Is there life beyond MARC?

SCIS forges into a new frontier

The Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) is working with several major school library management system vendors in Australia and New Zealand to revolutionise how library catalogue records are distributed to schools.

Pre-web technologies are widespread in the global library industry, including the 50-year-old Machine Readable Cataloguing (MARC) for encoding data, and the 40-year-old z39.50 protocol for transferring it. These standards are reliable, widespread and consistent. However, these standards also mean it can be difficult for library systems to interact with other systems, and that library catalogue data can be limited in what information it can convey, and how it can be represented to end users.

With its new RESTful APIs, SCIS is breaking ground by enabling school libraries to move to a modern web-based standard to upload its catalogue data.

The SCIS RESTful APIs will result in improved research and information literacy opportunities for students. They will provide library management systems – and their users – the option to move away from the MARC standard, making it possible to provide schools with new data elements from SCIS education vocabularies. These data elements will include information about education use and purpose of resources – elements which are of real practical use to students and educators in their research for learning and literacy.

From its instigation in 1984, SCIS has provided school libraries with the unique benefits of being a one-stop shop for quality library catalogue data with specific relevance to educational settings.

SCIS is a business unit of Education Services Australia, a not-for-profit government-owned developer of educational technology solutions. For further information, please visit

Personalising the SCIS experience

At SCIS, we have been working closely with library system vendors to improve the SCIS experience.  We have made two changes to enable libraries to select the download options that will best suit the library system that they are using.

These options can be found and edited under the School/Organisation Settings in My Profile. You will find this by clicking on your library name in the top right corner after logging into SCIS Data.

Download preference

The SCIS default is for records and cover images to be downloaded together in a single, zipped folder.  For libraries that prefer not to receive records in zip files, or who do not want to download cover images, we have added an option to separate marc records and cover images.

If the option to separate MARC records and cover images is selected, you will see two buttons on the downloads page.  One for records, and one for images.

Holding format

The SCIS default for call numbers is the MARC 082 tag. If your library system requires call numbers to be output in the location (MARC 852) tag to create a copy record, you may select the MARC holdings format.

If you are unsure about whether either of these options best suits your system, please consult with your library management system vendor.

Please refer to the SCIS help article about record preferences for more information.

We will be covering profile settings and downloading in the SCIS workshops in Perth on 27th February and in Melbourne on the 7th and 14th March. For more information about these workshops, or to register, please visit our Professional learning page.

The dreaded case of duplicate ISBNs

Doreen Sullivan
SCIS Cataloguing team leader

Have you ever had this experience? You search for or download the record for an ISBN and a completely different title is returned. Huh? How could SCIS have gotten it so wrong?

In most cases, this is not a mistake. The fact is, sometimes publishers print the same ISBN on more than one of their publications. Although ISBNs are meant to be unique to each title edition, it is surprisingly common for publishers to give the same ISBN to different books.

These are known as ‘duplicate ISBNs’ or ‘ISBN duplicates’, and they are frustrating for all concerned. It means that the same ISBN could show in two or more SCIS records.

Continue reading The dreaded case of duplicate ISBNs

$20 voucher for ELR participants

Educational Lending Right (ELR) is an Australian cultural program administered by the Office for the Arts, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. ELR scheme makes payments to eligible Australian creators and publishers whose books are held in school libraries.
600 schools have been invited to participate in this year’s Educational Lending Right school library survey. If you are one of the lucky ones chosen, we hope you are able to follow the instructions to provide a data file report or back-up file. And that is the survey done!75. ELR image 1This year participants will be given a $20 gift voucher from Curriculum Press, redeemable until end of term 1 2011. More information is available about Educational Lending Right.

Connections 75 ready to read

You can read the latest issue of Connections online. Copies have been mailed to all Australian schools.
There are articles of interest for everyone involved in school library activities. Let us know what you think of this issue.

