Re: Progress on tasks?

Posting to RDA-L

On 21/07/2011 17:18, Beacom, Matthew wrote:

The MARC pilot project report is available in PDF here

Thanks so much for pointing to this. Now that I do not have such good access to these kinds of documents, each one is very much appreciated!

Analysing the document is very interesting though. One point is on page 3/9 or pdf p. 14, where it says:

“In the MARC Pilot Project, budget and time constraints influenced design considerations. Among these were:

  1. Project Facilities. The implementation of the project required a facility for the central preparation of machine-readable catalog records. A major change to the computer configuration would be expensive and could not be justified. [Details are given] This decision influenced the design of computer programs.
  2. Mode of Data Collection. In view of the time constraint and the experimental nature of the project, it was deemed inadvisable to disturb the existing internal operations of the Processing Department… The manuscript card … was reproduced on a preprinted input worksheet which became the source data for MARC. The design of the format, the worksheets, and the editing procedures were all influenced by the use of source data in this form.”

These seem to be entirely valid concerns, and I am not criticizing them, but it is important to keep in mind that the original MARC Pilot Project suffered from its own limitations. One additional point is (of course) that they were using keypunch machines with paper tape. I don’t have experience with tape, but it brings back some of my own horrible memories of the days before video output, where typos were a lot worse than on a typewriter. It meant that you had to re-punch an entire card or even a card set, and sometimes when I typed an “e” instead of an “s” I would just want to sit down and cry!

They also wanted to put in a publisher code, i.e. a specific code for each publisher (pdf p. 57) but it was broken off very quickly because of the cost caused by “research necessary to establish new codes” and they provide the normal list of problems related to authority records. They took the very practical decision that there would be very little benefit for a significant amount of work. Their conclusions should be kept in mind when considering some of the proposals put forward today.

Also, when looking at the list of participants, all are university/research libraries except for Montgomery County Public Schools and Nassau County Library System. But when you look at the actual reports, you find that Montgomery County Public Schools could not participate at all, and the Nassau County System, although they provided a bit more information, also said that they could not participate because it was just too complicated. As a result, the libraries actually included were almost completely university/research libraries.

Of course, what we see in the report reflects the limited technology and “world view” of the 1960s. In a pre-internet world, it was far more difficult to communicate with large, disparate groups compared with what can be done today. Today, the technology has made it possible for people with much less knowledge and experience to participate in highly technical tasks. Today, everyone who wants to participate can be included, and the fact that this sort of all-inclusive organizational model can succeed has been proven through the development of open source software. Keeping matters secret among a restricted set of all-knowing gurus, who allow limited information to dribble out and then present everyone with what is in essence a “fait accompli” that can be rejected only by admitting a huge waste, is a thing of the past, or at least it should be.