MARC21 must die–according to one internet user

30 Apr

Aren’t life’s serendipitous moments amazing? I find it fascinating when things in my life suddenly collide. This time: cataloging and Code Academy.

First, have you heard of Code Academy? It’s a website that teaches people code in a simple yet robust manner in order to make the world more code/tech literate. Be warned, once you start it’s easy to get hooked! When I do get around to logging back in and coding again, I usually do a bunch of exercises in a sitting. The chunks are broken down really well so it’s easy to come back to and you do quite a few exercises in a whole lesson. More lessons are added to the site, especially since I started a couple of months ago and now it’s becoming a bigger website.

Today I sat down for the first time in a while and picked up the coding again. After I finally finished another segment (yes!), I stumbled upon an MARC21 lesson. In the description, the submitted says:

This is a project to build a short script to read a raw MARC record and display it in a more readable format. I hope that it gives cataloguing coders an idea of what a MARC21 record looks like under the hood and helps clarify the cataloguer’s opinions as to whether MARC must or mustn’t die. (HINT: it must). For more information about this project, MARC21, and a HTML version of the finished code, see However, do note that 1. This project was designed for someone who has done the first few weeks of the Code Year course. By necessity it introduces some new things and an attempt has been made to explain them and encourage the cataloguer to enter the actual lines of Javascript that make up the programme. In any case, the Hints always contain the correct code needed to proceed. 2. Output will often consist of many lines, so sometimes you will have to scroll up in the console to see what has happened. 3. Some lines (including line 1!) will always produce errors, although the script will still run. This is because MARC uses BAD and DANGEROUS characters. BAD and DANGEROUS characters are of course common in the world of cataloguing (mentioning no names…). #catcode @Orangeaurochs

Ha! The purpose of this lesson is to show catalogers just how ugly and messy MARC21 is and how it should be replaced already. I’m sure Orangeaurochs has to be an RDA supporter, since that too calls for a replacement for MARC21. On Twitter, I found his professional blog with a post that explains his Code Academy project a bit more–sweet! Also, he has more links to MARC21 information as well, for a more in-depth look, it seems. I haven’t been following the #catcode on Twitter but perhaps I will now, having gotten back into this once again.

I enjoy Code Academy and I hope you will try it out if you haven’t already. The website makes it learning code accessible to all, and there has been much refinement in the systems and interface that I’ve noticed over the months I’ve used it. Plus, the Q&A tab is very useful so check it out if the hints and tinkering still leave you stumped!

Code literacy–add that to your resume and job skills; it’s not too difficult, promise.

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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in Uncategorized


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