Library of Congress Resources on CD-ROM

By Beiser, Karl | Online, March 1995 | Go to article overview

Library of Congress Resources on CD-ROM

Beiser, Karl, Online

This column continues the theme of "the database is the thing" with a look at two Library of Congress products that combine vast data resources with low price in the first instance and an attractive Windows interface in the second. (See CD-ROM REPORT in January/February 1995 ONLINE for a review of WLN's LaserCat catalog product.--NG)

Library users depend on bibliographic databases to identify and locate materials in the collection. Substantial staff and financial resources are expended in creating accurate catalogs, and acquiring and using high-quality indexing and abstracting services. Products that make these tasks easier or produce a higher quality product are not only of interest to technical services librarians, but also those in public services positions.

In this column we will look at CDMARC Bibliographic, a multidisc collection of all machine-readable cataloging records distributed by the Library of Congress since 1969, regardless of language or form of material. We will then examine Cataloger's Desktop, a Windows-based CD-ROM featuring sophisticated full-text access to a variety of reference materials helpful in cataloging materials.


Library of Congress bibliographic data was part of the world's first commercial CD-ROM product, BiblioFile Cataloging, published by The Library Corporation of Inwood, WV. Since the late 1960's, the Library of Congress had been distributing the work of its massive cataloging staff on magnetic tape. Among the recipients were a number of firms that processed the data and resold it to the library market in various useful ways. Computer-output microfiche cataloging and retrospective conversion tools were often the result.

With the arrival of workable CD-ROM technology in 1985, all the ingredients were in place for a small revolution, including:

* High-quality, low-cost data

* Procedures and processes for rapidly transferring tape data to other media

* An established marketplace ready to grow, given decreased prices or increased functionality

* Ubiquity of personal computer hardware in libraries

* A high-capacity, low-cost-per-megabyte electronic medium appropriate to mass replication

Yet only during the last several years has the Library of Congress emerged as a major vendor of products based on the data it has been producing all these years. Now, the full database of all LC records from 1969 forward is sold in a six-disc set as CDMARC Bibliographic. Subsets are also available as CDMARC Serials, CDMARC Music, CDMARC Bibliographic--English Only, and CDMARC Bibliographic--English Only (Current Years). The latter includes only the last six years of LC cataloging.

Installation, done from a floppy disk, is straightforward and brief. As part of the process, the user is asked several questions about the default configuration. If the user does not specify a default output filename and path for saved and exported data, the software issues a warning when loaded. While it can be safely ignored and the file information given at the time of saving or exporting, specifying during installation avoids the warning entirely.

These and other defaults can only be set during installation. Subsequent modifications require the installation diskette even though only a few files are changed. A reconfiguration routine within CDMARC Bibliographic, or at least a separate configuration program placed on the hard drive, would be much more convenient.

The software used in CDMARC Bibliographic was developed by Online Computer Systems of Germantown, Maryland. Many in the library field are familiar with it as the search engine used with Books in Print Plus and other Bowker CD-ROM products. Network upgrades are available at no charge.


Bibliographic records may be searched using a command-line, keyword approach. In the set-oriented scheme, the user enters a search statement such as the following to quickly locate The Secret Guide to Computers by Russ Walter:

ti=Secret and pn=Walter

Search arguments may be combined using Boolean connectors AND, OR and NOT. …

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Library of Congress Resources on CD-ROM


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