A new MARC21 bibliographic record service from Library and Archives Canada for Canadian libraries
Every year, the Government of Canada publishes numerous publications, including research reports, conference proceedings, and much more. Many of these publications are available through the Depository Services Program (DSP) managed by Public Services and Procurement Canada. Since 1927, the DSP has gathered and distributed government publications every year to Canadian libraries. With the transition from print material to electronic publications, the DSP has now evolved into a centralized, online weekly distribution service that provides access to electronic government publications.
Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has a legislated mandate to be “the permanent repository of publications for the Government of Canada” (Library and Archives Canada Act, S.C. 2004, c. 11). Thousands of government publications are acquired through various means—such as the DSP, donations, and gifts—and in various formats.
With the increasing volume of electronic content being published by the Government of Canada, the need for timely, efficient and accurate cataloguing of government publications becomes even more necessary to ensure access and discoverability not only for LAC and its users, but also for all Canadian libraries and their users.
Leading Wren Ruth Church, Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS) delivering a supply of library books to Able Seaman Bill Swetman of HMCS PETROLIA, Londonderry, Northern Ireland, November 1944. (MIKAN 3519918)
Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is pleased to announce the completed revision of two classification schedules: Class FC: a classification for Canadian history, 3rd edition, and Class PS8000: a classification for Canadian literature, 4th edition.
Both classifications are compatible with the U.S. Library of Congress Classification used by many libraries, while allowing for more specific and comprehensive treatment of subjects in Canadian history and literature. In other words, these classifications can be used by libraries with extensive collections in Canadian history and literature to improve access to their collections and better meet the needs of their user communities.
Revising and re-issuing classification schedules is an important undertaking for Library and Archives Canada – and a lot of work! What are some of the differences between the new editions of Class FC and Class PS8000 and their previous editions? Librarians revise classification systems to bring them up to date with the present, adding new concepts and new examples for biographical and other topics. Class FC, for example, includes a new classification number for 21st Century Canadian history and a place for the territory of Nunavut, which did not exist when the 1994 edition was published.
How is the Class PS8000 different from other classifications for literature? While some classifications separate literature by language, PS8000 brings together literature written by Canadian authors in English, French and other languages and places it side-by-side on library shelves. It also keeps the novel together with other literary forms.
As any scientist knows, attempting to classify the world is a difficult and complex undertaking! Library classifications must also evolve constantly to adapt to new ideas and new kinds of knowledge. For the first time, LAC has published new editions of Class FC and PS8000 exclusively in electronic format, which will allow them to be modified more frequently. LAC welcomes suggestions and feedback on these schedules. To make a suggestion, please email us at BAC.Normesdecatalogage-Cataloguingstandards.LAC@canada.ca.
There’s been a revolution in cataloguing! Since 2010, RDA (Resource Description and Access) has been the new international standard for description. It was developed over many years through the cooperation of institutions such as Library and Archives Canada (LAC), the Library of Congress, the British National Library, the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, and other national and international committees (LAC employees sit on the Canadian Committee on Cataloguing, for example). Implementation of RDA began at LAC in late 2012 and is still ongoing, involving the entire cataloguing section. This has included hundreds of hours of training sessions, meetings, individual research and reading, and informal team discussions and consultations as we have to rethink a lot of our policies and practices to adapt to the new philosophies and rules for description represented in RDA.
So, what’s so different about RDA?
There have always been standards and rules for description of course. But the rules we were using were developed before the advent of the multitude of formats that are now collected by and available in modern libraries. This has forced cataloguers to try to treat everything like a printed book. You can imagine how frustrating that was at times! On top of that, the old rules were designed to help cataloguers fit all the essential information on a 3” by 5” card that was filed in a card catalogue drawer. This meant abbreviating words, omitting non-essential information, and making decisions based on the placement of information on the physical card. Now with online catalogues, linked data, and international databases available with the click of a mouse, we need to rethink how we do things. Some of this involves physically changing how the information is presented in the catalogue record (for example, RDA eliminates abbreviations unless they appear on the item itself). Other changes focus on thinking differently about the relationships between the content, the physical item (what we call the “carrier”), and the people involved in creating both.
What hasn’t changed?
As always, our goal is to create a bibliographic record for an item that accurately and thoroughly describes both the physical item and the content it holds, and allows users of our catalogue the best possible access to the item and our collection. The employees in the cataloguing section are committed to creating useful, accurate, credible metadata that is used by libraries across the country, and in international databases. RDA may be changing the “how” of cataloguing, but not the “why!”