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National Library News
June 1997
Vol. 29, no. 6

Towards 2000: Resource Sharing for the Millennium

by Deborah Maxwell,
Head, Operations Support Section, Union Catalogue Division

On February 19, 1997 the Union Catalogue Committee of the Council of Federal Libraries sponsored an information session on the future of the National Library's union catalogue. The session was designed to address concerns in the federal library community over participation in the union catalogue and its future development.

David Balatti, Director of Bibliographic Services at the National Library of Canada, opened the session by explaining the National Library's current policy regarding the role of federal libraries in the union catalogue. Participation of the federal libraries is critical to the success of the union catalogue as a whole. During 1997-1998 the National Library will commit resources to add records from 12 more federal libraries through MARA reporting to the union catalogue. Participating federal libraries will produce MARC output, and keep their holdings in the union catalogue up-to-date.

Emilie Lowenberg, Chief of the Library's Union Catalogue Division, discussed the technical requirements for reporting to the union catalogue and the processes used by contributing libraries and the National Library. The Union Catalogue Division accepts reports from libraries for all types of publications in all formats, including serials, monographs, microforms, braille, large print, sheet music, sound recordings, videos, computer files, and maps.

One of the results of the Program Review undertaken by all federal government departments and agencies was a realigned focus on using technology rather than manual processing in the National Library. Maintenance of the union catalogue depends upon machine-readable accessions (MARA) and updated holdings reports added to the Library's AMICUS system. To ensure that MARA loading programs correctly identify incoming records that match existing online MARC records in the AMICUS database, and to avoid the creation of duplicate records in the database, it is important that reporting libraries adhere to established standards, such as the CAN/MARC format and Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd edition (1988 revision). Consistent communication between reporting libraries and the National Library is equally important.

Following the introductory presentations was a panel discussion on two federal libraries' recent experiences in reporting to the union catalogue using MARA. The panel had representatives from both the client libraries and their respective system vendors. Panel members Diane Rudzevicius, Supreme Court of Canada Library, and Danielle Jacques, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Canadian Agriculture Library, described the development of MARA reporting at their libraries. Gretchen Cheung from Best-Seller and David Alexander of Geac both provided the vendor perspective on assisting client libraries to report to the union catalogue.

Diane Rudzevicius stressed that one key issue at her library was creating mechanisms to prevent certain records from being reported to the union catalogue: for example, records imported from bibliographic utilities but not yet reviewed in-house, and brief acquisitions records created when ordering. She explained how her library and its system vendor, Best-Seller, arranged to allow the reporting of withdrawals from the union catalogue using File Transfer Protocols (FTPs). Gretchen Cheung addressed MARA reporting from the vendor's viewpoint. It was suggested that federal libraries require that bidders list their optional products in the Request for Proposals (RFPs) for new systems. This will enable libraries to assess the facilities included in each bid. The second federal library panel member, Danielle Jacques, identified other issues in reporting to the union catalogue using FTP. She explained how her library worked with the vendor, Geac, and with the National Library to effect changes in reporting. David Alexander of Geac stressed the importance of communication. Panel members agreed that MARA reporting requires a three-way partnership among the National Library, the system vendor and the reporting library.

The last speaker was Carrol Lunau, Resource Sharing Officer with National and International Programs at the National Library of Canada, who tackled the question of the future of the National Library's union catalogue in light of the work being done on the virtual Canadian union catalogue (vCuc). It was emphasized that the creation of the virtual Canadian union catalogue is a long-term goal. The National Library has initiated a controlled project to link databases using the Z39.50 protocol to search and retrieve information (see "The Virtual Canadian Union Catalogue (vCuc) Pilot Project", National Library News, vol. 29, no. 2, February 1997, pp. 13-14). The vCuc Pilot Project has 18 participants, including university, public, and government libraries, as well as consortia. The group's collective records total more than 50 million. Federal libraries were invited to participate in Phase 2 of the project. The National Library is working with vendors to obtain test copies of selected client software packages which will be installed in libraries for testing during the project. Additionally, the National Library is planning for a World Wide Web Z39.50 gateway. The gateway would allow libraries to use their WWW browser to search the vCuc.

At the conclusion of the meeting, participants adjourned to discussion sessions with representatives of software vendors, including Geac, Best-Seller, Sirsi, Innovative Interfaces, DRA, International Library Systems, and Ameritech, thus bringing to a close an interesting and useful meeting.

For more information on the union catalogue, contact:

Emilie Lowenberg
Chief, Union Catalogue Division
Internet: union.catalogue@lac-bac.gc.ca

For more information on the virtual Canadian union catalogue project,
contact:

Carrol Lunau
Resource Sharing Officer
National and International Programs
Internet: web@lac-bac.gc.ca

Mailing address for both:

National Library of Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0N4