Creating Connections in the Serials World
Jean M. Pajerek
Cornell Law Library
Many libraries have implemented, or are in the process of implementing, integrated library systems that feature predictive check-in of continuations and require the establishment of publication patterns for each title the library intends to check in. There is tremendous duplication of effort as individual libraries all across the country find themselves establishing predictive publication patterns for many of the same titles. If holdings data could be created and distributed in a standardized way, libraries could share the work of establishing publication patterns, much as we already share the work of creating bibliographic and authority records. Libraries could realize significant time savings by using publication patterns already established by other libraries instead of "re-inventing the wheel" with each check-in pattern. This is the idea behind the CONSER Publication Pattern Initiative (http://lcweb.loc.gov/acq/conser/patthold.html), overseen by the CONSER Task Force on Publication Patterns and Holdings.
The first portion of program C-2 at the AALL meeting in Orlando ("Publication Patterns: Creating Connections in the Serials World") was prepared by Ellen Rappaport of Albany Law School and presented by Linda Miller, Senior Automation Planning Specialist at the Library of Congress. Ms. Rappaport's presentation provided an outline of the CONSER Publication Pattern Initiative and its accomplishments. The Publication Pattern Initiative has as its mission the "cooperative creation, sharing, and distribution of pattern and holdings data via the CONSER database and among local systems, and [the promotion of] full use of the MARC 21 Format for Holdings Data (MFHD) by library systems."
A successful two-year pilot program to add serials pattern data to the CONSER database was recently completed, resulting in pattern data being added to over 43,000 bibliographic records in OCLC. The pattern data are expressed in linked pairs of 85x and 86x fields. The 85x fields contain caption and frequency information and the 86x fields contain enumeration and chronology data. These data are intended to be manipulated by OPAC software to create a meaningful holdings display. During the pilot project, participating libraries added basic-level caption and pattern data (field 853) and enumeration and chronology data (field 863) to CONSER records in OCLC; the data are embedded in 891 fields within the bibliographic records (see example below).
891 20 ‡9 853 ‡8 1 ‡a v. ‡b no. ‡u 2 ‡v r ‡i (year) ‡w f 891 41 ‡9 863 ‡8 1.1 ‡a 1 ‡b 1 ‡i 2001
The 853/863 pairs are linked by the values encoded in subfield 8. Fields with the same value in subfield 8 are linked to each other. In the above example, the number 1 in subfield 8 in the 853 field and the first number 1 in subfield 8 in the 863 field indicate that the two fields are a linked pair. In the 863 field, the second element (following the period) in subfield 8 is the "sequence number," which determines the order of display of the linked fields (lower sequence numbers display before higher ones). If there are multiple 863 fields associated with a single 853 field, each 863 has its own sequence number encoded in subfield 8.
While the pilot program has been deemed a success, further work remains to be done, including the integration of pattern creation and maintenance as a formal part of the CONSER program. More libraries must be recruited as contributors, and more needs to be done to encourage ILS vendors to develop systems that support MARC holdings.
One of the goals of the CONSER Publication Pattern Initiative is to work with integrated library system (ILS) vendors on the development of software that will be able to interpret the data in the 891 fields and convert them into a local serial control record without human intervention. Ted Fons of Innovative Interfaces was the second speaker, presenting an ILS vendor's perspective on MARC holdings implementation and the CONSER Publication Pattern Initiative. Referring to a survey of ILS vendors conducted in the summer of 2000 by the CONSER Task Force on Publication Patterns and Holdings (http://www.loc.gov/acq/conser/vendorsurvey.html), Mr. Fons asserted that vendors are doing a "fairly good job" of designing their systems to accommodate the MARC 21 Format for Holdings Data. In most cases, what vendors have done is to put a user-friendly interface between library staff and "raw" MARC holdings data, which is then translated by the ILS into an OPAC display. An area in which vendors have not done such a good job is in allowing publication patterns to be shared among their customers. Although this situation is being ameliorated by the CONSER Publication Pattern Initiative, vendors still face the challenge of developing new products and features that comply with standards such as the MARC 21 Holdings Format, while still supporting system features that work well, but are not based on standards because they were developed before the standards came into widespread use. Innovative Interfaces has developed a "loader" program that automatically creates serials check-in records in the local system based on pattern data embedded in 891 fields, but most integrated library systems do not yet support the automatic creation of check-in records.
In the third portion of the program, Linda Miller described specific steps a library can take to ensure that the ILS it purchases supports the emerging national publication patterns database. Ms. Miller takes the position that it is up to libraries to be their own advocates in the ILS marketplace, making vendors aware of our need for systems that are compliant with and support the functionality of MARC 21 Format for Holdings Data. A definition of "Basic Compliance with MARC Holdings" can be found at: http://lcweb.loc.gov/acq/conser/MHLDdefinition.html. Noting that libraries wield more influence with vendors prior to purchasing a new ILS than afterward, Ms. Miller advised libraries to prepare carefully crafted requirements to help them elicit information from vendors and as a way of letting vendors know what kinds of system features the library is looking for. A vendor may not bother to develop a feature (such as support for MARC holdings) until the demand for it becomes apparent through requests made by libraries. It's also important to have a focused evaluation plan when comparing different systems, including a pre-arranged score card and ranking system to ensure that all vendors are evaluated using the same criteria. Ms. Miller recommends that libraries identify clients of each vendor and make site visits because vendor-supplied references may not provide a complete picture of the vendor's product. Professional associations and system-specific user groups also have a role to play in furthering the interests of libraries where ILS vendors are concerned. Active participation in such organizations increases the chances of vendors developing systems that are responsive to libraries' needs.