What about e-books?

At SCIS workshops a popular topic of discussion is e-books in school libraries. This blog post provides an update on what SCIS is doing about e-books.

What e-books will I find in SCIS?

SCIS catalogues e-books from a number of publishers and vendors. In most cases schools are unable to send e-books to their SCIS cataloguing agency (due to digital rights and access restrictions) so we are reliant on publishers and e-book system providers for the access that allows us to catalogue e-books.

Note that as titles may be available from more than one e-book supplier SCIS is in the process of changing its cataloguing standards to favour provision of provider-neutral e-book records that do not link to a specific supplier.

SCIS regularly catalogues e-books from the following  e-book providers and vendors

Screen shot from SCIS catalogue
Subject search for e-books in the SCIS catalogue

What about free e-books?

SCIS catalogues Project Gutenberg and public domain e-book material on request from schools if they are seen to be relevant to curriculum or literature programs across a range of schools.
Search the SCIS Catalogue for Project Gutenberg e-books [login required].

What if I can’t find an e-book record in SCIS?

We are keen to ensure that the e-book resources schools are acquiring are catalogued promptly.
Contact your SCIS cataloguing agency with details of the resource you have purchased and we will investigate how to access this in order to catalogue it.

SCIS Catalogue features

Have you checked out the new SCIS Catalogue launched last week?
As well as a fresh look, there are a number of features that will be appreciated by SCIS users.

Search filters

The search limits available in previous versions of SCIS OPAC are still available (year, place, type, format and language), but search limits have been supplemented in this version of the Catalogue by the ability to filter the results following your initial search. These filters are found in the right hand column of the search results page.

SCIS Catalogue filter options
Search filters

Log in to the SCIS Catalogue and try the filters on a search for World Cup.

If you have requests for other filters you would like to see included as default, please let us know.

Timeout warning

A new timeout countdown feature alerts you if your search session has been idle for some time and is about to be reset.
Extension to the timeout period is also being trialled following a server upgrade.


The Voyager 7.0 WebVoyáge user interface was developed to comply with international industry accessibility standards.

Mobile devices

The new SCIS Catalogue is designed to display well and resize for use on various mobile devices.

Technical infrastructure

The SCIS Catalogue is now on a separate server at address: http://opac.scis.curriculum.edu.au which means it can function independently in the event of downtime on other SCIS services such as SCISWeb. If your network settings or firewall need to be changed as a result, please contact SCIS for the IP address of this server.

New SCIS Catalogue

From 3 October 2011 the SCIS catalogue will undergo a major upgrade.

This involves implementation of

Design concept for SCIS catalogue
  1. a new version of the Voyager library system which underpins the SCIS service
  2. a new, more intuitive interface design for the SCIS Catalogue
  3. a new server platform.

We will endeavour to keep disruptions to a minimum during this time.

You will be able to follow the progress of the upgrade via:

  • news postings on the SCIS website
  • the SCIS twitter account and
  • email messages to subscribers.
    Please ensure you have a valid email address registered with SCIS so that we can keep you informed. Simply log in to SCISWeb,  and go to My Profile to add or update your email address.

Authority files: getting started

Are you new to SCIS authority files, or not sure about the best workflow for your library? This post outlines the decision making process as a simple guide to getting started with authority files.

Why should we load SCIS authority files into our catalogue?
Check out this post on why SCIS authority files are valuable.

How do we decide which file(s) to download?

SCIS Authority Files page

When you are faced with the SCIS Authority Files page for the first time, there are three key decisions to consider.

