The Quality Of E-book Records: A Case Study

Author: 
Penny Bardenheier
Series: 
NZLIMJ Vol 53 No. 3
Publication date: 
Thu, 2014-02-13

 

By Penny Bardenheier
University of Auckland Library

                                                                               

Abstract

The purpose of this case study was to look at the quality of MARC bibliographic records for e-books that the University of Auckland Library and Learning Services receives from vendors and publishers. I analysed records obtained from four cataloguing sources - National Library of New Zealand (NLNZ), Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), Springer Link and Emerald.

A quantitative research approach was used to ascertain the quality of received records. It was found that there was variance in the standard of quality. The records received from vendors and publishers were more problematic then from NLNZ and OCLC.

This study argues that there are ramifications of poor quality MARC bibliographic records for e-books. Poor quality has the ability to impede retrieval by users when searching the Library Catalogue. The implications also go beyond the confines of the Library’s catalogue. Poor quality records can jeopardize the interoperable processes of data exchange between libraries.

The findings of the study provide a platform for libraries to work with publishers and vendors to increase their understanding of why cataloguing standards of quality are a necessity for e-book records.

 

Introduction

The quality of MARC bibliographic records for e-books provided by vendors and publishers has been a concern for libraries. Many researchers describe the quality of some vendor-supplied records as inconsistent and poor quality (Delquié & Polanka, 2011, p.148; Mugridge & Edmunds, 2012, p.155; Minčić-Obradović, 2011, p.89).

David and Thomas (2012) write that although these records are inconsistent and of poor quality they are not representative of the overall quality of e-book records. They cite a MARC record study done in 2012 for The Ontario Council of University Libraries which considered MARC data elements such as author, title, and year of publication. The result showed that 88.6% of records matched the required content. The problematic records can be contributed by certain vendors and publishers. The problems associated with these records are usually caused by the vendor either not or only partially applying cataloguing standards and authority control (Minčić-Obradović, 2009, p.24). Rossmann, Foster and Babbitt (2009) question whether ‘perfect’ vendor-supplied records are necessary. ‘Perfect’ is idealistic however retrievable metadata is a necessity for the functioning of any library catalogue (OPAC).

Blummer & Kenton (2012) argue that if vendors could be encouraged to adopt the e-monograph guides issued by the PCC Provider Neutral E-Monograph Task Force then the problems associated with these records would be greatly reduced. These guidelines offer a standardization of the MARC e-book records and thereby raise the level of cataloguing quality. The guidelines were first implemented in August 2009 with the recommendation that all e-monographic resources catalogued on OCLC should follow their guidance. The value of a provider-neutral (P-N) record is that it has one single bibliographic record for  the same e-book available via different e-book providers (Culbertson, Mandelststam & Prager, 2011).  P-N e-monographic MARC records for batch loading can be supplied by a publisher, vendor or utility, such as OCLC (Mugridge & Edmunds, 2012, p.155).

The importance of a good quality bibliographic records is illustrated by Minčić-Obradović (2011, p.89), where she shows that usage of the SpringerLink e-book collection by end users has multiplied after the quality of bibliographic records was improved. On the basis of this it could be argued that the standards of quality and access usage are dependent on each other.

With the growing importance of e-books to the University of Auckland Library and Learning Services there is a need for MARC bibliographic e-book records to be both reliable and of a high enough quality to allow easy retrieval by users when searching the Library catalogue. As a cataloguer working with e-book records I am aware that not all received records meet this criteria. This prompted me to access the quality of MARC bibliographic e-book records received from four different cataloguing agencies by the University of Auckland’s Library and Learning Services. The aim was to establish whether the cataloguing standard of e-book records would allow the successful functioning of a library catalogue. A functionality based on the quality of data. MARC bibliographic records for e-books contribute to this data.

The University of Auckland Library and Learning Services obtained their first e-book records in 1998.  At this time only a few hundred records were added to the catalogue (Minčić-Obradović, 2011, p.4). By the end of 2012 e-books represented 28.41% of all material in the Library’s catalogue and 39.17% of all books (University of Auckland Library, 2012). The varying quality of MARC e-book records from different suppliers has been noticeable. This study explores the quality of bibliographic records for e-books received by the Cataloguing Department.

The study will consider the implications of the quality of e-book records for present day library users when searching in traditional OPACs and in new discovery systems such as Primo.

Consideration will also be given to the requirement that data needs to be of a high standard to allow the interoperability of data between libraries. This is for the following reasons:

  • To facilitate processes such as the exchange of data between the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) and the National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa.

  • To permit the automated processing of data such as the OSMOSIS project. OSMOSIS software allows the movement of bibliographic holdings from the Library’s database to the New Zealand National Union Catalogue (NUC) database.

