Three quarks for Muster MARC!

Posted on April 21st, 2011 by Paul Stainthorp

My esteemed, gracious and talented colleague Mr. Jackson is not happy.

He’s not happy because I’ve asked him to do something which he thinks is an awful, depressing, retrograde step. I’ve asked him to add a MARC export function to Jerome.

Nick’s argument in a nutshell (he won’t mind me paraphrasing):

  • MARC is awful: truly awful. It’s holding back humanity’s (and libraries’) progress. We shouldn’t be doing anything to prolong its life. #marcmustdie

My argument in a nutshell:

  • For better or worse, libraries still use MARC, and this will be a useful facility for libraries who want to consume our open data straight into their existing Library Management Systems.

What does the studio audience think? Should Jerome serve up MARC (actually, MARCXML. I’m not a monster.) because someone, somewhere might want to consume it, or should we take a stand and insist on providing only decent, sane data formats from now on?

For anyone who’s blissfully unaware of MARC (MAchine-Readable Cataloging) formats, read this. Then read this, this, and this. Then go and have a lie down in a darkened room.

I don’t love MARC. More than anything, I don’t really understand it (I have a cataloguer to do that for me). But it still has currency in libraries. #shouldmarcdie?

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4 Responses to “Three quarks for Muster MARC!”

  1. Another thought – if you do decide to do MARC, proper MARC (rather than MARCXML) is more immediately reusable by others – e.g. a reference management package will probably import MARC, may not import MARCXML.

  2. I’m not a huge fan of MARC … but it is what is commonly used across all library systems – so for me it comes down to the question – who (if anyone) do you want to reuse your data, and how easy do you want to make it?

    If you want a wide range of libraries (and library related orgs) to be able to reuse your data, then MARC is the way to go at the moment – sorry about that (it doesn’t make me happy, and don’t shoot the messenger!). On the otherhand if you are more interested in other parties reusing your data then it maybe you don’t need MARC.

    I’d say do both if you can afford to – otherwise you may find you are making your data inaccessible to a small but very interested set of people/organisations.

    As a slight aside it is worth stressing that despite it’s problems (and there are quite a few) MARC records have a lot of subtle semantics and can contain rich data which is going to be difficult to express effectively in other ways (with any common understanding with other parties anyway). Of course, one person’s ‘richness’ is anothers irrelevant information.

  3. There are some more comments about this here: and on Twitter.

  4. Profile photo of Nick Jackson Nick Jackson says:

    Expecting us to export a record in MARC is a bit like walking into a record shop and expecting them to have the latest hit single available on tape – it’s a dead format with many, many technically superior alternatives around.

    If people want MARC to feed into an ILS they can take one of these new formats and convert it themselves, exactly the same as if I want Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO (That’s number 1? Seriously? I despair for humanity…) available on tape to feed into my Walkman.