In the library community we encounter this problem not only in the case of a
language code change but every time a working standard changes. In this respect
this is not a potential problem but rather a genuine one. Our work implies the
application of a lot of standards and the way they are applied is part of the
policy of each cataloguing agency. In the Bibliothèque nationale de France - and
I think this is the case of many other great libraries - the modifications in
the standards are communicated as soon as possible and decisions are taken to
apply the updated standard. This means that the change is applied only from a
fixed date on.
As to going through all the records which have been processed according to the
old standard, it depends on the type of the modification required, the technical
possibilities of the information system to tackle with it, the resources bring
into play and the importance the agency gives to "retrospective" processing.
Generally, changes are not made rapidly in big catalogues, the number of records
being very important.
When the modification is possible by automated processing it is put on the
programme of work of the automated processing of the library.
When the modification is not possible by automated processing two cases are
- Either the number of the records involved by the modification is not very
great. In this case we go manually through the records and apply the
- Or the number of these records is very important. In this case the processing
is put in the programme of work of non automated processing of the library.
In the meantime - and this "meantime" may be a long one - two layers of
recordings will coexist in the catalogue (one applying the old and the other
applying the new standard).
The implications of not changing records depend on the importance of the
modification implied and on the number of the records concerned.
Currently, the retrieval problems encountered by the readers are generally
resolved with the assistance of the librarians who get acquainted with the
changes that have occurred. However we are aware of the potential risk of loss
of information involved by any change of processing, but this is inevitable.
I can ask the people of the SuDoc catalogue (Système Universitaire de
Documentation : the Collective Catalogue of the University libraries in France)
---------------------- Envoyée par Anila ANGJELI/750/DIA/BnF le 02/06/2003 09:37
Håvard Hjulstad <[log in to unmask]> le 31/05/2003 00:50:50
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cc : (ccc : Anila ANGJELI/750/DIA/BnF)
Objet : Re: New item in ISO 639 - Southern Altai
John Clews 31. mai 2003 00:47 >>
> Just out of interest, how do libraries in general get to know that
> ideally they should now go through all their records which have a
> "tut" code (for Altaic, Other), find the ones in Southern Altaic, and
> change them to "alt" in order to conform?
> It's a genuine question, as "tut" no longer contains "alt."
> Is there some alerting process? What do OCLC libraries, and
> RLG libraries do? And what does OCLC and RLG do themselves?
> And national libraries? And large university libraries?
> And what's the timescale involved? And the resources?
> And what are the implications of not changing any records?
> All of those libraries must have this potential problem to deal with.
> I'd be grateful for some ideas on this: I don't have any particular
The question is of course much larger than Southern Altaic. It is the
fundamental question of the values of "rest group identifiers". In the
current standard it is true that as of today the identifier "tut" no longer
contains Southern Altaic (as an example). This happens whenever a new
identifier is assigned. The standard doesn't stipulate a "transition
With the new 639-3 this will be even more evident. The combined alpha-3 code
table will ideally not have any "rest groups".
This issue, and the implication for different applications (not just
libraries), needs to be looked at very carefully during the development of
the new parts of ISO 639.
I don't have any answers to John's question, just some more questions...