Universal Bibliographic Control and International MARC Core Programme (UBCIM)
Distribution and Exchangeby Robert Smith
Bibliographic Services and Document Supply
The British Library
AbstractConsideration is given to the changing nature of national bibliographic services as users make increased demands upon them and as technological change opens up new distribution channels. Using a consultation exercise carried out by the British Library as an exemplar, the future development of national bibliographies is outlined as increasingly dependent upon cooperative efforts between national agencies, publishers and the private sector. The importance of committing to standards is emphasised and the need for a new paradigm for the relationship between national bibliographic services and their users is suggested.
1.2 Nonetheless, I believe that certain precepts can be articulated with some confidence, key among them being that the national bibliographic service must reflect and act upon the demands of its users. How those demands are changing is therefore of crucial importance as we look to the future. I intend using the British National Bibliography (BNB) as a case study in this paper, and it is timely that this conference coincides with the conclusion of a major consultation exercise which the British Library has been conducting into the use and likely development path for the BNB. I am also tending to use the national bibliography as shorthand for the national bibliographic service - they are not entirely co-terminous, but the national bibliography underpins the provision of national bibliographic services to such an extent that I believe this is legitimate. I will refer to the consultation exercise and attempt to bring out the key issues which have been raised - along with some indication of how the British Library intends to address them. Furthermore, although distribution and exchange is my given topic, I will need to range wider in order to contextualise the likely future distribution patterns for bibliographic data. I will be looking, therefore, at both the content and format of national bibliographies as well at broader policy issues for national bibliographic services.
2 Background to the British National Bibliography
THE BRITISH NATIONAL BIBLIOGRAPHY
3.2 This pattern of distribution is not untypical for many national bibliographies; how it may change is a key question for national bibliographic services. It is clear that there is a widespread and increasing expectation that bibliographic data should be made available via the Internet. For BNB at present, MARC data in bulk can be sourced from the Internet by subscribers holding a licence to use or redistribute the data. The online service Blaise is also available as a Web-based service (Blaise Web) and this is increasingly the access method of choice. It is planned to make BNB records available to libraries via the Z39.50 protocol when the BL implements its new Corporate Bibliographic Programme next year. What all these services have in common is that they are priced services on the Internet; as such they sit alongside many free services (including some from the British Library itself - see 4.2 below).
4 Pricing - public responsibility vs. commercial viability
4.2 The requirement to make a surplus clearly has implications for pricing and distribution policy. It can also appear to create anomalies - in particular, the BL, along with many libraries throughout the world, makes its OPAC available free on the Internet. The OPAC gives access to the Library's catalogue - but not to the BNB database. Furthermore, the OPAC is likely to be developed to become the chief means of access to the Library's collections - through the addition of value-added (priced) services. At present the Library is managing the inherent tension between free services and priced services carefully, with the aim of providing a clearly defined level of free access which can then allow the user, where appropriate, to move easily to priced services provided by the Library and/or its partners.
5.2 Of course, the national library itself has, in many countries, a major stake in recording and distributing the national published archive - it may generally be regarded as one of its core functions. Beyond the national library there are other national or quasi-national libraries (in Britain, for example, the five other legal deposit libraries) who may be partners in as well as users of the national bibliographic service. Then there are the major users/customers - in particular public and academic libraries. Their use of the national bibliography incorporates selection (usually via the printed version); cataloguing (by deriving MARC records either online or from CD-ROM); and as a reference and bibliographic tool. The stake which those users have in the national bibliography is vital. In Britain, particularly, the library community has a strong sense of ownership of the national bibliography. While this is, overall, a positive feature, it can make it difficult to initiate change.
6 Consultation Exercise on the British National Bibliography
6.2 Now in order to act upon these precepts a new approach would be needed for the national bibliographic services - in particular, more cooperation and, in particular, better links with publishers. It was clear that stakeholders and users of the BNB needed to be involved in furthering these discussions.
6.3 The first approach to users was via a seminar on the future of the national bibliography. Out of this seminar came a set of key propositions which reflected views of how BNB should be developed, informed by participants' views of the purpose of the national bibliography and the role of the British Library. These propositions were incorporated into The future of the national bibliography: a consultation paper from the British Library which was widely distributed for comment within the library and information community nationally and internationally. The six propositions are as follows:
6.4 The responses which were received to the consultation paper were, on the whole, consistent in their support for these key propositions.
6.4.2 Proposition 2 'The British Library has a central role to play in the compilation and publication of the UK national bibliography'
6.4.3 Proposition 3 'The British Library should regard this role as a key responsibility'
6.4.4 Proposition 4 'It is desirable that the British National Bibliography should continue to be made available in printed form'
A small minority of responses suggested the current review was the right time to stop publishing the BNB in printed form.
