Weekly response #2 – Valerie Ramshur


This systems seems very complicated. Maybe it is a “learn by doing” type of system- that when one reads  the “what ” of it, it tends to  boggle the mind. However sitting down to the “how” of it  – it would make sense.  When I read “In the MARC record, 10% of the tags are used over and over, and the other 90% are seen only occasionally or rarely.”  I question a system that seems so complicated to learn and yet you use so little of it- like one’s brain. And yet would not replacing MARC or MARC21 – with another program or language create the same issues? Is XML so much easier?

MARC Must Die  By Roy Tennant

The discussion of how MARC is no longer helpful or relevant was interesting to me. Truth be told, the whole topic of MARC has my head spinning a bit.  The Idea of marginalization and outmoded usage coupled with complexity sounds like this is no longer helpful to cataloguers and the general public “…we are limited to the niche market of library vendors. For their part, vendors must design systems that can both take in and output records in MARC format. “By moving toward XML, the vendors will likely find it both easier and cheaper to produce the products we require.”

Mostly I deeply believe the idea that “Libraries exist to serve the present and future needs of a community of users… If libraries cling to outdated standards, they will find it increasingly difficult to serve their clients as they expect and deserve.” That is what I find a hot topic to discuss. The use of the library and the community it serves.

Weekly Reponse #2 – Kyle Olmon

What stands out most for me in Roy Tennant’s piece MARC Must Die was the concept of technical maginalization. I get that information science services and libraries have specific needs in cataloging records that conforms to the ISO 2709 standards presented in the Chowdhury reading. It seems natural that eventually third party vendors will cater to those needs and develop programs that would not likely ‘play nice’ with other vendor’s software in a logical attempt to dominate market share. I understand that the MARC21 format is meant to be as universal and compatible as possible so that institutions can exchange data, but it seems that the data exchange can only occur between a select number of stakeholders.

As museums, libraries, archives and various institutions seek to fulfill their primary goal of enticing and engaging their audience with their collections, they may run into the limitations of MARC21. As we become a more interconnected society there are going to be a number of potential collaborations with new audiences, industries and technologies. With a proliferation of software and standards used over the internet these days maybe we can learn some lessons from other sectors that need to harness massive amounts of data like financial brokerages, medical records management, genealogy services and collaborative scientific research just to name a few. It seems that an adoption of something like XML or the advancement of a universal open source cataloging system standard free from the traps of a limited vendor ecosystem would be greatly beneficial to making sure that bibliographic records remain exchangeable, expandable and relevant.

Weekly response 2 – Eugene Rutigliano

In Roy Tennant’s “MARC Must Die” article, he rails against MARC as an aging and cumbersome standard, saying “no other profession uses MARC or anything like it.”  Given that the task of the information specialist is to study and organize the document forms of other disciplines, this lack  on the part of other professions seems to be the reason why MARC exists in the first place.  The rigidity of its field descriptions and its complicated syntax seem to be a feature rather than a flaw.  As the “Understanding MARC” article puts it, “MARC enables libraries to acquire cataloging data that is predictable and reliable.”

In my experience, poring through an institutional database can often seem like an archaeological dig: you can almost see striations in the data where conventions and cataloging philosophies were adopted by various users at various points in time only to be revised or built over by their successors.  Having a predictable conduit for tagging documents like MARC taxes the encoders but it does save users effort retrieving information.  Tennant may be right that MARC does not have the extensibility to account for future changes in the form of shared information.  His suggestion that a MARC record cannot store cover graphics among other things does not make his point for him.  These features would be better collected in a home-grown system specific to the institutions as an authority for visual data is very difficult to establish.

Anna Murphy, Response #2

Arguments of outdatedness notwithstanding, I particularly admired Tennant’s mention of “checks and balances,” or lack thereof in the case of MARC records. This led me to imagine a judiciary committee set up to decide how to create records for each document. It seems as though, according to Tennant, that the Library of Congress should have set up some advisory committees comprised of experts in the manuals to deliberate and pass a final word on these records. Does such a thing exist? It sounds exhausting, not to mention expensive. I do, however, see the value in a verified, democratically determined record and look forward to hearing how future record systems are able to account for this, as well as incorporate basics such as cover images and tables of contents.


Weekly Reading Response #2 – Elizabeth Frank

Beware the Ides of Marc!

Chowdhury was again more abstract than I would have liked, but the pamphet “What is a MARC Record and Why Is It Important” gave me the examples I needed to have a better understanding of certain of the concepts — the control fields, for example, and the meanings behind the uses of $a, $b, etc. Overall, in learning MARC, I find it easiest to apply non-book records to examples. For example, I envision how to catalogue a tape recording of an individual as part of an oral history project, or a podcast, or a graphic novel. In Part III, the breakdown of tags was clearer than what I read (and copied into my notebook) in the Chowdhury section. Here are the most frequently-used tags, advised the pamphlet, which then added

In the MARC record, 10% of the tags are used over and over, and the other 90% are seen only occasionally or rarely. After even a short exposure to the MARC 21 format, it is not usual to hear librarians speaking in MARCese.