  • To enable future conversion of data, allowing one library catalogue to merge with another.

  • To enable any future re-use of the Library data via Linked Data.

 

The hope is that this study will add to the understanding of why a high standard of quality data, in the form of e-book records, is a requirement for present day catalogue operations, and also a requirement when considering future developments, such as the Bibliographic Framework Transition Initiative (BIBFRAME) that is currently being developed by the Library of Congress.

The standard of quality of MARC bibliographic records for e-books supplied by some vendors and publishers has been questioned since e-book records were first made available by vendors/publishers (Rossmann, Foster and Babbitt, 2009, p. 546). This study argues that there are ramifications of poor quality bibliographic records for e-books. Poor quality content impedes the successful retrieval by users when searching the Library Catalogue. The implications go beyond the confines of the Library’s catalogue. Poor quality records have the ability to risk the interoperable processes of data between libraries.

The standard of quality is the underlying element of this study therefore the study discusses two main questions:

  • What is the quality of bibliographic records for e-books that The University of Auckland Library and Learning Services receives from vendors and publishers?

  • What are the ramifications of such quality?

 

Methodology

The methodology used to answer the posed questions is quantitative. This method was selected because of its ability to provide the measure of standard of bibliographic records, and thus evaluate the quality of bibliographic records for e-books. Creswell (2014) states “quantitative research is an approach for testing objective theories by examining the relationship among variables” (p.4). In this case study, the variables such as MARC coding, date, General Material Designation (GMD), and punctuation in e-book records will be measured by MARC Report, a quality control software program developed by The MARC of Quality Company. MARC Report is able to check the MARC data for coding and cataloguing errors. It cross-checks the validity of MARC records by looking at the internal cataloguing logic of each record in accordance with Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR) instructions, or Resource Description and Access (RDA) instructions. The functionality of this process applies quality control to MARC records. The quantitative research approach has the underlying strength of reliability. This meansthat if “the data collection was replicated; the procedures should generate the same result” (Davidson & Tolich, 2003, p.34).

The study compares MARC e-book records from four different cataloguing agencies received by the University of Auckland Library’s Cataloguing Department. One agency is a library, one a library cooperative, and two are vendors: National Library of New Zealand (NLNZ), Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), Springer Link and Emerald.  These agencies have been selected because they provide a cross-section of e-book records, the files are of a similar size, and the Cataloguing Department receives files from each agency on a monthly basis.

The analysed records were received between 1st October 2012 and 31st March 2013 – a six month period. There was a total of 5,042 bibliographic records in the file.

MARC Report is able to provide ‘reports’ of all the errors found in any given file before the file is loaded on to the Library’s Catalogue.  The reports analyze the data breaking the errors down into MARC field display. It is the collation of this data on which the quality of supplied MARC records will be based.

There are some limitations when using MARC Report. The program is unable to recognize whether the correct subject headings or authorities have been applied to a record or ascertain whether a string of data, such as the title is correct in spelling, and punctuation. These elements of a record require manual checking and this was done by the researcher (a cataloguer in the department).

 

Discussion

All agencies use the e-monograph guides issued by PCC Provider Neutral E-Monograph Task Force (Culbertson, Mandelststam & Prager, 2011). The guidelines offer a standardization of the MARC e-book format and thereby raise the level of quality.

 

Question 1: What is the quality of bibliographic records for e-books that the University of Auckland Library and Learning Services receives from vendors and publishers?

The analysis has found that the overall quality of bibliographic records for e-books received from the four different cataloguing sources were of a high enough standard to allow retrieval when searching the Library’s OPAC. Of 5,042 e-book records that were evaluated, three quarters complied with the standards set by the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules and/or Resource Description and Access instructions. It is these standards by which the Cataloguing Department evaluates the level of accuracy. Although the standard of record data was generally high, there were some problematic records. But as David and Thomas (2012) write, the problematic records are not representative of the overall quality of e-book records. This appraisal by David and Thomas (2012) is based on a “random sample of Ebook titles drawn for each load batch (based on a confidence level of 99%)”. It does not focus on specific vendors and publishers.

MARC Report analysis did show that there were common errors in the MARC bibliographic e-book records received from all four sources. These were: the General Material Designation (GMD), punctuation, date and indicators. These mistakes are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

pie graph of common Marc e-book errors
 

 

The General Material Designation (GMD) is entered in records following Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd edition (AACR2). Records following Resource Description and Access (RDA), which comprised around 10% of total records, should not have GMD. However, it was found that  some of the RDA records included the GMD. The records with both Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd edition (AACR2) and Resource Description and Access (RDA) elements are hybrid records.  The University of Auckland Library and Learning Services accepts hybrid e-book records as these ‘intergrated elements’ are unlikely to impede retrieval when searching a library catalogue or the interoperability of data between libraries.

