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Month: April 2011

ISBN parenthetical notes: Bad MARC data #1

Yesterday, I gave a brief overview of why free text is hard to deal with. Today, I’m turning my attention to a concrete example that drives me absolutely batshit crazy: taking a perfectly good unique-id field (in this case, the ISBN in the 020) and appending stuff onto the end of it. The point is not to mock anything. Mocking will, however, be included for free. What’s supposed to be in the 020? Well, for starters, an ISBN (10 or 13 digit, we’re not picky). Let’s not worry, for the moment, about the actual ISBN and whether it’s valid or…

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Why programmers hate free text in MARC records

One of the frustrating things about dealing with MARC (nee AACR2) data is how much nonsense is stored in free text when a unique identifier in a well-defined place would have done a much better job. A lot of people seem to not understand why. This post, then, is for all the catalogers out there who constantly answer my questions with, “Well, it depends” and don’t understand why that’s a problem. Description vs Findability I’m surprised — and a little dismayed — by how often I talk to people in the library world who don’t understand the difference between description…

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