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The impact of electronic publishing on library services and resources in the UK

3.4.2 Bibliographic control

Librarians require good, reliable information about the availability of information in electronic media, in order to facilitate its identification, selection and acquisition (or, in some cases, access). Thus some form of bibliographic framework is required. An agreed set of descriptive standards, if not exactly cataloguing rules, is urgently needed. [Subject retrieval is dealt with in section 3.7.3.] A useful starting point is provided by the National Library of Medicine 'Recommended Formats for Bibliographic Citation' (ref15), which includes a Chapter XII on Electronic information formats. This defines the elements required for citations from serials in electronic formats, from bulletin boards, and from electronic mail.

The British Library itself is naturally taking a keen interest in developments in this area. electronic publication material at present received by the BL is catalogued and held, and can be retrieved by subject like any printed publication. It cannot, however, be retrieved by document type. Audio-visual materials are at present deposited on a voluntary basis.

Practical examples of the problems to be faced by libraries generally are being exposed at De Montfort University, where a research project has been comparing the use of conventional and electronic books (ref16) .

Questions raised have included:

Is a scanned image of a published text the same edition as the print version?

Should electronic books be clearly described according to their form?

Can a system be set up for sharing records for electronic texts or will every library create its own local records?

Another problem, related to the latter question, is that of creating individual catalogue records for items in compendia sources such as ADONIS. This needs to be addressed by suppliers of bibliographic records.

One possible response to the changing pattern of distribution of publications, the feasibility of which is being explored by the National Bibliographic Service, is the setting up of a National Bibliographic Database, to provide a pool of records which would be a national resource to be drawn upon by individual libraries, cooperatives and commercial organisations.(ref17)

A task force has been set up by Book Industry Communication (BIC) together with the CD-ROM Standards and Practices Action Group (CD-ROM/SPAG) with the aim of defining a minimum set of bibliographic elements for the identification and use of CD-ROMs. This has been proving particularly complex because it is necessary to include, for example, details of hardware needed, in order to determine whether a particular disc is locally useable.

Woodward points out that electronic journals have to be integrated into library collections, through standard cataloguing procedures, and comments that 'the whole question of national and international bibliographical control remains a vexed one which is unlikely to be resolved in the near future'. With regard to the cataloguing of remote electronic journals and databases, as distinct from those actually held within a library, a useful paper has been published by Thorburn.

Bulletin boards

Bulletin boards give rise to a specific set of problems of bibliographical control. The different categories identified in section 2.9 each have different requirements.

The first category, archival material, requires the ability to name the service on which the information is or was published, such that each item has a unique reference. Only the final versions of refereed papers need to be stored archivally and to be referenced. The service operator would need to give some undertaking that every item would be retrievable and backed up in some depth if a fully archivable electronic publishing option were to be viable for academic journals. In addition, a refereed paper would need to be explicitly so described, perhaps as an addendum to the title, so that it was clearly seen to be such a paper both on the bulletin board and in any subsequent citing. Alternatively, the service might need to be restricted to refereed papers only, with another service for non-refereed papers. For the second category, referred to as 'Evolving works having a history', the service needs to ensure that a document is traceable back through its history but probably for a limited period. References to such material would need to be able to specify the family of documents and/or images, etc. and dates could be very important.

In the case of the third category (c), correspondence should be considered to be ephemeral of intent and no control need presumably be exercised.

Lastly, in the case of information services, there is an implicit need for control by the service provider. This sort of service on a bulletin board would simply require a specific date in the reference. Data and changes to it would need to be kept for a limited period so that if any defamatory or otherwise harmful information were included, there would be some record of its existence.

These four areas depend on the ability of the service provider to:

Identify the service offered as one of the types listed above;

Provide a unique referencing system for the content of each service;

Have the physical capacity to store a large quantity of data;

State the time limits during which data would be held and how archival material can be retrieved if it is not kept on current files.

It also requires a consensus on the part of the legal and other professions on how long data needs to be kept. For example, even in a correspondence type bulletin board, potentially libellous information could be displayed and then removed before any legal action.

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