Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Community Information and Automated Library Systems

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Community Information and Automated Library Systems

Article excerpt

The representation of community information, or information and referral (I & R), records in machine-readable form in online electronic databases was a concern for vendors and users of automated library systems for several years prior to the development of the MARC format for community information. This article characterizes the responses of vendors of automated library systems to questions regarding their attitudes about and plans to accommodate the new format, and describes the capabilities of their systems for storing and providing access to machine-readable community information records. A brief discussion of some issues related to the use of online community information is also included.


When the Public Library Association (PLA) Community Information Section (CIS) Technologies Committee began in the late 1980s to consider the development of a set of common data elements for I & R records, there was little consistency in the ways libraries and other institutions dealt with online I & R. Libraries that provided outreach services or were active referral agents were probably most interested in maintaining online I & R databases, and most of those databases were probably represented on microcomputer-based systems utilizing locally developed software. Individual libraries determined the data elements that constituted online I & R records. As the use of automated library systems, especially turnkey integrated systems (those sold by vendors as a package including hardware and software), began to increase, the number of libraries interested in online I & R also began to increase. In addition to libraries and other institutions that emphasized the referral side of I & R, there were now those interested in representing and providing access to files and records of local agencies, clubs, organizations, etc.--the Rolodex files on the desk of the reference department. For a library with an automated system and its online bibliographic database accessible by staff and patrons, it was logical to attempt to convert manual I & R files to machine-readable form, even though they had to be "shoehorned" into the database record format designed for bibliographic information. Each library still decided on an individual basis on the data elements to be contained in the records and the bibliographic record fields that contained the data.

It was with these issues and developments in mind that the CIS Technologies Committee began to develop a set of common data elements for I & R records. With the encouragement of AVIAC, the ad hoe Automation Vendor Information Advisory Committee, the Technologies Committee submitted the set of data elements to LC's Network Development and MARC Standards Office and asked that a new MARC (Z39.2) format incorporating the data elements be developed.


Automated systems and system vendors have played a continuing role in the development and use of online I & R records, but it has not been until recently that the role has been active. Representatives of automated system vendors participated in the final development of the format by the CIS Technologies Committee, and the role of AVIAC was mentioned above. As the new record format was being developed, an interest was expressed in how vendors deal with I & R functions and records, and what they thought about the new format.

The program for the PLA third national conference in March 1991 included a presentation on the new format, "New Directions for I & R in the 90s," in which the views of automated system vendors were characterized. Information for the presentation was obtained by issuing a request for information (RFI) to all system vendors. The RFI was reissued in January 1992, and the results reported in a presentation at the Illinois Library Association annual conference in March 1992. Those same results were incorporated for the June 1992 ALA presentation, on which this article is based. …

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