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Journal article

MARC transformed: MARC and XML – the perfect partnership?

11 June 2020

Abstract

I first met a very British version of MARC (Machine Readable Cataloguing) in 1983, straight out of university. I didn't know anything about cataloguing, indexing, classification, or data. MARC made sense of it all. AACR2 (Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd Edition) was impenetrable without MARC as a framework. LCSH (Library of Congress Subject Headings) and DDC (Dewey Decimal Classification) seemed like a foreign language. MARC gave the rules structure and validity. MARC made the rules live. And, as time progressed, MARC matured and developed into MARC 21. For me, this was the beginning of a life-long love affair with MARC.

But, in 1996, MARC's world was turned upside down when XML (Extensible Markup Language) appeared. MARC was no longer the only kid on the block. And XML knew all about the Internet, linked data, and OAIPMH (Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting). XML was in the cloud; MARC was firmly on the ground. Users were falling out of love with MARC. It was time to re-evaluate the qualities that made MARC great in the first place – and some help was needed. Luckily, help was at hand in the form of two very clever desktop software packages, MarcEdit and MARC Report. These invaluable tools have made MARC pivotal in the world of bibliographic data transformation. Without MARC, EThOS (E-Theses Online Service) would not be the unique aggregation of thesis data that it is today. EThOS makes it easy to Find, Identify, Select and Obtain a UK doctoral thesis because it is based on good quality, de-duplicated bibliographic data. And this data originated as XML, was transformed by MARC, and then returned to XML. The perfect partnership.

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