Some were concerned that the consultation paper overemphasised the printed nature of BNB. They were concerned that BNB should be seen as an entity wider than just its printed or CD-ROM manifestation. In this context they also noted that the use to which the records are put should influence the way in which BNB is developed. For while the consultation paper was emphasising the national bibliography's role as a record of the nation's publishing output (ie an archival role) the responses to the paper emphasised the vital importance of the data for information retrieval purposes and as a source of bibliographic records for incorporation in Library catalogues.
6.4.5 Proposition 5 'The scope and coverage of the British National Bibliography should be widened through the development of a distributed national bibliography; this should be realised through a more cooperative and collaborative effort between the British Library and other national agencies'
The issue here was the difficulty perceived in maintaining standards if records from a number of agencies are to be brought together. In terms of bibliographic standards, what has been identified as the BL 'core' record (ie AACR2, level 2 cataloguing, MARC format, Dewey and LCSH subject access) was regarded as the minimum necessary for bibliographic records to be fit for purpose. Equally important were thought to be standards of completeness, accuracy and general quality of data.
Intellectual Property Rights
There was a general feeling that the core for this development should be the existing legal deposit agencies, with other supplements being developed with other specialist agencies where perhaps these agencies had unique access to that category of material, or were uniquely placed to exploit it.
The lack of coverage of local material was a running thread and a role was suggested for the regional library systems in identifying such material and ensuring it was deposited with the legal deposit libraries. Equally, non-print material should certainly be included in the national bibliography, and the sooner the better.
6.4.6 Proposition 6 'British National Bibliography could be improved by the inclusion of further bibliographic data additional to that included as part of the 'core' record'
A distinction was made between the record content required for a national bibliography, to record an item's existence, and that required for selection. However, additional data provided to support selection, such as tables of contents, availability on other formats, references to reviews should not be provided at the expense of timeliness.
6.5 The consultation exercise has provided valuable information on how its users and stakeholders now perceive the British National Bibliography. It has not, it must be conceded, given an entirely unambiguous steer for future planning. While there is a broad consensus as to the general direction the Library should take, there remain considerable differences of view as to how the Library should move forward. There is clearly general agreement that the Library can no longer rely as exclusively as it has in the past on its own legal deposit intake to provide input to the national bibliography. The Library needs to share the compilation with the other legal deposit libraries and with other national centres. This sharing may also need to extend to decision and policy making. Of critical importance is that this distribution of effort should not lead to a relaxation in the application of standards, which are widely regarded as being of paramount importance.
6.6 One crucial question which needs to be resolved before meaningful progress can be made centres on ownership of the bibliographic resource which will result from any kind of distributed effort. In particular there will be questions over who will have intellectual property rights to use and exploit the resource, and on what basis. This may prove one of the more difficult challenges for national agencies and their partners as we try move forward.
6.7 At the time of writing, the Library is considering the responses to the consultation exercise and seeking to develop a clear statement of policy for the future development of the national bibliography. This is now being formulated in the context of a wider Strategic Review of all the Library's functions. This review has been initiated in recognition of the continuing decline in government funding and an understanding that the Library cannot continue to pursue all its activities at current levels. Inevitably, the need to mesh the BNB consultation with the wider review has meant that the Library is not in a position to make firm commitment to a development path for the national bibliography as soon as has originally been intended, but it remains high on the agenda.
7 Legal Deposit
8 BIBLINKThe importance of better links with publishers (the other end of the distribution chain) also needs to be recognised. In the UK the CIP programme presents advance information for monographs derived from publishers for inclusion in the BNB. In the electronic environment it is conceivable that electronic documents can incorporate their own bibliographic data - indeed some already do. What role is there, then, for national bibliographic services? One example can be found in an EU-funded project - BIBLINK - which is currently developing a demonstrator to show the feasibility of data flows between publishers, national bibliographic services and users. If this were to translate into an operational service, a new distribution model for bibliographic data will emerge. In this case, the publishers would be playing a leading role, by supplying basic metadata electronically to the national bibliographic service; the national bibliographic service will then supplement the publisher-provided metadata with value-added bibliographic data (eg subject headings) and (maybe as a quid pro quo) supplying the enhanced metadata back to the publisher for incorporation into the electronic publication. Both the national bibliographic service and the publisher will then be in a position to distribute the enhanced bibliographic records to users. Technical issues aside, this model presents significant challenges for national agencies and publishers in agreeing on distribution rights and data ownership but, potentially, significant benefits to users.
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