  1. Subject or Name authority first?
    SCIS provides authority files for subjects and for names. We suggest you start with the subject authority file as this provides maximum benefit to searchers of your catalogue.
    Then repeat the process for the name authority once you have completed the subject authority.
  2. Reference only or Full authority files?
    Reference only Authority Files are highly recommended as the minimum for all schools. Importing authority records with see or see also references greatly enhances the power of search for users of your library system.
    If most of your catalogue records are sourced from SCIS and you do little or no original cataloguing, loading the SCIS Reference only Authority Files is a good first step. Note: You can always load the full authority files later if you find you need these.
    Full Authority Files contain the entire set of authority records from the SCIS database.
    Does your library have a qualified cataloguer who creates a significant number of original catalogue records, and would benefit from access to the full list of SCIS headings from within the cataloguing and/or authorities module of your library system? In this case the Full Authority Files could be the best choice.
  3. MARC or ascii format?
    Different library systems require different formats for importing SCIS authority files. You will need to check with your library system vendor support team about which to use. Please ensure you consult the most recent documentation for your system.

So, how do we proceed with download and import?

  1. It is advisable to do a full backup of your library system before loading authorities for the first time.
  2. Download the required authority file from the SCIS Authority Files page [SCIS Authority Files subscription required].
  3. Activate the process in your library management system to import or upload the authority file.
  4. Run any updating or indexing workflow required by your library system.

How do we know the authorities are working?

  1. Do an OPAC subject search for a common non-preferred term, such as
    Cooking (should redirect to Cookery), Chickens (should redirect to Poultry) or Hurricanes (should redirect to Cyclones).
  2. If you loaded the Full Subject Authority File, then check in your library system’s authorities or cataloguing module for new subject headings from the latest SCIS Subject Heading List.

Further help for SCIS Authority Files

Cataloguing e-books

A new version of the SCIS Standards for Cataloguing and Data Entry, including guidelines for cataloguing e-books, was published on the SCIS website in December 2010. The SCIS Information Services Standards Committee (ISSC) spent some time grappling with the issue of multiple e-book formats and providers before making a number of policy decisions.

The following presentation outlines issues related to cataloguing of e-books and is based on a SCIS ISSC discussion paper.

View more presentations from SCIS

New SCIS subject headings for electronic devices

The SCIS Information Services Standards Committee met by teleconference on 25 May 2011. The major outcome of the teleconference is a revision of the SCIS subject heading hierarchy covering types of computers and device names.

The New South Wales SCIS agency prepared the original paper which was raised for discussion in February 2011.  As the paper was complex and included many aspects of the subject area of computers and related devices, further discussion and consultation, particularly with the WA SCIS agency was required before the proposal was approved.

New headings for the following categories of devices are now available:

Digital media players
E-book readers
Interactive whiteboards
Laptop computers
Pocket computers
Portable computers
Tablet computers

Most of these headings allow for the construction of further headings for specific devices, such as iPad (Tablet computer) and Kindle (E-book reader).

Further details of the changes will be announced in the term 3 2011 issue of Connections (issue 78).

New in SCIS series

Below is an important message about a change to the SCIS Cataloguing Standards which was sent to school library management system vendors on 31 March 2011.

Thangmar Göttingen, SUB Library, Lesesaal, old bibliographies, Public domain
Gottingen, Old bibliographies by Thangmar 2005, PD

The MARC 440 field (Series statement/Added entry – Title) was made obsolete in the international standard in 2008.

In 2009 SCIS announced its intention to stop using 440 and use both the 490 and 830 tags as prescribed in the standard. Tag 490 is part of the description of the resource, and contains the series statement as it appears on the item; tag 830 is the series access point or added entry. In some cases the data in the two fields may be identical. SCIS does not use fields 800, 810 and 811 as it prefers to provide series access by title rather than name/title.

For new records, SCIS is now using 490 and 830 as required. Records created prior to the changeover retain the series added entry in the 440 field. Your local system should provide for searching and displaying both 440 and 830 as series titles. Both 490 and 830 are repeatable, ie there may be more than one 490 or 830 in a single record.

You can find some examples of 490 and 830 fields in the updated MARC coding section of the SCIS standards.

For full details see the MARC 21 Format for Bibliographic Data.


Library system vendors have indicated that they either already support this standard, or are planning to implement it and that school libraries should experience minimal change as a result of this update. Please contact your support person if you have further questions about how this works in your system.

A more in-depth article on the series cataloguing standards change will be available in Connections Issue 77 arriving in schools in Term 2 2011.

