Gopher Card Catalogue

· gopher library journal

I’ve recently started organising my “library”. This includes physical books, electronic books, posters, QSL cards, challenge coins and other interesting artifacts. The process of documentation has helped to remove some of the feeling of clutter, and turned it into something more valuable. In particular, manuals and leaflets that came with appliances and electronics that would usually be thrown in a box and forgotten about can now be found easily by simply searching a list to see if I have it.

Right now I’m using Koha to maintain my catalogue, and I’ve also used a few of the circulation features to track books I’ve lent to others. It is quite heavy software though, and really all I need is the catalogue and a way to easily search it.

I’m using an AWS instance of a reasonable size ($10/month) to run this which seems too much. I’m glad I have run it because it’s been an interesting learning experience, but it’s time to scale it back.

If you’ve not done any cataloguing before then you’re probably not familiar with some of the concepts, I’ll outline them here:

  • International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD): is a set of rules to create a bibliographic description in a standard, human-readable form, especially for use in a bibliography or a library catalog.
  • Anglo-American Cataloging Rules (AACR): these were rules followed by librarians to end up with something that was consistent between libraries. It included things like where to take the title of a book from (there are many titles, and they might not all be the same: e.g. spine, half-title, title, cover) and which information is important to collect. The second edition (AACR2) is still in use by libraries around the world.
  • Resource Description and Access: rules that are slowly replacing AACR2, that are less specific and more like guidelines so that new things, particularly electronic resources, can be consistently catalogued without needing constant revisions to the rules.
  • MARC: A series of standards for machine-readable cataloging including a binary file format for storing catalogue information.
  • MARCXML: An XML version of MARC.

Right now I’ve been following RDA guidelines to produce MARC bibliographic records in Koha. I notice that I’m usually using the same fields over and over again. The library is also small enough that I don’t need to have a ton of indexes. In fact, if I could output a single text file containing ISBD “cards” for the whole catalogue, I could use a simple text search to find what I’m looking for. I certainly have enough RAM to keep the whole thing in memory.

I think the thing I’m missing is something to take MARCXML and convert it to ISBD text files. The rest will just be stitching those files together. As everything will be simple text files, I can also publish them on my new gophersite, as I imagine libraries may once have done before.

I think that the idea is probably going to be to use expat to parse the MARCXML and then just write out text files. I’m not sure how difficult sorting them is going to be. It might even be that I just maintain one MARCXML source file and have them sorted in there so that they are processed in the order correct for the output.

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