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Web2MARC/DL2SL: Making our OPACs more gracious hosts

It’s time to bust open the OPAC. In fact, it’s long past time.

My notion of collection development and of cataloging were a little different back in the day.

I now consider digital resources–OER, images, videos, audio files, slideshows, documents, ebooks, maps, art, student work, data sets, interactivities, simulations, and especially the elements of the world’s richest museums and archives–intrinsic parts of my collection.

I may not own them, but I use them.  And I want them discoverable and openable directly from the tool I purchased for discovery and access–my OPAC.

Until recently, my OPAC just hasn’t been all that gracious a host.  It’s been a bit open-content shy.

I’ve longed preferred my pathfinders and LibGuides as easy containers for collecting and curating and integrating open content into our instructional program.  They were so flexible and never asked me to make a MARC record.

The Digital Libraries to School Libraries (DL2SL) project, with its continually evolving Web2MARC tool, is a game changer.

The project’s goal is to

explore ways in which school librarians can use DL [digital library] open content to expand and enrich the school library’s resource base and instructional support. This project uses the newest web-based technologies to help school librarians identify DL open content, integrate open content metadata into their OPACs, and help use open content for learning.

It’s really silly, said Marcia Mardis, Assistant Professor and Associate Director, The PALM Center and the iSchool@The Florida State University and project leader:

Why aren’t we leveraging this really expensive piece of software sitting in our libraries?

First released in beta in early 2010, the Web2MARC tool was developed for people (like me) who are not especially comfortable cataloging.

Marcia shares: It gets you through the basics and scaffolds the tailoring of MARC records for open content.

Beginning with a URL, librarians can easily create downloadable MARC records. The tool scrapes any useful data. Registered users may save and edit the resulting records, download them individually or as a batch.

But wait, there’s more.

Web2MARC also offers pull-down menus of Dewey numbers (at the three-number level), autofill suggestions of LC subject headings, and Common Core Standards at the grade band and the standards level.

And there’s more:

Web2MARC comes pre-populated with records from sources like: PBS, the National Science Foundation’s National Science Digital Library (NSDL), and Utah State University’s National Library of Virtual Manipulatives.

And there will be more:

On the top of the project’s priority list is the integration of indicators from the new Granular Identifiers and Metadata for the Common Core State Standards (GIM-CCSS).  These new options will make it even easier for us to connect the items in our OPACs to specific curriculum, instruction and assessment.

Other priorities include developing packages of records, with starter packages addressing the Common Core and a special scraper for the new Digital Public Library of America’s metadata.

Instructions for grabbing open content for Web2MARC




This video describes the project and the process in detail.

Marcia, shared her vision of how the DL2SL project highlights the value of the teacher librarian’s talents to the learning community and why the the Web2MARC tool is empowering:

You have to lead from your strength and for many school librarians, their strength is the collection they’ve carefully curated with high quality digital and physical resources that are directly linked to the curriculum and personal interest needs of the students in their schools. Each collection is unique. This is not generic knowledge or knowledge anyone else in the building has. 
If you’re trying to build a collaborative relationship, you have to have a clear idea of what you bring to the table. A history teacher with 20 years of experience brings 20 years of history teaching to the table. A school librarian with 20 years experience brings 20 years of intimate collection knowledge to the table. That’s a collaboration built on strengths that when combined are so much more than powerful than each on its own.
We are at a time now when the traditional textbook is being replaced with a digital textbook. Along with everything else they have to do, do teachers have the time and ability to find and assemble high quality OERs for each of their topics? I’d say no…school librarians have got to step into this mix. They are the only ones in the school who can. And I intend to give them tools that can help this mission.

And so, as our perennial Civil War novel credibility project looms at SHS, it seems even more urgent that we make a whole realm of resources more discoverable.

The plan is to grow our wimpy, little OPAC by grabbing full-text Google e-books (many primary sources) relevant to such topics as: Civil War medicine, prisons, generals, weapons, espionage, women, as well as documents from the Library of Congress, the National Archives and the National Parks Service.  To make it a far more hospitable container for the content we really should be able to own.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


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