Organizing Information – MARC 21 (Chap. 4)

Bibliographic records?  Catalogue entries?  Bibliographic formats?  Oh My.  The big question is why should the library patron, the graduate student doing research, or the art historian care anything about these things at all?  (Librarians have to care because they have the Herculean task of creating order and ease-of-access for the materials that are available to users.)

Enter – MARC 21.  Chapter 4 of Organizing Information explains the database functionality, the science, and the logic of why libraries need a standardized bibliographic format.  The answer – at the risk of oversimplifying – is so that people can search and retrieve with consistent results.  And even more simply – so that when one uses the search function (let’s say of a library database for right now) – the computer knows how to return the information from the proper field.  So, this entire chapter explains – in excellent detail – how this is accomplished.

OK,  back to the question of what the user wants or needs from the bibliographic record.  This takes us back to our in-class lecture where the vital point is made that the target audience drives how we describe elements within the record.  So, if I were an art historian, and I was looking for information, I personally would want the bibliographic record – the surrogate for the item – to look like the one from the museum below.  The record contains a link for the provenance for the image, an audio of a docent describing the image – and an X-ray of the image that shows another painting underneath!  That my friends, is a bibliographic record I can truly fall in love with.  (You may have to log on directly to the museum’s site in order to view the provenance for the image.)

Van Gogh “Winter” – Norton Simon Museum

And if you wish to view the MARC 21 record for an actual New York Public Library item, please click on the link below and then click on the Full Record tab, scroll down a wee bit, then click on the  MARC Display link.

Van Gogh, The Life – New York Public Library MARC Record



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