Bibliographic Management


BNB Currency Survey

This survey, measuring the currency (availability at the time required) of BNBMARC records of post 1974 published titles with UK imprints currently being acquired by UK libraries, has been carried out continuously at the cataloguing stage since January 1980, and at the ordering stage since January 1988, until it was ended on 31st March 2005.

Every month a rolling, random selection of 6 academic and 6 public libraries each provided a random sample of 10 titles they were about to catalogue and 10 titles they were about to order. The samples were returned to UKOLN, where they were checked against BNB files on the British Library database. Data from the search results were input into an Access database to enable statistical analysis to be carried out. This analysis produced the index of currency or 'hit rate'. Results were conflated over a 12-month period to avoid fluctuations caused by random and seasonal variations. A second search was carried out 12 months later, on titles for which records were not found on first search. The data from the recheck produced a revised hit rate.

The results of the survey demonstrate that, in the last few years, the British Library has significantly improved the currency of records on its database at the time they are needed by libraries.

The study also recorded data on other elements which may have affected the hit-rate (eg. CIP records, CIP record purchase, British Library cataloguing initiatives including the Copyright Libraries Shared Cataloguing Programme).

Cataloguing stage

At the cataloguing stage, hit-rates of 63-65% were recorded between 1981 and 1987. Thereafter the hit-rate rose steadily to 89 % in July 1994, declined to 81% by November 1995 after which it rose again. The hit-rate was 90% in January 2005, with a recheck hit-rate is currentlyof 92%.

Hit rate at date of sample

Hit rate six months after sample date

Ordering stage

The ordering stage survey produced an initial hit-rate of 74% in 1988. It then rose to 84% in May 1995, then declined to 79% by January 1996 after which it rose again. The hit-rate was 87% in January 2005, with a recheck hit-rate of 91%.

Hit rate at date of sample

Hit rate six months after sample date

End of survey

In March 2005, the decision was taken to end the survey. Although the methodology remained valid, a review of the survey revealed the following:

Apart from all the above difficulties, there now appears to be little interest in the survey. Analysis of the UKOLN website pages where the results are published shows few, if any, visits to these pages.

Other information

UKOLN staff who worked on the surveys: Ann Chapman, Alison Holbrook, Janet Kinsella and Alan Seal.

An archive version of the BNB Currency Survey site is available on the Internet Archive. On 13 March 2013 had been crawled 24 times going back to 31 January 2003.


Chapman, A., 1999. Availability of bibliographic records for the UK imprint. Journal of Documentation, 55 (1), pp. 6-15. Opus ID: 23779

Chapman, A., 1997. Bibliographic record provision in the UK. Library Management, 18 (3), pp. 112-123. Opus ID: 23786

Chapman, A., 1995. National library bibliographic record availability: a long-term survey. Library Resources and Technical Services (LRTS), 39 (4), pp. 345-357. Opus ID: 23787

Content by: Ann Chapman of UKOLN.
Page last revised on: 25-Mar-2013
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