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Libraries, Publishers, and Booksellers in a Single Information Space: A New Russian Federal Program

Dr. Yakov L. Shraiberg

Moscow, Russia

In the 21st century, a century of information and intellectual development, Russia will continue progressing to a democratic society. The country has already established the foundation of information society, which requires, along with information technologies and telecommunications, further growth of the already operating public system for the delivery of printed and electronic publications. This system fully depends on the organization, operation, and efficiency of cooperation between the actors of the Russia’s market, i.e., authors, publishers, producers, distributors, and users. The decisive factor for the efficiency is the unification of rules, standards, formats, protocols, and classification and identification systems.

As far back as November 1999, the Task Commission of the Russian Federation’s government approved a concept of the interdepartmental program known as The Electronic Libraries of Russia. This program envisaged the participation of 11 federal ministries and departments including the Ministry of Press of the Russian Federation.

However, due to its specificity and focus, this program, as well as a later federal program known as Electronic Russia, did not reflect the most urgent task, i.e., the unification of publishing and distribution technologies. This task should form the basis of a new program, the state program for the unification and standardization of model elements of bibliographic, classification, registration, and information schemes of a single publisher--bookseller--user information and technological infrastructure (hereinafter called “the Program”.)

In view of the significance of such approach, the necessity to conduct a targeted research, and the increasing number of applications from publishers and booksellers, the Ministry of Press of the Russian Federation decided to launch a research on the subject “The Development of a Single Information Platform for the Development of Publishing, Bookselling, and Librarianship”. The research had to be conducted by a special team. Meanwhile, the Interdepartmental Expert Commission was established under the aegis of the Ministry of Press. This commission was entitled to draft a state policy for the information development of publishing, bookselling, and librarianship, and to coordinate the research team mentioned above. Yakov L. Shraiberg, Dr. Sci. (Eng.), Professor, First Deputy Director of the Russian National Public Library for Science and Technology, was invited to head both the commission and the team.

The team has drafted a request for proposal, a plan, and a list of priority studies and tasks, which are focused on the problems of and technologies for implementing a single information platform for the development of publishing, bookselling, and librarianship. Note that these tasks have come to the forefront after the incessant flow of applications from publishers and booksellers who are willing to streamline the technology that is currently in operation. It was the absence of these vital issues in the major adopted national and interdepartmental programs in the field of information, telecommunication, and librarianship (Federal Targeted Scientific and Technical Program “R&D on Priority Tasks in the Development of Science and Technology for Civil Purposes” of the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Industry and Science; the Interdepartmental Program “Formation of a Telecommunication Network for Science and Higher School” of the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Industry and Science, Ministry of Education, and Russian Foundation for Fundamental Research; the LIBNET program of the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Culture) that demanded that they should be in the focus of the Program that must unite the efforts of librarians, publishers, booksellers, and specialists in computers, telecommunications, and information technologies.

Before drafting such Program the experts of the Commission defined the basic directions of research and named the following four directions as priority ones:

  1. Development of (a) a universal standard for a bibliographic entry of a printed product and (b) a version for publishing and bookselling.
  2. Development of information cooperation of the book market actors.
  3. Development of a classification scheme for printed products and exchange of their bibliographic entries.
  4. Development of a technology for creating and maintaining the functional growth of the electronic depository of bibliographic products.

These directions should be understood as only the first stage in the development. Off-camera remain as yet the work for the unification and reorganization (ISSN, ISBN, DOIS, bar codes, a new version of the Russian Classification Scheme of Enterprises and Organizations, etc/); coordination of electronic and printed versions; legal issues including copyright, property right of publishers, and distribution of electronic versions, copying and reproduction in libraries; problems of electronic libraries; Internet publishing, and Internet stores. Nevertheless, the above directions have good reasons to be viewed as priority ones, though they have suffered some changes in the course of work under the influence of the existing rules and technologies.

Consider now the main results of our work.

1.

As to direction 1, we decided not to develop a branch standard. This decision was taken for two reasons: (1) GOST 71-84, which is currently in force for bibliographic entries of printed documents and related standards, covers the demand of the branch and, as to the obligatory elements, can provide the bibliographic identification of a printed document that is required by a specific branch; (2) the major bibliographic institutions of Russia have already started developing a new version of the bibliographic GOST that will consider the latest recommendations of ISBD and harmonization with AACR-II. These projects have already been oriented on the unified Russian UNIMARC version, RUSMARC.

For these reasons, in the interests of practice, the designers have decided to alter the statement of the problem and have produced a document entitled “Standard Bibliographic Entry. An Abridged Manual for Compilers”. In addition to the international ISBD recommendations for the distribution of bibliographic information and for the support and update of UNIMARC, this manual is the first to include recommendations for ONIX. In an abridged form, this manual describes the main bibliographic elements, their alternatives, and tendencies of the GOST in force and of a new version of GOST that is under development. In other words, this bibliographic manual has been written for the perspective and, unlike most earlier documents of the kind, is oriented on current requirements, i.e., the rules of document description of the bibliographic services of the book market actors.

The main task of this manual was to meet the requirements of publishers, booksellers, and libraries on the basic (obligatory) elements of a bibliographic entry (so that the extension by additional elements for bibliographic agencies, major publishing houses, libraries, and the like did not alter the basic elements needed at the first level, the level of elements that are obligatory for all book market actors.)

Thanks to the unified and simplified basic elements a bibliographic entry will become equally suitable, flexible, and interesting to all bibliographers of the book market actors. Thus, it will allow them to work within a single information and technological system and use the principle of one-time and multi-aspect handling of an entry; it will provide them with an opportunity to turn to the national and international bibliographic resources and augment the initial information by additional data.