Why authority files?

What are authority files?

Authority files list the Preferred Term for each concept in a Controlled Vocabulary.  In practice, they also may contain variant terms.
A Variant Term may be a synonym, an abbreviation, an acronym, a misspelled version of the Preferred Term, or any other term that a researcher or Search Engine might like to use to find the concept.

‘Authority file’ n.d., Taxonomy Glossary, Taxotips

What benefit are SCIS authority files?

In the case of SCIS authority files, the cross-references that establish relationships between subject terms provide additional functionality to catalogue searching. It would be an extremely time consuming process to enter references manually into your library catalogue each time you use a new subject heading, whereas SCIS authority files do this work automatically to:

  • enhance subject searching by students and staff
  • improve retrieval rates of the most appropriate resources
  • increase usage of resources
  • provide a cost-effective library solution

How do authority files enhance resource discovery?

Authority FilesAs a controlled vocabulary specifically for print and digital educational resources, SCIS Authority Files provide enhanced subject retrieval for school catalogues.
For example, a student searches for ‘dieting’ in your library system. Without SCIS Authority Files the student will not locate all the resources. With SCIS Authority Files the student will locate more relevant resources because SCIS maps their subject searches to related subjects.

Susan Marshall from Chilton Saint James School says

What I like most about SCIS Authority Files is that even if our users enter a non-preferred search term they will be taken to the available resources for the preferred term.“See also” references are also provided to suggest alternative subjects to search.

What does it cost?

Government schools in ACT, NSW, SA and WA are provided with SCIS Authority Files by their school system.
For other Australian schools the 2011 cost is AU$85.00 and for international subscribers AU$77.00.

Complete the SCIS authority file order form

2010 in stats

As we finish the 2010 school year in Australia and New Zealand, and with many libraries completing a stocktake, there may be some interest in statistics for annual reports.

SCIS has a feature in MyProfile that quickly counts the total records that a user has processed during the year.

Take a guess at how many catalogue records you think you have downloaded – then check out your library’s total.

SCISMyProfile500Go to the SCIS website
Click on My SCISWeb to login in
Go to MyProfile on the banner

From the main tab, click on
Records ordered this yearcheck here (may take a few moments to calculate)


SCIS Vital Statistics

So how has SCIS itself gone this year?

Thanks to our wonderful team of cataloguers, a total of 48,766 resources has been catalogued in 2010 (to 9 Dec)

7,866,341 catalogue records have been processed by SCIS users in 2010 (to 9 Dec) – an average of 151,276 records per week.
What a wealth of resources and literature supporting learning that represents through school libraries!

Would you care to celebrate and share some statistics from your school library’s activities in 2010?

Urgent Z39.50 access message

SCIS Z39.50 IP change Tuesday 23 Nov 2010

All SCIS Z39.50 subscribers should be using the host address name: z3950.scis.curriculum.edu.au as advised on the SCIS Z39.50 help page.

Today, Tuesday 23 November 2010, the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) is planning to turn off an old IP address (

For most SCIS Z39.50 subscribers this should have no impact at all, but for some systems it may require a change to router or firewall as outlined below.

If possible, please test your Z39.50 access to SCIS today to ensure it is working. If it is? Cheer and take no further action.

If you experience the ‘Failed to connect’ or other error message, please contact your library’s technical support in the first instance and provide them with the following router / firewall settings to allow an additional access list as follows:


Protocol: TCP
Port: 7090

In some cases the system may require a flush of the DNS to remove the old IP address.
Click on the Start button (bottom left of Windows computer)
‘Start’ -> ‘Run’ -> type the command ipconfig /flushdns (note the space between ipconfig and /)
and press <Enter>

If you have any questions about this process, or require further assistance at any stage, please contact the SCIS helpdesk
By email: scisinfo@esa.edu.au
By phone: 1800 337 405 (free call within Australia outside Melbourne)  or +61 3 9207 9600 or +61 8 8334 3209

SO WHAT IS Z39.50?

An introduction to Z39.50 is the subject of a separate blog post.