Why I wanted to take this course
I had been keeping an eye on the courses offered by Library Juice Academy for a while, but I had not been successful in obtaining financial support from my employer in order to enrol on one. That is why, as soon as I saw that the Cataloguing & Indexing Group was offering a sponsored place to attend the MarcEdit course, I decided to grab this opportunity! And luckily, as you can guess, my application was successful.
My current post at Abertay University involves cataloguing. I am particularly interested in metadata and I advocate for its key role in enabling discoverability. I had often heard about the great potential of MarcEdit in terms of improving metadata quality, enabling bulk editing of catalogue records. I wanted to attend the course mainly for the following three reasons:
- Acquire familiarity with this powerful tool and demonstrate to my colleagues that improving our library catalogue is not so time-consuming and complex, when using MarcEdit.
- Due to lack of time and staff, there is no plan in place for any retrospective cataloguing project. However, the quality of some of the older records is poor and I suspect that this may hinder the discoverability of the collections.
- Use MarcEdit to enhance records in order to share bibliographic information through services such as the National Bibliographic Knowledgebase.
Structure and content
The course was hosted on a Virtual Learning Environment (Moodle) and it lasted 4 weeks.
Each week included reading material and links to further resources, a group discussion, an area where to post questions, and an exercise. Missing deadlines for contributing to the group discussions meant losing points towards the final result, as I learned after missing the cut off date for the first week discussion! However, you could easily make up for it by responding to the inputs of the other participants. Furthermore, the grade required to successfully complete the course was “Pass”, and the instructor very nicely provided answer keys for each exercise, which were providential when I got stuck on a couple of occasions! There was also some flexibility for submitting the weekly assignments, which allowed participants to fit the exercises into their weekly schedule.
The key themes of each week are listed below:
- Week 1: Introduction to MarcEdit & Basic Editing Functions
- Week 2 Enhancing & Batch Processing Records
- Week 3 Building MARC
- Week 4 Regular Expressions in MarcEdit – by far the toughest and my favourite lesson!
The course involved lots of hand-on work, which is the best way to learn. The instructor, who was very responsive and helpful, provided useful feedback, tips and suggestions on how to tackle issues that course participants were experiencing at their institutions. Instructions were accompanied by screenshots, which made understanding and reproduction of commands much easier. The workload was reasonable and I really feel that there was a perfect balance between theory and practice. Unlike many other trainings I completed, on this instance I felt that, by the end of the course, I was confident enough to use the tool autonomously.
A few examples of how to employ MarcEdit that emerged from the group discussions were:
- Getting rid of non-LC subject vocabularies terms
- Generating call numbers automatically
- Setting up task lists to clean up records obtained from vendors
- Removing local fields
- Changing fields 260 to 264_1 or 440 to 490 etc.
- RDA enhancement of records
- Switching between lower/upper cases
- Editing fields, sub-fields and punctuation
- And much more!
A key takeaway from the course: MarcEdit is very much based on trial and error and not only when you are a beginner. The range of operations that you can carry out with MarcEdit is astonishing and the more you learn, the more you realise this. However, it is essential to test each command and verify that it does what you need it to do, since it is easy to get confused or distracted. MarcEdit allows you to undo the last major edit carried out, but I wouldn’t personally risk spoiling a big batch of records without having a backup.
The System Librarian and I are currently looking into using MarcEdit to edit a set of cataloguing records which contain erroneous information in their 008, which cause display issues (books showing up as print in the discovery layer, rather than electronic). Well, I am confident on how to make the changes, but we will need to look at a way of integrating MarcEdit into Alma. Hopefully, this will be the perfect chance to test the benefits that MarcEdit can bring to our collection and the start of a long and happy relationship!
Now that I have completed the course, I can confirm that MarcEdit is an extremely helpful tool and I believe all cataloguers should be familiar with it. I suggest they should teach how to use it in Library Schools, if feasible (but it is a free tool, so I do not see why it shouldn’t be??)