Standing apart is the task of developing the tables of concordances for the Russian version of ONIX. The material on this subject is presented in the second part of the manual which is dedicated to the communication format for the exchange of publishing and bookselling bibliographic information and allows one to build soft- and hardware systems for ONIX--UNIMARC conversion in bibliography (the bibliographic component is among the best developed elements of ONIX, and an opportunity of using ONIX--UNIMARC and ONIX--USMARC converters attracts the attention of foreign specialists in the field of data exchange formats who predict the dominance of ONIX, in bibliography including).

The tables of RUSMARC and ONIX tag concordances, which have been developed within this task, are destined to be of help to information and bibliographic services using RUSMARC while working with data in the ONIX format.

Noteworthy is that the development of RUSMARC--ONIX tables of concordances is concurrent with measuring, adapting, and implementing of this format into the domestic practice. Thorough analysis of Russian and foreign experience in electronic data exchange and electronic document circulation in bookselling showed that ONIX is widely used in the Western countries and that its Russian version has to play a significant role in the development of the automated cooperation of book market actors. The Russian translation of the description of ONIX v. 2.0, which has been made by the staff of Master-Kniga (Master-Book), has already allowed some organizations to start experimental processing of electronic transactions with the help of this format. A group of experts working with the format has made a translation of the main description and manual for entries and, also, prepared the specification of XML messages with ONIX XML extension and the adopted protocols of book trade information exchange. A complete translation requires several operations that will be completed in the near future:

  1. Editing of the translation including checking of grammar and terminology.
  2. Adaptation of the text to Russian standards, rules, recommendations, and operating and drafted technologies.
  3. Formation of a standing team for the support and updating of the format; preparation of methodological guides; training and consultation; qualified support at format implementation into the practice of book market actors.

2.

The main purpose of the adapted Russian version should be the use of ONIX as a platform for complete publisher--user cycle of electronic transactions.

These works constituted the second direction of research that was accomplished by the research team.

3.

Within the third direction, the efforts concentrated on the updating of the abridged UDC tables that have been selected as a unified system for the classification of printed products. UDC is among the most popular classification systems of the world. It is well known to libraries and publishing houses but its application by booksellers has been scarce, despite separate successful instances, like in Biblio-Globus Trade House. This is explained by the fact that libraries and publishing houses classify a book from the standpoint of a branch of knowledge, while booksellers do it from the standpoint of a product.

A thorough analysis of the state-of-the-art, tendencies of the foreign book market, and national experience allowed for the following conclusion: it is virtually unreal to construct a classification scheme equally suitable to all book market actors; however, a strive should be made to construct a single systematic and methodological platform that may be embodied in UDC.

Such approach was used when the work with the abridged UDC tables was finalized, and the development of a new bookselling decimal system was started. The abridged UDC tables have been modified in two respects:

  1. A new version has been written on the basis of the first issues of abridged tables produced by the Russian Book Chamber (1989), Tsentr--Kniga, Ltd., and VINITI (1998-2000). This version incorporated the ideas of many publishers and organizations dealing with books.
  2. Some additions and amendments have been made on the basis of complete UDC tables (4th ed.), which have been included into the abridged version.

Additionally, a special project was approved for the creation of an alphabetic--subject index which will ensure an easier and more effective work with the classification.

The preparation of the design, approval with several organizations including libraries, specification of several attributes and debugging of the alphabetic--subject index resulted in the creation of a new version of abridged tables which has to be immediately published and distributed among the book market actors.

As in the world of ONIX, a standing task group is required that will update the tables, deal with users, produce reference guides, and, in future, prepare and produce an electronic version.

The bookselling system, whose breakdown goes only to the third level as yet, has to be completed in accordance with the conceptual UDC scheme and should not contradict the latter in the main classes and the structure of indices. Only in this case we shall obtain a tool, which will be unique both theoretically and practically and will be demanded equally by publishers, libraries, and booksellers.

All the directions named above should provide for the formation of the national electronic depository (ED) of printed publications. It may be either a state-owned or a joint-stock system of electronic bibliographic information on products that have been passed by their publishers to press. Initially, the ED had to be a storage of electronic full-text publications. However, since this idea has not been refined yet either legally or technologically, we shall not dwell on it here. It has not been included into the task and is not planned for the near-future design and implementation.

4.

The design of ED is the central part of the streamlined technology. The ED should complete, both technologically and functionally, the “publisher--bookseller--user” cycle of electronic transactions and exist as a storage of all materials issued in the country even in a single copy. For this reason the conceptual understanding of the ED and its implementation have not lost their significance and topicality. Realizing the role of the ED we have to resolve several key tasks:

  1. To reveal and substantiate the reasons for which publishers will submit information on their books to the ED, and will do it efficiently and accurately.
  2. To work out (a) criteria for the efficiency and completeness of information submitted by publishers and (b) methods for cooperation with information suppliers.
  3. To define the most efficient coexistence with other information systems, like CIP, Books-in-Print (books available and in press), union subject plans, union catalogs, and the national bibliographic system.

Today, in view of the Internet technologies, we can speak of only the initial conceptual and technological statement of this most significant element of a new information technological concept of cooperation of the book market actors. The formulation of this task has to be completed in the near future and embodied in a technology. Moreover, an automated streamlined “publisher--bookseller--user” technology should start at a workstation of a publisher, from where electronic information, moving along the rails of ONIX, should reach the ED, from where it should be provided through Internet to all registered users, administrators, and scientists.

The following step is a full-scale information and technological cooperation with information centers, libraries, serial agencies, foreign organizations, and partners in a single information space using single rules, formats, and legal standards.

And, finally, we should not neglect full-text information. This will force us eventually to resolve complicated technological and legal tasks. It has started already, to a certain extent…


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