Congress. Our 26 test partners also noted that, were the limitations of the MARC standard lifted, the full capabilities of RDA would be more useful to the library community. Many of the libraries taking part in the test indicated that they had little confidence RDA changes would yield significant benefits without a change to the underlying MARC carrier. Several of the test organizations were especially concerned that the MARC structure would hinder the separation of elements and ability to use URLs in a linked data environment.

With these strong statements from two expert groups, the Library of Congress is committed to developing, in collaboration with librarians, standards experts, and technologists a new bibliographic framework that will serve the associated communities well into the future. Within the Library, staff from the Network Development and Standards Office (within the Technology Policy directorate) and the Policy and Standards Division (within the Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access directorate) have been meeting with Beacher Wiggins (Director, ABA), Ruth Scovill (Director, Technology Policy), and me to craft a plan for proceeding with the development of a bibliographic framework for the future.

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We at the Library are committed to finding the necessary funding for supporting this initiative, and we expect to work with diverse and wide-ranging partners in completing the task. Even at the earliest stages of the project, we believe two types of groups are needed: an advisory committee that will articulate and frame the principles and ideals of the bibliographic framework and a technical committee that has the in-depth knowledge to establish the framework, itself.

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by Hugh McLeod

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Pratt Institute School of Information
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