The Bibliographic Utilities in 1993: A Survey of Cataloging Support and Other Services

Article excerpt

BACKGROUND

"Bibliographic utilities" is the collective name for a group of computer service organizations that maintain large data bases of cataloging records, and offer various cataloging support services and related products to libraries and other customers who access those records on an online, timesharing basis. The data bases maintained by most bibliographic utilities are essentially online union catalogs. As outlined in subsequent sections of this report, bibligraphic utilities acquire cataloging records in machine-readable form from the Library of Congress and other subscription sources. Their data bases also include cataloging records contributed by participating libraries. In either case, the records contain two kinds of information: (1) descriptive cataloging and classification data, typically in the US MARC format appropriate to the item being cataloged, and (2) holdings information for libraries that have added specific items to their collections.

This report describes and discusses seven organizations that offer online, timeshared cataloging support services in North America: the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC); the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN), operated by the Research Libraries Group; the Western Library Network (WLN); Utlas; the AGILE III system, operated by Auto-Graphics Incorporated; the Interactive Access System, operated by Brodart; and Open DRANET, operated by Data Research Associates. Other bibliographic utilities which operate in Europe, the Pacific Rim, and Latin America maintain similar data bases of cataloging records, but, being unavailable to North American libraries, they are excluded from this report. As discussed by Saffady (1992), the British Library's BLAISE-LINE service-which offers the BNB MARC data base-can be accessed by North American libraries for reference purposes but not for cataloging support. The Dutch Project for Integrated Catalogue Automation (PICA) is described by Bossers (1989), Costers (1987, 1991), Feijen (1991), and Plaister (1987). The Australian Bibliographic Network (ABN) is discussed in various publications, including Baskin (1982), Burrows (1984), Cathro (1988, 1989, 1991), Clayton (1988), Conklin (1988), Eaves (1981), Gilbert (1982), Hannan (1982), Hosking (1987), Kirkby (1981), Llewellyn (1979), Ralli (1989), and Steele (1990). Philips (1991) describes a Brazilian bibliographic utility operated by Fundacao Getulio Vargas. McGinn (1988) surveys other Latin American data bases of cataloging records.

In North America, the earliest bibliographic utilities were organized in the 1970s to support technical processing operations through cooperative cataloging and computer-assisted card production. Their origins and development are discussed by Butler (1975), DeGennaro (1981), Epstein (1979), Freedman (1977), Fry (1980), Hildreth (1987, 1987a), Jacob et al. (1979), Levine and Logan (1977), Martin (1977, 1986), Matthews (1979), Matthews and Williams (1982), McQueen and Boss (1985), Robinson (1980), Schultz (1983), Scott (1981), Stevens (1980), and Webster and Warden (1980), among others.

While the bibliographic utilities have steadily expanded their activities, their continued emphasis on cooperative cataloging and technical services most clearly distinguishes them from other online information services that provide timeshared access to similar bibliographic records. The LC MARC data base of cataloging records produced by the Library of Congress, for example, is available online through the DIALOG and WILSONLINE search services, but neither of those vendors offers online entry of original cataloging data, record editing, card production, or other services that specifically support cataloging operations. Their LC MARC implementations are principally intended for general bibliographic searching and other reference and research applications rather than for technical processing. Various CD-ROM vendors offer bibliographic data bases for cataloging support, but such products-which typically operate on standalone or networked microcomputers- provide local rather than time-shared access to cataloging records. …