Thinking about ebooks

75. Thinking about ebooks image 3
Ebook demonstration at Web 2.0 expo, San Francisco 2010, courtesy of Flickr

Stephen Abram describes and discusses the ebook, looking at what it is, and what it is not. He discusses fiction versus non-fiction, reference material and textbooks, and how the ebook can enhance usability. Read more …

Your school library collection: a catalyst for creating writers
Maxine Ramsay discusses the use of text types in the teaching of writing to young students. She explains how teachers and library staff can identify and assist in the effective discovery of good text examples within their library collection. Read more …

The highs and lows of establishing an online community
Kerry Franta describes EnhanceTV’s experience of creating an online community. It is important for members to share a common interest and to be passionate enough about it to contribute online. Read more …

Digital participation, digital literacy and schools
Through developing digital literacy in their students, educators are enhancing young people’s ability to use digital media, strengthening their knowledge and learning skills, as well as providing them with the capacity to participate and interact in wider social and cultural settings. Read more …

From little things big things grow
The third instalment of Nigel Paull’s account of a new BER library focuses on library design essentials. Read more …

RDA changes from AACR2

During July and August 2010 SCIS cataloguers took advantage of the free trial period to preview Resource Description and Access (RDA), the new standard which is intended to replace the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR2).

SCIS will make initial preparations for the implementation of RDA by activating new MARC fields in our Voyager library management system when we upgrade to Voyager version 7 during the latter part of 2010. This will allow us to produce test records created according to RDA rules and evaluate the likely impact for schools. We will of course be consulting with school library management system vendors to ensure that any changes to SCIS records are compatible with school library systems.

RDA changes likely to have the most impact on school library systems are the replacement of the GMD with three new MARC fields: 336 (Content type), 337 (Media type) and 338 (Carrier type). For example a DVD title coded according to AACR2 as:

245 00 |a Avatar |h [videorecording]

would be coded according to RDA as:

245 00 |a Avatar
336      |a two-dimensional moving image |2 rdacontent
337      |a video |2 rdamedia
338      |a videodisc |2 rdacarrier

Most of the other RDA changes can be readily accommodated in the MARC fields currently used by SCIS. These changes will impact on data consistency rather than systems. For example in RDA the abbreviations N.T. and O.T. are spelled out as New Testament and Old Testament, but omitted in headings for individual books of the Bible. Thus a heading such as Bible. N.T. Corinthians becomes simply Bible. Corinthians.

For more information, including links to key presentations and articles about RDA, see the Australian Committee on Cataloguing.

Strategic review of SCIS

In June 2010 we invited SCIS subscribers to respond to a user survey, as part of a strategic review of SCIS. This review is being undertaken by library consulting company Libraries Alive! The review is to develop strategies to ensure that SCIS continues to meet the needs of its users into the future.

Strategic planning helps future direction
Strategic planning helps future direction

We were delighted to receive more than 1300 responses, which is a high response rate for a survey. Thank you to all the schools who took time to provide us with their views. Your comments clearly show that time savings are fundamental to the appeal of SCIS.

The consultants have delivered a draft report which notes the many benefits our customers experience using SCISWeb. These include school-ready subject headings, consistent quality records, effective support and use of the database to identify materials for purchase or classroom use. More information about the outcomes of the review will be provided here in our blog when the final report is available.

Connections 74 hits the streets and online!

Courtesy of  flickrCC:

The current issue of Connections has a bumper crop of original articles! 

If you want to share information of relevance and importance to school libraries, please contact the Connections Editor.

Image courtesy of flickrCC.


See and See Also what we have!

Visual representation of references
Visual representation of references

SCIS Authority Files (SCIS AF) have been updated with Edition 2 2010.

Once logged into SCISWeb at the Authority Files tab is available to open the SCIS AF page, if you have a current subscription. Several Education Departments (NSW, WA and SA) support their schools with access to SCIS AF.

SCIS AF are separate index files of authorised names and subjects used as access points in SCIS catalogue records, and are released twice a year as downloadable files ready for implementation in your library management system.

All SCIS catalogue records downloaded from SCISWeb contain authorised SCIS Subject Headings but no cross-references to other related terms to support user searching in the local OPAC. See and See also references between related terms are important for assisting the user to find resources on similar subjects.

Book Week 2010

What is the longest running children’s festival in Australia?

Who is the national patron of the Children’s Book Council of Australia?

What is the theme of this year’s Book Week?

Where can you find the Short List and Notables List for the categories for Children’s Book of the Year?

Questions that any library would be happy to answer! Find the answers to these questions and more information from CBCA’s Book Week. The pages contain great ideas for celebrating Book Week in school libraries. There are also links to other sites which have created resources for promoting Book Week, which is celebrated from 21 to 27 August 2010.

Book Week helps encourage Australian book creation. Our children should have access to Australian literature as part of their reading development. Who do you think will win in the five categories? This year’s Children’s Book of the Year is announced on Friday 20 August 2010. We will have to wait for the big announcements which are usually reported in the major newspapers the next day.