Tuesday, September 27th, 2005

How much library info is too much?

Library-expansion is another day or so off, but librarians and other interested parties are invited to weigh in on what new fields I should provide.

“MARC” records open up a world of data. I can finally parse all names correctly, add secondary authors, strip “a”s and “the”s from sorting, separate out publisher, place of publication and date of publication, and even wring automated sense from “xix, 230; ill., 25 cm.”

I don’t want to go overboard. Library records have more in them than most users need. Who but an institution needs to distinguish between “Uniform Title,” “Title Statement” and “Varying forms of Title”? Who scans their shelves confused between Dan Brown (1964–), author of the Da Vinci Code, and Dan Brown (n.d.) the publisher of the 1704 tract Novum Lumen Chirurgicum vindicatum?

For starters I can dump publisher and physical info into the “publication” field. And I can put everything into a static “card catalog” field, as I currently do with Library of Congress data. But what details should I “pull out” and allow to be edited, sorted by, and displayed in catalog view?

My candidates are:

  • Secondary authors, editors and illustrators (It is likely their role will be elided, except in the cataloging field)
  • Number of pages (Arabic numeral pages only)
  • Language

If you’re not a librarian, see Understanding MARC Bibliographic for Marc’s “commonly used” fields. Then thank you librarian for knowing this kind of thing AND dealing with people who come in and ask for “that red book, you know.” Incidentally, and taking that seriously, if a book’s “variant tile” includes such wishy-washy info as the spine-title (when different from the “real” title), why doesn’t it capture the dominant cover color? User hh219 appears to be doing that; perhaps it helps when looking for something.

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