Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Writing Technical Specifications for Database Authorization

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Writing Technical Specifications for Database Authorization

Article excerpt

Writing Technical Specifications for Database Authorization

Librarians with minimal knowledge of library systems applications are

finding themselves faced with the task of writing technical specifications

for various phases of OPAC or COM catalog procurement and

implementation. Guidance in the preparation of these technical specifications

and assistance in formulating requirements to be included in a library's

invitation for bid for authority control services are offered.

Increasingly, librarians with little or no background or experience in library systems applications are finding themselves involved in the planning and implementation of an online public access catalog (OPAC). Among the many activities associated with the transition from the card to online catalog, and one that justifiably raises concern, is the need to conceptualize and write technical specifications for the authorization of the bibliographic database preparatory to catalog implementation.

This paper focuses on considerations, decision-making, and the resultant technical specifications contained in an invitation for bid for database authorization and production of name and subject authority records from the OCLC MARC bibliographic files held by the University Libraries at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). A review of the library literature reveals that while a number of articles and a few books have been written on general authority control concepts and practices, and on automated authority control in relation to online public access catalogs, none explore considerations associated with writing technical specifications required for vendor-facilitated OPAC authority control.[1]

The following commentary addresses my experiences writing technical specifications for the retrospective authorization of OCLC-MARC bibliographic files. This activity is a mandatory precursor to OPAC loading and indexing. The importance of database authorization cannot be overstated as it results in the replacement of variant forms of headings (perhaps more easily retrievable in a browsable card catalog) with heading forms that must be correct to be retrieved in a less forgiving online catalog where what you search is what you get.

Preparatory to the procurement of a turnkey online public access catalog and circulation system, the University Libraries issued a contract to an authority control vendor for the retrospective authorization of names (personal, corporate, conference, and geographic), uniform titles, series (both in title and name/title form), and subjects in the libraries' OCLC MARC bibliographic file containing approximately 580,000 unique records. Additionally, LC-based and local authority records for these headings were to be provided for loading into the OPAC authority control subsystem. Provision of authorized headings and authority records would meet the basic functional requirements of the libraries' authority control project. To attain this goal it was necessary to prepare precise specifications for the authority control vendor to follow.

Identification of the basic authority control specifications to be included

in an invitation for bid was facilitated by reviewing information contained in vendors' "packaged" authority control services documentation. Using this information, and following discussion with the libraries' systems analyst, a first draft of the libraries' Specification for Production of Name and Subject Authority Records from OCLC MARC Bibliographic Files was prepared. The document was organized as outlined below:

Project scope

File processing prior to validation

Normalization of bibliographic headings


Validation matrix (first pass)

Validation matrix (second pass)

Unvalidated headings

Local authority file

Duplicate records report

File formats

Input files

Output files

Product delivery schedule

Statistics and reports

Test file

Each of the document sections contained detailed specifications representing mandatory requirements of the authority control vendor. …

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