The Bibliographic Utilities: An Introduction

By Saffady, William | Library Technology Reports, May-June 1998 | Go to article overview

The Bibliographic Utilities: An Introduction


Saffady, William, Library Technology Reports


"Bibliographic utilities" is the collective name for a group of computer service organizations that maintain large databases 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 databases maintained by most bibliographic utilities are essentially online union catalogs. As outlined in subsequent sections of this report, all bibliographic utilities acquire cataloging records in machine-readable form from the Library of Congress and other subscription sources. In most cases, their databases also include cataloging records contributed by participating libraries. Regardless of source, databases maintained by bibliographic utilities contain two kinds of information: (1) descriptive cataloging and classification data in the MARC format appropriate to the items being cataloged, and (2) holdings information for libraries that have added specific items to their collections.

The following reports describe and discuss eight organizations that offer online, timeshared cataloging support services in North America:

1. The Online Computer Library Center (OCLC);

2. The Research Libraries Group (RLG), which operates the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN);

3. The Western Library Network (WLN);

4. Auto-Graphics, Incorporated, which operates the Impact/ONLINE CAT service;

5. A-G Canada, a subsidiary of Auto-Graphics that operates Impact/MARCit, a bibliographic utility originally developed by Utlas;

6. Brodart Automation, which operates the Interactive Access System (IAS);

7. The Library Corporation, which offers the ITS.MARC cataloging service; and

8. Data Research Associates, which operates Open DRA Net, an Internet-based information service that provides online access to cataloging records and other databases.

Other bibliographic utilities operate in Europe, the Pacific Rim, and Latin America. They maintain similar databases of cataloging records, but are generally unavailable to North American libraries. Chapman (1997), Nicholas and Boydell (1996), and Saffady (1996) discuss the British Library's BLAISE-LINE service. The Dutch Project for Integrated Catalogue Automation (PICA) is described by Bossers (1989, 1991), Costers (1987, 1991), Costers and Koopman (1995), Feijen (1991), Oosterop (1996), Plaister (1987), Sens (1995), Smit (1992), Vos (1997), and Wagner (1993). The Australian Bibliographic Network (ABN) is discussed in many publications, including Baskin (1982), Burrows (1984), Cathro (1988, 1989, 1991), Clayton (1988), Conklin (1988), Eaves (1981), Hannan (1982), Hosking (1987), Keany (1997), Kirkby (1981), MacDougall (1991), Pearce and Trainor (1994), Ralli (1989, 1996), and Steele (1990). Pezeril (1995) provides a history of SIBIL France, a bibliographic utility for university and research libraries. Hardeck (1997), Rosemann and Sens (1997), and Schmiede and Wenzel (1996) discuss German cataloging cooperatives. Sercar et al. (1996) discuss COBISS, a Slovenian bibliographic utility. SABINET, a South African bibliographic utility, is described by Boshoff and Bergesen (1982), Plessis (1996), Plessis and Malan (1995), and Roos (1994). McGinn (1988) surveys Latin American databases 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 Buckle (1993), Butler (1975), DeGennaro (1981), Epstein (1979), Evans (1995), 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. …

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