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National Library News
January 1998
Vol. 30, no. 1

The Expanding World of Alternative Formats

by Emilie Lowenberg, Chief, Union Catalogue Division

The National Library encourages Canadian libraries to report all types of formats to the union catalogue to support resource sharing in Canada. Since November 1983, the National Library of Canada has maintained a centralized listing of alternative-format materials (e.g., braille, large print, talking books) held by Canadian libraries. The union catalogue records for these materials have been available online to subscribers, first via the DOBIS Search Service and now via Access AMICUS.

The items included are special-format materials intended for use by people unable to use conventional print materials because of blindness or severe visual impairment, physical handicaps resulting in an inability to hold or manipulate books, or reading disabilities. These materials may be in French, English or a foreign language, on any subject, published in Canada or abroad, and either monograph or serial publications. There are over 145 000 AMICUS records, with holdings, for alternative-format materials.

Until March 1996, such records in the National Library's union catalogue database were periodically extracted to produce the microfiche catalogue known as CANUC:H. In 1995-1996, the National Library contracted with Beaumont and Associates "to evaluate the development and use of CANUC:H, in the context of changing technologies and needs, and to determine what steps should be taken to ensure that effective tools exist to ensure access to information about materials for print-handicapped Canadians". Included among the recommendations of their report was one to cancel the microfiche product. 1 Therefore, the March 1996 issue of CANUC:H was the last; it remains available from Canada Communication Group. 2 All union catalogue alternative-format records continue to be accessible through Access AMICUS.

Library of Congress National Library Service Union Catalogue Update

In order to facilitate international resource sharing of alternative-format materials, the National Library's union catalogue records for braille, large print and talking books have been loaded onto the online union catalogue maintained by the Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS/BPH) since 1992. The NLS database also contains information on the alternative-format holdings of the Library of Congress itself, Recording for the Blind, the National Council for the Blind of Ireland, the National Library of Australia and the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind. The records in the NLS union catalogue can be searched via the Internet using the Library of Congress Information System (LOCIS) at http://lcweb.loc.gov.

The 1997 Canadian update to the NLS union catalogue is a catch-up report, in that it contains alternative-format materials reported previously in routine updates from all libraries, if never before listed in the CANUC:H fiche. As well, this most recent update now includes all non-musical sound recordings (including talking books) and videos (including described videos). On a semi-annual basis, in October and April, the National Library of Canada will provide to the NLS, from AMICUS, updates to records previously sent as well as new records for alternative-format materials.

Libraries and producers reporting to the NLS union catalogue must agree to allow international interlibrary loan (ILL) or sale of their alternative-format materials. Therefore, during the summer of 1997, National Library staff contacted 23 Canadian alternative-format producers and the libraries and institutions serving print-handicapped users to verify their continued willingness to be listed in the LC NLS/BPH union catalogue database. Since the LC documentation for its union catalogue includes loan policy and sales information, staff verified that the present entry in Symbols and Interlibrary Loan Policies in Canada was still accurate and included data with respect to international ILL and sales. This information has been forwarded to the Library of Congress. Symbols and Interlibrary Loan Policies in Canada includes detailed information on all Canadian libraries and institutions participating in interlibrary loan in Canada and abroad and is an alternative source of information about the Canadian libraries for users of the LC NLS union catalogue.

Exclusion by Request

In order to canvass those libraries that do not separately and specifically report alternative-format materials, the National Library of Canada publicized, via several library listservs, its intention to provide records for such materials for loading into the LC NLS union catalogue database. NLS/BPH is able to exclude individual library holdings, if this is requested. Libraries requiring their bibliographic records to be excluded from this process are asked to contact the National Library's Union Catalogue Division.

The National Library is continuously expanding the number of Canadian libraries included in its union catalogue. As new formats appear, and standards implementation permits, they are added to the AMICUS database and, as appropriate, included with updates sent to the LC union catalogue of alternative-format holdings. National Library staff will routinely inform the Library of Congress regarding additions and changes to the list of libraries participating, when so advised by the Canadian reporting libraries.

Through these arrangements, the world of materials for blind and physically handicapped users is expanding, and the growing number of institutions providing access to such materials demonstrates a shared commitment to enhance resource-sharing services to all our users.

For further information, please contact:

Emilie Lowenberg
Chief, Union Catalogue Division
National Library of Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N4
E-mail: union.catalogue@ lac-bac.ca

1 Beaumont and Associates Inc., Review of the National Library Union Catalogue Support for Delivery of Services to Persons with Disabilities -- Final Report. Ottawa, 1996. p. I.

2 CANUC:H, 1996 edition. ISSN 0822-2576; Catalogue number SN3-210/1996-M.