Such an assertion lulled me into a false sense of well-being. The 5th section of the pamphlet, “Some General Rules,” was also quite helpful, until its very last paragraph, the second sentence of which reads: “Does the system allow for downloading, or writing the records back out to a disk . . .?”


This sent me dashing back to the syllabus, to see when this monograph was written. 2003. Its rather contentious follow-up, “MARC must die,” was written in 2002, one year prior and it assets: “[MARC] was developed in an age when memory, storage, and processing power were all rare and expensive commodities. Now they are ubiquitous and cheap.”

I sense some innovation ahead in future reading.

Anna Murphy, Response #1


Reading about the exhaustive work that goes into cataloging makes me appreciate not only the work of librarians, but the ability of patrons to implicitly do this classification work themselves. When I was studying film, I got to know a particular section of the library. As my studies progressed and my interests focused, that section narrowed to a few shelves that I was constantly perusing for inspiration. Occasionally I would find something awesome on a totally random shelf next to things I had no interest in, but generally the topics I loved loved each other, so to speak, and lived close to one another. The Chowhudry readings have made me realize that the library classification and cataloging systems are clearly designed with the user in mind and I have a new appreciation for the work that goes into keeping that system alive.

Hannah’s post on Levy

In the section of “Cataloging in the Digital Order” called “A Changing Order,” Levy expresses emotionally weighted opinions on the stakes of change in the demands on catalogers while seeming to describe those stakes in carefully objective terms. The final paragraph of the section answers a group of rhetorical questions posed earlier by suggesting that any changes in cataloging practice will have to follow conventions shaped deliberately by political authority for a purpose of its own. Although he chooses to say of himself only that he is “not at all sure that the future can be extrapolated” and justifies his apprehensions with a historical analogy, we cannot help noticing that his representation of past developments in cataloging seems deliberately selective.

It is entirely possible that my mistrust of his account about the evolution of “the order of the book” is due to ignorance of the specific policies he claims have influenced it. Nonetheless, I am reluctant to give the political leaders of revolutionary France all the credit for the changes that have produced that order as we know it today. The educational policies they acted on were indeed closely linked to ideology, but it seems shortsighted to discount the role that technology and economics played in promoting literacy to such an extent that cataloging conventions might be relevant to the population at large. Similarly, while the proposed government regulation of the Internet would naturally play a crucial role in determining how and when people sought information through digital channels, it seems premature to discount the influence of people’s current relationship to the Internet, which is often half-facetiously called the native territory of today’s adults.

Weekly Response #1, Alana Mohamed

I was struck by David Levy’s investigation into the intricacies of the catalog in “Cataloging in the Digital Order.”  It’s my first semester and SLIS and I had heard the catalog mentioned several times before, but never quite understood what it was.  Levy’s description of cataloging as “a highly skilled interpretative activity by which the properties of items are not simply described, but stabilized and even created,” seemed to point to what we were discussing in last week’s class.  It is our job as librarians or information specialists to seek out resources for the patron by examining the different uses of material.  That certainly doesn’t seem like something a computer can do at this point.  Even with all our technology, search engines seem based primarily on text and keywords.  To find information on the web, there still must be a human tagging online resources with relevant keywords, and there must be a human on the other end trying various search terms to get the best possible material for their research.

I was very interested in Levy’s ideas of search engines and “personal hotlists” (which I am equating, maybe falsely, to things like twitter feeds now).  Within that frame Levy questions what information will be shared and what won’t.  It reminded me of Zeynep Tufecki’s article “What happens to #Ferguson Affects Ferguson” in which she discusses why #ferguson was present on some social media sites and not others and the political implications of these sites algorithmic filtration systems.  It seems to reinforce Levy’s belief that computers can’t quite yet fill the role of the cataloger.

Weekly Post 1# Maureen McElroy

I found the information presented through the readings to be straight forward: history of, purpose, need, future of digital.If anything it provided a a better explanation for myself as to why I find this really interesting and why I studying this.  What is the sense of having information if it is not organized in a way that can be located or reviewed.

I found the article from Levy, Cataloging in the Digital Order to be really interesting.  At times i found some of his statements a little dated but still relevant. I kept going back to the part where the quote from Will Manley’s  from “Cataloger’s, We Hardly Know ye”:–I agree with Levy that is was a bit tongue and cheek–I get that.  I do find Levy questioning of this work is often performed by “women or other under-recognized groups”  slightly annoying.