Related Editions and Associated Information in Integrated Library Systems

This is based on a request from Tejaswi Tenneti in relation to an answer I gave a while ago here: Brett Williams’s answer to Ontologies: Is there an Ontology that models Enterprise products and associated knowledge articles?

This post will walk you through some of the advanced information processing that goes on in large library systems.

The basis of library records is a standard interchange format called the MARC record. The MARC record is an ISO standard that was originally developed by Henriette Avram at the Library of Congress in the 1960’s.

MARC is an interchange format, it’s a way to transfer information both offline and online, and was originally developed for tape-based processing of information, long before ARPA-net was a twinkle in a CRT screen.

There are several standard MARC formats, as well as several different implementations of MARC, both ASCII and UTF-8 encoded. For simplicity, I’m just going to show you what a bibliographic record looks like. A bibliographic record is filled in with the information about a single item.

Here’s the first couple of lines of a MARC record I’ve cracked open with a tool to show you the structure of the record.

=LDR 01437nam 2200373 a 4500
=001 9781849729390
=003 Credo
=005 20110223080808.0
=006 m\\\\\\\\d\\\\\\\\
=007 cr\cn|||||||||
=008 110211r20032011enka\\\\od\\eng\d
=020 \\$a9781849729390 (online)
=020 \\$z9780007165414 (print)
=020 \\$z0007165412 (print)
=035 \\$a(OCoLC)703091350
=035 \\$a(CaBNvSL)slc00226357
=035 \\$a(Credo)hcdquot2003
=040 \\$aCaBNvSL$cCaBNvSL$dCaBNvSL
=050 \4$aPN6081$b.D495 2003eb
=082 04$a080$222
=245 00$aCollins dictionary of quotations$h[electronic resource].

The raw record looks like this. Quora can’t even display some of the critical separation markers used. Like I mentioned, this was developed in the 1960s.

01437nam 2200373 a 45000010014000000030006000140050017000200060019000370070015000560080041000710200027001120200026001390200023001650350021001880350026002090350023002350400030002580500025002880820012003132450061003252500025003862600080004113000063004915060060005545200060006145300037006745380036007115880054007476500039008016550022008407100027008627760046008898560128009359781849729390Credo20110223080808.0m d cr cn|||||||||110211r20032011enka od 000 0 eng d a9781849729390 (online) z9780007165414 (print) z0007165412 (print) a(OCoLC)703091350 a(CaBNvSL)slc00226357 a(Credo)hcdquot2003 aCaBNvSLcCaBNvSLdCaBNvSL 4aPN6081b.D495 2003eb04a08022200aCollins dictionary of quotationsh[electronic resource].

And yes, before you ask, there is an XML version. It’s still catching on, but it’s looking like the future interchange format.

So, here’s my workflow. I get a new book in the library. I take a look at it, and then I search for the MARC record in another library, the Library of Congress or from a company called OCLC that has tools that make this process very quick. I download the record to my computer and open it up using tools in my ILS (integrated Library System). I check over the MARC record. It doesn’t have to be exact, but I do check the ISBN, the title, author and a few other points. I also have tools that check the author (is it Chester M Arthur or Chester M. Arthur?) title and some other fields to ensure consistency.

Then, I tell my ILS to add it to the catalog. At this point, the MARC record is broken up and put into tables in a database. My current ILS runs on Oracle, others use MySQL.

When the record is put into the database, it’s checked against the current holdings. If I already have this exact edition of the Collins Dictionary of Quotations, it will show up as another item, identical to the first. If I have an older edition, my new record will show up as another item, with a different ISBN and other details, and the ILS will show a unified record when I look up ‘Collins Dictonary of Quotations’ with both editions identified.

Is the item written by Mark Twain, who’s really Samuel Clemens? That decision got made years ago, so if you search the Harvard Library or the library in Minot, North Dakota you’ll get the same answer. Were there 15 different editions with different contents? There’s a rule for that.

Bringing this back to industry, say you are taking a product through it’s lifecyle. In R&D it’s Project Wiffleball. When it moves over to Product Development, it becomes Project Unicorn E456. When you release it to the public it’s called the E-Nebulizer, which you release versions E999, E678, E469, ET689 and SV368. What a library system could do is collate the information from

Project Wiffleball
Project Unicorn E456
E-Nebulizer E999
E-Nebulizer E678
E-Nebulizer E469
E-Nebulizer ET689
E-Nebulizer SV368

and show it all in the same place, on a single screen, with no duplication, and with clear links to knowledge objects that relate generally to the project and others that relate to specific versions.

Now, this is all done within the ILS. I can also pull information from outside sources to enrich the contents of the bibliographic record

Here’s a record from my catalog.|marc-qatar|000060791

That section in the middle is the MARC record from my catalog. On the right is the book cover, drawn from a 3rd party service (Syndetics). It runs by grabbing the ISBN, running it through a collation service called xISBN to identify all of the editions. Then, if there is a cover for the given ISBN, it gives that cover. If Syndetics doesn’t have it, I get another edition’s cover.

Moving on down, the full table of contents, also drawn from Syndetics. This is indexed, along with all of the main record information and is searched. Further down, reviews of the book are also available, also keyword indexed and searchable.

All right! Now my library is very basic, let me show you something a little more complex.

Here’s the University of Southern Queensland Library in Toowoomba, about 3 hours from Brisbane. I had the pleasure of talking quite extensively with their IT team a couple of weeks ago at a conference.

Take a look at this record

You can see the Syndetics book covers over on the left hand side of the screen. Now, check out the Similar Items link.

Using a relevance algorithim, a list of similar works is pulled up and integrated with the individual record. This is a database maintained in-house by their IT department, it’s part of the library database that serves up this finding aid.

OK, let’s flip over to USQ’s mobile interface.
Now try that top link again, you’ll have the right cookie now to view the mobile interface.

Check out the ‘Show on Map link’ This will load a graphic, sized for the iPhone that indicates the location of the book. This is from a database maintained by their IT department, separate from the library database that serves this finding aid.

OK, let’s hop back a little closer to home.

The San Diego Public Library has included QR codes in their book records using the Google Charts API

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve got a real interest in displaying information. As I mentioned before in my answer, this is a very rough introduction to a complex topic. If you’re really interested, and are looking for consultants, I have a few contacts in Knowledge Management, Libraries and the systems behind them that can give you much more help

Cross posted from Quora


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