> -----Original Message-----
> From: Code for Libraries [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On
> Behalf Of Walter Lewis
> Sent: Friday, February 18, 2005 3:34 PM
> Surely *the* most anachronistic exercise is ISBD punctuation. This
> was stupid in the original version of MARC and makes even less sense
> over the years.
Actually, it wasn't in the *original* version of MARC (1968). ISBD
punctuation (although existing earlier) became "official" in *cataloging
rules* (AACR2) in 1978 (it was already "official" or quasi-official in
some previously published AACR chapter revisions). Since MARC
transcribed data as prescribed by the cataloging rules, that's how it
entered into MARC records.
ISBD punctuation served two primary functions, one visually related and
the other computer related: (1) the prescribed punctuation ("prescribed"
because it was created to be deliberately different from "normal"
punctuation) served an information identification function for viewers
(staff and public) of the (card) catalog--that is, the prescribed
punctuation identified what kind of information followed it, much like
MARC tags and subfields identify the kind of information contained in
them; and (2) it was hoped that the use of prescribed punctuation
*might* make the task of machine-readable conversions (via OCR) of card
catalogs to online catalogs easier and more practical (because of the
identification function of ISBD punctuation)--it didn't happen that way,
but that was one of the hopes.
In hindsight, the biggest mistake that the main library organizations in
general and the maintainers of MARC at the Library of Congress in
particular probably made with ISBD punctuation (or any intersubfield
punctuation, for that matter) was to include it rather than to exclude
it in MARC records. Excluding such separating punctuation means that
the data is much more flexible because it's up to computers to
automatically include separating punctuation in displays (screen or
print), *if desired*, according to whatever punctuation style (ISBD or
otherwise) a library wants. Including the punctuation that's found in
printed hardcopy is redundant in a MARC system because the tags and
subfields *already* delimit the data. What you end up with is double
delimiting. What's really interesting is that interfield ISBD
prescribed punctuation (such as space-dash-space or paragraph) *is*
excluded in MARC, but not intersubfield punctuation.
It's probably possible to strip out current punctuation (ISBD prescribed
or older styles) between subfields, but I doubt anybody's (LC, OCLC,
etc.) ever going to do it unless there's a groundswell for change in how
catalogs should display data. As I said earlier, it should really be up
to the display software (whether a cataloging editor or an OPAC) to
insert separating punctuation "on the fly" if desired.
Harvey E. Hahn, Manager, Technical Services Department
Arlington Heights (Illinois) Memorial Library
Desk: 847/506-2644 -- FAX: 847/506-2650 -- E mailto:[log in to unmask]
Personal web pages: http://users.anet.com/~packrat