The GMD problems were varied, and included errors such as the delimiter not being applied therefore the subfield was not established.  An example of the General Material Designation errors is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2

GMD errors

               Number

                      GMD

              Error

3

      [electronic resource]

 ±h delimiter missing

7

/ ±h [electronic resource]

No punctunation before subfield ±h

10

±h [electronic resource] ±n ±p

±h is after ±n ±p

2

±b ±h [electronic resource]

±h is before ±b

1

±h [electronic resourece]

Mis-spelt

5

±h [electronic resources]

Mis-spelt

 

There was not one specific MARC field that  was more problematic than others in terms of the punctuation errors.  Most errors are related to end of field punctuation being wrong. For example, there were records where the 245 field would not have a full-stop, and  the 246 field, which doesn’t require end punctuation, would. This, however, would not obstruct searching and the obtaining of library material.

The problems with dates were caused by different dates entered in MARC 008 field and the 260 field.  For example, a record has 2012 in the 008 field, and the publication date given as 2011 in the 260 field. This could be confusing for library patrons and potentially lead them to question whether they have the correct edition of an e-book record for a title.

The incorrect indicators were perhaps the most concerning of the errors. A wrong indicator in MARC 245 field will retrict title searching in the traditional library catalogues such as Voyager. The following example illustrates the problem:

MARC tag 245 indicators 1 5 title An introduction to young children with special needs.

The indicator 5 should be 3 to enable this item to be retreived by title search. The incorrect indicator means that this title can only be located by keyword searching.

To remedy problems with records received from providers, at the The University of Auckland’s Cataloguing Department  the files are processed by MARC Report which identifies cataloguing errors. These errors are rectified by cataloguers before the e-book files are batchloaded into the Library’s Catalogue. This study’s  focus was the error rate identified by MARC Report before the  files were rectified and batchloaded. The e-book records from all the four sources were on a par for ‘common’ errors. It was not until the manual checking of the records was done that it was apparent that there was a difference in the standard of quality between the sources, National Library of New Zealand and Online Computer Library Center, and the vendors, Springer Link, and Emerald.

The libraries’ e-book record titles, authorized name, and subject headings were correct and matched the bibliographic records for the print version of the same book. When there was no bibliographic record available a check of the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) or web address confirmed that nearly all the e-book records fully represented the URL which they linked too. The few that didn’t comply were the e-book records received from the National Library of New Zealand in their monthly National Digital Heritage Archive (NDHA) package. The URL only opened to an image of the book and did not provide a full-text link of the title. The indicators in the 856 field were coded 4 (HTTP) and 0 (resource) so the expectation was that a full-text link would be provided. This problem was only found to apply to a few rare e-book titles and discussions with the National Library of New Zealand are ongoing as to why this is happening.

The vendors’ e-book record titles did match when compared to the bibliographic record for the print version of the same book. However there was an issue with name authorities. An example is this Springer Link record which gives the unauthorized name, Kaur, Baljt compared to the monograph equivalent record providing the authorized name authority, Kaur, Baljt, 1954-.

Authorized subject headings were applied to all the vendors’ e-book records. However they were problems such as: a) the subject headings were not as comprehensive as the monograph equivalent record, and b) they were not always the appropriate subject headings for the topic.

Examples of less comprehensive subject headings are:

  • Emerald record: subject headings: Charter schools $x Administration -- Private schools $x Administration.

Monograph equivalent record: subject headings: Charter schools $z United States $x Administration, School management and organization $z United States.

  • Springer Link record: subject headings: Teaching.

Monograph equivalent record: subject headings: Nuthall, Graham -- Teaching $x Research -- Learning $x Research -- Classroom environment $x Research – Teaching – Learning -- Classroom environment.

Example of inappropriate subject heading is:

  • Springer Link record: Title: Law and semiotics $h [electronic resource] ... subject heading: Social sciences.

The difference in the less comprehensive subject headings would hinder retrieval by subject heading search in a traditional OPAC. However in a new discovery system such as Primo an OPAC search by subject heading should not cause any problems. Such new systems are able to utilize the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) and group like entities in a library catalogue and/or bibliographic database to enable better display and search retrieval. The difference of topic (Law) and subject heading (Social science) is problematic and does not aid retrieval when searching the Library’s catalogue. This e-book record perhaps demonstrates the vendor’s failure to understand the principles of bibliographic description and the result is a record of poor quality (Minčić-Obradović, 2011, p.89).

 

Question 2: What are the ramifications of such quality? 

