23:3 (2008:09) 23rd Conference (2008): Strategy Session: MARC Holdings Conversion

August 26, 2008 at 12:21 pm | Posted in Strategy Sessions | Leave a comment

STRATEGY SESSION

MARC Holdings Conversion: Now That We’re Here, What Do We Do?
Sion Romaine, University of Washington; Frieda Rosenberg, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Ted Schwitzner, Illinois State University; Naomi Young, University of Florida; moderated by Steve Shadle, University of Washington
Reported by Rebecca Moorman

This panel presentation provided examples of holdings conversion projects from different local systems and the migration of existing MARC-formatted data from one ILS to another. Steve Shadle asked each of the speakers to answer three questions:   Why use MARC Format for Holdings Data, MFHD?  What were your expected benefits?  What lessons did you learn?

Sion Romaine described the University of Washington’s project to convert their unformatted holdings records into MFHD.  They chose MARC to automate WorldCat resource sharing, to more easily load holdings into union catalogs, to standardize their holdings statements, and to ease future system conversions.

The initial project involved converting 169,000 print and microform records.  Their first step was communicating with other library departments who would be affected by the conversion – Interlibrary Loan, other processing units, and public services.  Next, they prepared documentation and identified who would do the training and the conversion work.  Before conversion began, they analyzed their data, normalizing and correcting inconsistencies.  About half of their records were changed using Innovative Interfaces’ create lists and global update functions.  MARC Leaders, 007, 008 and 853 fields were added to the MARC format check-in records.  The other half of the records was converted by hand, using students and staff.  Current check-in records were priorities, as were frequently requested titles and frequently dropped requests, meaning issues were not owned.

Sion learned many lessons over the course of the project.  It was essential to find people who knew MARC and to ask lots of questions.  The NASIGuide on Serial Holdings was an essential resource, and fellow panelist Frieda Rosenberg was thanked profusely by all for creating the guide. He stressed the importance of preparing documentation early, converting easy records first, sending a test file to OCLC early and asking them lots of questions. Finally, learning the limits of your ILS system, your resources and your staff are important considerations.
Frieda Rosenberg detailed the University of North Carolina’s two holdings conversion projects, one from a homegrown non-MARC database to DRA Classic, and the other from DRA to III Millennium.  They chose MFHD to support library standards, so their holdings displays would be consistent with their consortium partners for union listing, and to aid with future migrations.

Their first conversion went fairly smoothly.  Much of the data was already coded and delimited in the BIS format, which was mapable to MFHD paired fields.  Free-text note data, however, did not map well.  Only one line of text displayed in the public catalog, and each record had to be edited by hand.  In addition, they ran two unconnected systems, Innovative for check-in and DRA with MFHD for the OPAC.  The second migration included the merging of data from both of these systems into III Millennium.

The second conversion had parts that worked well and parts that did not.  The 863 holdings summaries mapped well.  Their biggest problem was that the holdings data from both earlier systems was not merged and duplicate holdings information displayed in the OPAC for each title.  They decided to suppress all holdings data in the OPAC while they solved the data and display issues.  Using the III report utility, they were able to identify the data that needed to be merged.  After normalizing data through global update, the vendor ran a program to merge the records.  Frieda also detailed other display problems and how they worked to solve the issues.

The long-range problems the University of North Carolina are now facing include tailoring data to three separate interfaces: Millennium, the Endeca “skin” and OCLC WorldCat.  The 866 summary that the University of North Carolina displays in Endeca is stripped off in the batchload to OCLC, so the 863-865 data needs to be maintained.  They are also working to display holdings of consortium partners through notes and links so their patrons can easily find volumes that are available to them from other libraries.

The University of North Carolina has rethought and changed their coding several times. Frieda learned that it is best to concentrate on coding that will aid functionality.  Be sure you know where your data is really located and keep harmony with your vendor.  It is also best to use automation; macros, templates, system reports, etc., as much as possible.  This saves time and also promotes consistency and ease of management.

Ted Schwitzner also described two conversion projects.  The first, at North Central College, was a migration from ILLINET Online to DRA Classic.  The second was from DRA Classic to Endeavor Voyager at Illinois State University.  They chose to use MFHD because it is an international standard.  It is portable and by using it your system can do the work of sorting and displaying holdings data to your users in a consistent manner.

Before conversion, North Central College did not display any serials holdings in their local catalog.  They wanted to move to a standards-based display that would enable them to enter and maintain detailed holdings.  Illinois State University also wanted more control over the display of their holdings data. Ted focused on problem holdings, “hairy data,” first.  The first conversion resulted in many display problems.  853/863 pairs did not expand or compress, and 863s displayed instead of 866 summaries.  OPAC displays took a long time to load; they were difficult to read, which frustrated patrons.  Serials check-in was also a problem.

Illinois State University had fewer display issues in the second conversion, but they still had problems.  In response to patron concerns, both libraries deleted 853/863 pairs after moving to Voyager, because they displayed along with the 866 summaries.  A year later, they discovered the indicator combination that allows 866s to display and the pair to be suppressed.  They then began recreating the data they had deleted.

The most important lesson that Ted learned was to know the MARC format.  He focused on the importance of testing the data and testing the system. Learn what your ILS can and can not do, and document workarounds and limitations.  Determine and focus on what is most important to users and staff.

Naomi Young focused on the psychological issues of a serials conversion project, rather than the technical details.  She chose MARC for all the reasons the others gave, plus her library’s director of technical services co-wrote the MFHD standard.  The University of Florida had MARC formatted data, then they moved to a non-MARC NOTIS catalog, and their 853/863 data was suppressed at that time.  When they moved from NOTIS to ALEPH, the data was unsuppressed, but it displayed poorly.  They then began converting it by hand.

To undertake a big serials conversion project, it is essential to have administrative buy-in.  Your organization needs to know and support the fact that the work will take longer and be slower during the conversion.  The trainer, too, has to be patient with those doing the work.  Naomi plied workers with chocolate and hand-puppets to keep the workplace fun and relaxed.  Be aware of different learning styles and make as many different tools as possible in a variety of ways.  To find suggestions for preparing training materials geared to different types of learners do a web search on “learning styles” limited to .edu sites.

Naomi learned that bindery staff did the most conversion, therefore they should have had training first.  It is important to set priorities; they worked on print, current titles and ILL problems first.  Get the most resistant people working on annuals, get a macro-creation tool, and do not aim for perfection.

The common themes from all the speakers were:  the more conversant you are in MFHD, the fewer problems you are likely to have.  Communicate with your ILS vendor and OCLC early and often.  Use automation, macros, global updates, etc., as much as possible.  The project will take longer than you expect; be patient, and have a good attitude about problems.

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