Bringing Publisher Metadata Directly to the Library: Use of ONIX at the Library of Congress

By Debus-Lopez, Karl; Williamson, David et al. | Library Resources & Technical Services, October 2012 | Go to article overview

Bringing Publisher Metadata Directly to the Library: Use of ONIX at the Library of Congress


Debus-Lopez, Karl, Williamson, David, Saccucci, Caroline, Williams, Camilla, Library Resources & Technical Services


The library community is discussing ways to use metadata created at the beginning of the bibliographic supply chain to reduce costs associated with cataloging and remove redundant work between publishers and libraries. The ONIX standard holds promise because many of the data elements found within ONIX can be mapped to the MARC standard. The Library of Congress (LC) has developed an ONIX-to-MARC Converter that is being used to create MARC bibliographic descriptions directly from publisher-supplied ONIX metadata for new publications received through its Electronic Cataloging in Publication Program. This paper presents background information on ONIX, provides detailed information on how the ONIX-to-MARC Converter functions, presents findings of a test of the ONIX-to-MARC Converter, and discusses the pros and cons of using ONIX in the daily work of a large cataloging operation. Use of the ONIX-to-MARC Converter has reduced the time needed to create bibliographic descriptions, facilitated the inclusion of enriched metadata to bibliographic records, and provided the LC cataloging staff with records that are comparable to high-quality copy cataloging records.

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As library budgets are cut and cataloging operations shrink throughout the United States, many library administrators are urging maximization of use of metadata created early in the bibliographic supply chain to remove redundant work and reduce costs associated with cataloging. This sentiment is clearly expressed in the 2008 On the Record: Report of the Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control, which presents a vision for management of metadata in the twenty-first century. The Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control represented a cross-section of libraries and organizations that are principal stakeholders in the future information environment. Membership included leaders from academic research libraries, U.S. national libraries, public libraries, a law library, the Special Libraries Association, Google, OCLC, Microsoft, and the Coalition for Networked Information. Many librarians and others who are concerned about the nation's bibliographic future provided extensive input to the findings of On the Record. (1)

Of particular relevance to this paper is Finding 1.1 of On the Record: "Increase the Efficiency of Bibliographic Record Production and Maintenance." (2) The finding notes, "Until very recently, bibliographic control has been an artisan activity, as there was no alternative for providing access except to transcribe, by hand, data from the objects being described. Now, however, publishers and vendors are working in an electronic environment, and print material generally originates in electronic format." (3) Moreover,

   publishers can provide some
   elements of descriptive metadata
   ha electronic format for
   much of their output and
   libraries need to capitalize on
   those metadata. Despite the
   fact that descriptive metadata
   are being created in other
   venues, libraries have so far
   taken minimal advantage of
   them. Given the explosion of
   material requiring some level
   of bibliographic control, the
   model of item-by-item full
   manual transcription can no
   longer be sustained. Libraries
   must find ways to make use
   of the data created by others
   in the supply chain, including
   data that can be derived from
   algorithmic analyses of digital
   materials. (4)

The report further recommended that all participants in the bibliographic record supply chain "make use of more bibliographic data available earlier in the supply chain" and "be more flexible in accepting bibliographic data from others (e.g., publishers, foreign libraries) that do not conform precisely to U.S. library standards." (5) Specific recommendations to the Library of Congress (LC) were to "fully automate the Cataloging in Publication (CIP) process" and "develop content and format guidelines for submission of ONIX data to the CIP program and require publishers participating in the program to comply with these guidelines. …

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