For Library patrons searching the Library’s catalogue poor quality MARC e-book records not only hinder retrieval but also have the ability to undermine the patrons’ confidence in the MARC bibliographic records for e-books product. Although this study did not survey Library patrons’ opinions on the quality of e-book records in the Library’s catalogue anecdotal information leads the researcher to believe that there is concern. Perhaps in the future a survey could be conducted to measure the University of Auckland Library and Learning Services patron’s views on the quality of e-book records in the Library’s catalogue. “Surveys have been conducted on the information-seeking behaviour of students and faculties, and their use of electronic material” (Minčić-Obradović, 2011, p.120)  but as far as the researcher is aware no surveys have been conducted specific to the University of Auckland Library and Learning Services.

The four cataloguing sources on which this study focused did generally provide e-book records which were of a high enough standard as to not impede the retrieval of a record when doing a keyword search in the Library’s catalogue. The few problematic records were mainly caused by vendors either not or only partially applying cataloguing standards and authority control (Minčić-Obradović, 2009, p.24). Rossmann, Foster and Babbitt (2009) question whether ‘perfect’ vendor-supplied records are necessary (p.547). Although some may think ‘perfect’ records are idealistic, retrievable metadata is a necessity for the functioning of any library catalogue, and for the processes which allow the interoperability of data between libraries.

Although processes such as the exchange of data, conversion of data, and the re-use of data do not match records on one aspect of MARC records alone. Poor quality data has the ability to hinder the transfer of this data. An example of this is the planned introduction of Linked Data that aims to re-use Library data. If using the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) model an authorized name heading which is correct in the title work and varies in the expression, manifestation and item of that title means that the ability to link the data is compromised. The key to the successful functioning of a library’s catalogue and the interoperability of data between libraries is the quality of the data.

The quality of the data not only applies to the exactness of data but also to the extent of content. The problem of ‘extent of content’ was demonstrated with the few rare e-book records received from the National Library of New Zealand. The e-book record title, authorized name, and subject headings were correct and matched the bibliographic record for the print version of the same book but the URL only opened to an image of the book rather that the expected full-text link of the title.

For information exchange between libraries via the process of interoperability to be successful there is a need for both exactness and completeness of data to provide a system that is dependable.

 

Conclusion

The aim of this case study was to establish the standard of quality of bibliographic records for e-books received by the University of Auckland Library and Learning Services from vendors and publishers. I looked into four sets of records created by four different cataloguing sources - National Library of New Zealand (NLNZ), Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), Springer Link and  Emerald.

The analysis and interpretation of the data found that there was variance in the standard of quality of MARC e-book records received from these different cataloguing sources. Generally this variance would not hinder the retrieval of records when searching the Library’s Catalogue or the interoperability of data between libraries. However there were exceptions. The records received from vendors and publishers were more problematic than those received from the libraries. Some of the vendor and publisher e-book records were not of a high enough standard to support the processes required of the Library’s catalogue.

The vendors and publishers have adopted the e-monograph guidelines issued by PCC Provider Neutral E-Monograph Task Force. This illustrates a desire to meet the quality standard provided by these guidelines for the MARC e-book format. It would be hoped that libraries could build on their adoption of these guidelines, and work with suppliers to improve the standard of content for MARC bibliographic records for e-books.

 

References

Blummer, B., & Kenton, J. (2012). Best practices for integrating e-books in academiclibraries: a literature review from 2005 to present. Collestion Management, 37(2), 65-97.

Creswell, J. W. (2014). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications.

Culbertson, B., Mandelstam, Y., & Prager, G. (2011). Provider-neutral e-monograph MARC record guide. Retrieved March 21, 2013, fromhttp://www.loc.gov/aba/pcc/bibco/documents/PN-Guide.pdf

David, R. & Thomas, D. (2012). “It’s all in the metadata”: towards a better QA for Ebooks. Retrieved March 20, 2013, from http://libraryassessment.org/bm~doc/David_Ravit_2012.pdf

Davidson, C., & Tolich, M. (Eds.). (2003). Competing traditions. In Social science research in New Zealand: Many paths to understanding (pp. 23-38). Auckland, New Zealand: Longman.

Delquié, E., &, S. (2011). E-book standards. In Polanka, S. (Ed.), No shelf required (pp. 135-151). Chicago, Ill: American Library Association.

Minčić-Obradović, K. (2009). Ten years on: E-books at the University of Auckland Library. Serials, 22(3), 23-29.

Minčić-Obradović, K. (2011). E-books in academic libraries. Oxford, UK: Chandos Publishing.

Mugridge, R. & Edmunds, J. (2012). Batchloading MARC bibliographic records: current practices and future challenges in large research libraries. Library Resources & Technical Services, 56 (3), 155-165.

Rossmann, D., Foster, A., & Babbitt, E. (2009) E-book MARC records: Do they make the mark? Serials, 22 (3), supp., S46-S50.

The University of Auckland Library. (2012). The University of Auckland Library annual report. Auckland, New Zealand: Author.