William E. Moen
Interim Director, Texas Center for Digital Knowledge
University of North Texas
This project briefing describes how funding from two Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership Grants is being used to: 1) explore an alternative approach for interoperability testing in the context of Z39.50 clients and servers, and MARC-based online library catalogs (Z-Interop2 Project); and 2) produce empirical evidence regarding library catalogers’ use of MARC content designation (MARC Content Designation Utilization Project). The Z-Interop2 Project has developed a method for interoperability testing using specially designed diagnostic MARC bibliographic records, which we call Radioactive MARC Records. These records support interoperability testing to assess Z39.50 protocol interoperability, information retrieval search functionality, and local indexing policies. These factors can affect the extent of interoperability between systems. Further, we have developed test scripts that automatically send test searches, retrieve results in the form of one or more of the diagnostic MARC records, and generate reports of search success or failures. Automating these processes substantially improves the efficiency of our interoperability testbed. Several sets of diagnostic MARC records have been created, differing in the content designation populated. Determining the fields and subfields to populate is based on analyzing the frequency of occurrence of the content designation in a large set of MARC records. A preliminary analysis of 400,000 MARC bibliographic records from OCLC’s WorldCat database indicated about 5% of available MARC content designation accounted for over 80% of all occurrences. Further analysis is being undertaken in the MARC Content Designation Utilization Project. We believe that the alternative approach to interoperability testing can be extended to address other protocol and metadata environments, and similarly, the methodology for analysis of MARC content designation utilization can be adapted by other metadata communities to assess the utilization of different metadata schemes.