Controlling series headings
MARC Proposal No. 2008-07 which will make field 440 obsolete in MARC 21 was apparently passed at ALA, based on discussion I have seen. The discussion included in the proposal centered on impact on local systems and OCLC.
Some comments on 2008-DP02 expressed concern about repetition of data in the 490 and 8XX fields. The benefits of a simplified decision process without an adverse impact on local systems or OCLC may outweigh the minimal consequences of repetition of fields. Simplified decision-making would also assist in training new staff and enhance series work-flows in libraries.
There were also concerns that some local systems would not be able to convert field 440 into field 490. On the other hand, it was pointed out that based on MARC principles, obsolete data fields are allowed to remain in records.
The discussion paper made the assumption that OCLC will investigate changing existing records in WorldCat to move data from the 440 field to the 490 and 8XX fields if the proposal is approved. This will support the ability to control all series headings in WorldCat bibliographic records. Parameters for selecting which records to change automatically, handling differences in the use of non-filing indicators in 440 and 830 fields, and any conflicts with existing PCC guidelines still need to be discussed with OCLC.
I see some difficulties in implementing this proposal for both local systems and OCLC, but overall I am in favor for two reasons. Separating transcription from controlled access is probably more important to catalogers and scholars than to other users of our data, but I have long been bothered by the loss of transcription when a series heading was controlled in my most recent local system. Generally the change only included presence or absence of initial articles or the word “series” but I still would have preferred retaining the series heading as transcribed. The other reason I am in favor of the proposal is that I hope it will eventually lead to uniform displays of series entries. The local system I used handled 440 very differently from 8xx, leading to the loss of collocation for series entries.