Retrospective Conversion

Retrospective Conversion: Retrospective conversion is the process of turning a library’s existing paper catalog record into a machine readable form. Retrospective conversion usually entails using catalog cards (with a minimum of data like call number, author, title, ISBN and / or LCCN information)  to find or create bibliographic record in a database of machine readable record such as OCLC (World Cat) and brining those records into the existing local database. Usually retrospective conversion is done to obtain the full MARC records on each item. A full MARC record contains valuable information such as summary information that can be key-worded and searched using the electronic catalogue. MARC records are a standard format that allows exchange of data between various sites or systems. The local database then allows electronic access to the catalogue and automated circulation using patron and item bar codes.

a) History: In 1968, with the financial support of the council on library resources, the Library of Congress conducted a study by a task force for retrospective conversion of the library holding. It was known as Retrospective Conversion (RECON). The report of the task force was published in 1969. In August 1969, the RECON pilot project was initiated. The pilot project of RECON continued for two years and approximately 58,000 records were converted during the pilot project and the work is still continuing. The retrospective catalogue conversion made by the British Library is held in the BNB/LASER file. It was built up by the British National Bibliography (BNB) and the London and South Eastern Library Region (LASER).

b) Problem in Retrospective Conversion: Retrospective conversion solves the problem of entering the data on each item in the library into a computer system. But though it has many advantages, it has also some limitations. Some of the disadvantages are mentioned bellow:

i) Lack of standardization among the national MARC format in assigning content designators to elements of information in the machine readable record.

ii) Diverse functions of bibliographic agencies;

iii) Lack of an internationally accepted cataloguing code for machine readable cataloguing record.

iv) Lack of agreement among different bibliographical communities in organizing data contents in machine readable record.

v) Lack of agreement as to the function of content designators.

vi) Lack of money by a small library creates problem in retrospective conversion.

vii) Lack of expertise required to meet the standard for retrospective conversion.

viii) Retrospective conversion always demands standardization of bibliographic content and machine format.

ix) Incomplete or incorrect bibliographic information makes it impossible to match the shelf list cards with the correct MARC records. The result is the addition of an incorrect record to the database or the need to return the title to you for additional information.

 Today, the computers have entered each and every area of a library. The library automation is the application of modern technologies including the application of computer hardware and software, different storage medias, telecommunications, etc. which help the mechanization of any activity in the library. To implement the computer in the library, the selection of proper hardware and software forms an essential part. If proper software is selected, it will automatically generate or create OPAC which will replace the traditional card catalogue of the library. The feature-rich software will also have the provision of retrospective conversion. It will help the library to enter minimum of details about the document in their collection in the database of some other libraries and will help in getting the full bibliographic record of the document that can be embedded in the local database.

            There are different software packages available for different activities of a library. Sometime they are bundled together with lots of cool features to form integrated library management software.

            The open source softwares are gaining importance day by day. They provide a free licence with the additional facility of extensive customization to meet the local need. In case of commercial proprietary library management software SOUL 2.0, and LibSys 7 are popular in India. In case of free proprietary software, the E-Granthalaya of NIC is gaining importance and in case of Open Source software, Koha is day by day heading to win the race.

            In case of Institutional Repository Software Packages, the Green Stone Digital Library software (GSDL), EPrints, and Dspace are deployed in different institutions in India. In the category of Content Management System (CMC), Drupal, Joomla, and MediaWiki is used where as from the category of Learning Management System (LMS), Moodle are favoring by large number of institutes.