<<This message is being cross-posted to the following lists: Archives,
LCSH-AMC, SAACAIE, and USMARC.>>
Over the past few months, there has been a growing sense among archivists
that the original MARBI under standings concerning format integration and
archival materials have been altered to a form that is no longer
acceptable to the archival community in general. With the release of
OCLC Technical Bulletin 212, it is clear that OCLC (interpreting USMARC)
is planning to implement format integration in a manner unanticipated by
archivists. At OCLC, many of the old AMC records would be converted into
the Books format, coded for manuscript language materials; others would
be converted into the format reflecting the predominance of material as
read from the old record; and a few, with no format predominance, would
be converted to Mixed Materials. This is not what the archival community
expected. Rather, archivists expected most AMC records to go into Mixed
Materials, with a few in Books, Maps, etc..
In talking with Sally McCallum of the Library of Congress, it is clear
that a sense of the history of the agreements should inform this
discussion. I am quoting from a message from Sally McCallum:
"The version of Leader/06 that I posted and OCLC is using is essentially
the one that was agreed upon after three MARBI discussions in 1989-1990.
The original Proposal 89-14 discussed in summer 1989 concerned changing
Archival to mixed and doing away with all the manuscript codes
(manuscript maps, manuscript music, etc.). At that meeting the
manuscript codes were defended and a manuscript language code was
"The proposal that went back in January had a code for Manuscript language
material with a definition pretty much like the final one -- letters,
ledgers, and so on were in there. There were still some problems, especially
whether to use b or t for mixed, so the proposal was discussed again for the
third time in the summer where it was finalized.
"Phyllis Bruns worked on this proposal and I believe she worked directly
with the SAA rep on the definitions, which included letters, diaries,
ledgers, etc. in manuscript language materials. Of course it seems
logical to me so I would not have to stretch very far to see the reasons
but I take it not everyone sees them.
"OCLC has been concerned about this for several months and wrote to the LC
Cataloging Policy Office last fall. Their inquiry, in fact, caused me to
remember that the definitions had been carefully revised back in 1989 and
should have been included in the new edition. I think they were not because
they were not completed with the rest of the FI proposal and did not get
settled for another year or so thus were not picked up in the editing."
This historical background seems to be at odds with the understanding among
most archivists, which was well stated in a recent posting from Rob Spindler,
current chair of the SAA Committee on Archival Information Exchange (CAIE).
To quote from Spindlers message: "The gist of the opinions expressed by
SAA and CAIE since 1992 is simply that we had intended for mixed
materials to be the new home of virtually all the former AMC records in
this database. We did not anticipate a major change in practice in Leader
06, rather we were very interested in the ability to use archival
control" in Leader 08 across all formats. We felt THIS was the major
contribution of format integration to the archival community.
"CAIE's position has been that manuscript language materials should be
used for "booklike" manuscript materials such as codexes, theses and
dissertations and other bound items that were generally produced with the
intent of distribution. Archival collections, which are assembled by
their creators or by collectors or archivists in the course of their
regular business, should be coded mixed materials, with a major exception
which is another point of discussion. According to OCLC TB 212, when a
single format of materials "predominates" in a collection, that
collection should be coded for the dominant format (e.g. sound
recordings, scores, visual materials. etc.) in 06. However, Leader 08 can
be coded for archival control to indicate the materials are archival
collections. When no format "predominates", mixed materials is the
appropriate choice for Leader 06. This is how this issue was left in our
most recent discussions."
Further discussions and queries on a number of lists (Archives, LCSH-AMC,
CAIE, USMARC, AutoCat) make it abundantly clear that there is not only
confusion in the coding of archival materials but also outright
dissension. At least one major repository is planning to code archival
materials not in accordance with the published OCLC guidelines based on
USMARC. This ambiguity in practice was neither desired nor anticipated
by the archival community after its discussions in MARBI.
For many of us, following USMARC is our standard mode of operation. We
expect our vendors to do the same. OCLC, in its Technical Bulletin 212,
is following the USMARC Expanded Definition of Leader/06 in formulating
its definitions of manuscript language material and mixed materials.
Unfortunately, those definitions are not what the archival community
thought it had agreed to in the MARBI discussions in the 1980s.
From my perspective as SAA liaison to MARBI, I think we need to do the
following: Write a discussion paper for MARBI to reopen and refine the
definitions related to archival and manuscript materials in USMARC. This
discussion paper would need to address and clearly define the issue of
format predominance and the definitions of archival control, manuscript
language material, and mixed materials. These are the areas that are
currently causing the most concern. This discussion would result in a
definition of archival concepts for ourselves and for the general
bibliographic community, many of whose members are not archivists but do
catalog our materials. While the USMARC format is certainly a dynamic
document, we cannot expect it to change any more frequently than is
necessary to accommodate new descriptive rules, new technologies, etc.
Format integration and its ramifications have forced us to rethink how we
catalog archival materials. I think we should use this opportunity to
review our practices and clarify our terminology. Only then will we have
a consistent way to exchange archival information using USMARC and the
I would expect that it would fall on CAIE to write or assign the writing
of such a discussion paper. The paper, if finished by the first of May,
could be included in the discussions in July in New York.
Comments to the lists from the archival and cataloging communities would
Rutherford W. Witthus, SAA Liaison to MARBI
Coordinator of Cataloging and Special Collections
University of Colorado at Denver
N.B. This message was reviewed by and discussed with Rob Spindler, Chair
of CAIE, who agrees with its conclusions.
Rutherford W. Witthus [log in to unmask]
Coordinator of Bibliographic Services and Special Collections
University of Colorado at Denver