OCLC and the PCC: changing standards to support changing times


Over the course of my library career, I’ve seen librarianship and cataloging practices evolve significantly in both small and large ways. When you’re talking about shared cataloging standards, even a tiny change can impact thousands of institutions and millions of records.

That’s one reason why it’s so important to have organizations like the Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC).  Lori Robare, Monographic Team Leader at University of Oregon, and PCC Past Chair stated, “The PCC has a strong tradition of cooperative work, standards, metadata expertise, and training. This is an exciting time for the PCC as we consider how to build upon those strengths in the transition to a linked data environment.”

Lori continues:


Lori Robare

“We’re now moving into a phase of active experimentation and piloting of linked data practices, which should help inform policy decisions, training, and operationalizing practices. There are so many questions about what is ahead, and it is exciting to work with colleagues in the PCC who are helping to chart the path forward.”

This kind of experimentation is hard to do without some serious collaboration, as the systems and data being referenced can touch on many aspects of library service. That’s where the Program for Cooperative Cataloging comes in. The PCC is a cooperative, international, volunteer effort to improve bibliographic standards and training. Its programs include:

  • NACO (Name Authority Cooperative Program). Contributing authority records for personal, corporate, and jurisdictional names; uniform titles; and series headings to the LC/NACO Authority File
  • BIBCO (Bibliographic Cooperative): Contributing monograph records with complete authority work, call numbers, and at least one subject access point
  • CONSER (Cooperative Online Serials Program). Contributing high-quality records for serials and integrating resources with complete authority work
  • SACO (Subject Authority Cooperative Program). Proposing of subject headings for inclusion in Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), and classification numbers for inclusion in Library of Congress Classification (LCC) schedules.

It’s an important program for me, personally, as I’m the OCLC representative to the PCC Steering Committee and the PCC Policy Committee, and the OCLC BIBCO liaison (one of the two representatives to the Operations Committee). Other staff in Metadata Quality and OCLC Research also are actively involved in PCC.

As changes in culture, technology, and librarianship move through our world, PCC librarians help guide the evolution of cataloging to fit the needs and thrive in new learning environments.

OCLC’s role with the PCC

OCLC has been integrally involved in PCC from its earliest days, hosting the CONSER database within WorldCat, serving as a NACO node, and supporting BIBCO record creation within WorldCat. The network of involved and passionate catalogers that make up the PCC are a valuable resource for OCLC in informing policy.

Standards coming from the PCC, such as provider-neutral and hybrid records, have been adopted for use in WorldCat. Along with the Library of Congress, the British Library, and Libraries and Archives Canada, OCLC has a permanent representative on the PCC Policy Committee. OCLC and the Library of Congress representatives with the three elected chairs (chair-elect, chair, and past chair) make up the PCC Steering Committee. Two OCLC liaisons are active in the Operations Committee, and OCLC liaisons are permanent members of each PCC Standing Committee.

OCLC also provides reimbursement to PCC members to help defray the costs of travel to the Operations Committee Meeting each year, provides annual funding support for the program, and along with the Library of Congress, funds the PCC meetings at ALA conferences.

Connecting library data to the wider world

One of the most exciting changes to impact cataloging in recent memory is the potential of linked data technologies. There is a growing sense that linked data structures will be needed in a future where we want to connect library materials more effectively with outside services and other pools of relevant information. We are beginning to glimpse what that evolution might look like in the future with experiments with Wikidata and BIBFRAME, among others.

OCLC staff members are active participants in the PCC task groups that are advancing linked data initiatives (including Identity Management, Linked Data Best Practices, URIs in MARC, Metadata Application Profiles among others).

For example, we can see now that RDA was a step toward linked data. An important step, even though, at the time, most of us hadn’t heard the term “linked data.” The goals were similar, and it offered a way to extend our current MARC record terminology in ways that anticipate a more complete shift.

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PCC is working on implementation of more steps in the evolution of cataloging. You are starting to see the use of two fairly new subfield codes—$0 and $1 for the catalogers in the house—within bibliographic access points in MARC records that can be used to connect to related linked data assets.

The least technical way to explain that is that any MARC record can now act as a kind of data “switch,” connecting library metadata to other sources of linked data. This allows for a reference to either an authority record for the string ($0) or a Real World Object URI ($1) or both.  For example, PCC has been piloting the use of ISNI (International Standard Name Identifier) as $1 within bibliographic records.

This is important because it means that libraries can take advantage of data in other linked data systems in order to improve our own metadata and services… today.

You can help build the future of library metadata

Xiaoli Li_150

Xiaoli Li

PCC’s Current Chair, Xiaoli Li, Head of Content Support Services at University of California-Davis, stated, “This year marks the PCC’s 25th anniversary. We will take time to celebrate what we have accomplished. We will also start to plan for the next 25 years. Presently, accelerating the transition from MARC to linked data is PCC’s number-one priority. We know we won’t be able to do this alone. We need partners and will reach out to other communities that share common goals.”

If you are a cataloger and are interested in being part of the PCC, we’d love to have you! There’s more information available here: http://www.loc.gov/aba/pcc/join.html

For our non-cataloger readers, I hope that this peek into our cooperative voyage was instructive. It’s complicated, detailed work done by hundreds of catalogers over decades. But the end result is metadata that does a better job of connecting our users to the information they need.