A library that wishes to report their machine-readable accessions to the National Union Catalogue may include records for items in all formats and subject areas. Records received in MARC format are converted to the MARC 21-based record format of AMICUS. AMICUS is based on the principle of one master record per unique manifestation of a bibliographic item, to which all locations are added. Records are loaded off-line using a set of generalized programs designed to prevent duplicate records from being added to the database, and to preserve differences between bibliographic items.
To contribute MARA records to the National Union Catalogue, a library must convert its records from the local format to MARC format, if the local format is other than MARC. Local record structure may need revision to make required data elements distinct for identification and conversion, and the system itself may need enhancements to support the generation of regular MARA reports.
Before reporting records to the National Union Catalogue, the reporting library must ensure that all "mandatory" and "essential if applicable" data requirements have been met, and that all records to be sent are in the appropriate format for reporting (i.e., in MARC 21 communications format). The presence of properly coded "mandatory" and "essential if applicable" data elements in MARA records ensures that the AMICUS loading and matching programs function as effectively as possible when MARA records are being added to the AMICUS database.
Data required by the MARC format but not held in the local record may present a problem. Mandatory bibliographic tags that are not present in the local record may sometimes be reported in skeletal form (e.g., supplying "[s.l.]" and "[s.n.]" for place and publisher respectively to furnish an imprint). In some cases, missing data and/or content designation can be generated by Library and Archives Canada during the conversion process. In other cases, the local format may have to be enhanced in order to support the required elements.
Control numbers should be analyzed carefully, since they are primary access points for the record. The MARC format requires that control numbers have standardized formats. For example, the International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) must be written as two groups of four digits each, separated by a hyphen (e.g., "1234-5678"). The local system may record the data in a different manner (e.g., without a hyphen). If this is not converted to proper notation the tag will not be loaded and the number will be lost as an access point.
All characters should be representable in the extended ASCII character set required for reporting, and diacritics, punctuation, and other marks should be separately distinguishable for conversion. Where appropriate, diacritics must precede the character to which they belong.
Once a library is confident that their records satisfy the criteria for MARA reporting, they can prepare a test file to send to the Union Catalogue of Library and Archives Canada for analysis and conversion.
Test files should contain samples of a broad mixture of records. A continuing resources test file should contain continuing resources with both open and closed dates, government document continuing resources, and continuing resources in varying formats (e.g., microform, computer files). Monograph test files should contain records of multi-volume sets, monographs in series, and monographs in varying physical formats (e.g., visual materials, music, and sound recordings).
Test files should contain records reflecting the cataloguing standards and practices adopted and developed by the reporting library over time (e.g., AACR1, AACR2). This is particularly important when a library plans to report its retrospective files. All test files sent to Library and Archives Canada must adhere to the file naming conventions established for test files (cf. section 2.3.1, above). Test files require special processing, and can only be identified by Library and Archives Canada's computer systems when test file names adhere to the established conventions.
The reporting library will not receive a written analysis of their test file. Provided consultation is not necessary, the reporting library will not be contacted again until its conversion is in "production" (i.e., is operational) and Library and Archives Canada is ready to receive production files.
All records sent to the National Union Catalogue are run through two distinct conversion processes before they are loaded into AMICUS: a Generic conversion, and a library-specific conversion.
The Generic conversion, through which all records must be processed, is designed to change or eliminate data on the incoming records that might cause problems when the records are loaded into AMICUS (e.g., data that does not conform to the MARC 21 standard). The Generic conversion is also designed to add certain mandatory data elements to MARA records when such data is not already present on the incoming record (e.g., tag 008).
Given the broad range of library automation systems, and local cataloguing practices, records sent to Library and Archives Canada for inclusion in the Union Catalogue are also run through a library-specific conversion. When a prospective Union Catalogue reporter has sent a test file of records to Library and Archives Canada, the records are analyzed, and a conversion is written based on the particular 'structure' of the prospective reporter's records. Library-specific conversions are also revised when an existing Union Catalogue reporter modifies or changes its library automation system.
The purpose of the library-specific conversion is twofold. First, it is designed to change or eliminate any data on the incoming records, not already corrected by the Generic conversion, which might cause problems when the library's records are loaded into AMICUS. Second, when a library is not able to export their locations and holdings information from the local system in an 850 tag, the 850 tag must be created during the library-specific conversion process. This is usually done by taking data from other tags in the incoming records, and 'flipping' this data into the appropriate area of an 850 tag in the converted record (e.g., taking holdings information from a library's 9XX tag, and flipping it into the 850$c of the converted record).
It must be noted that the 850 tag is used locally by Library and Archives Canada to contain locations and holdings information in AMICUS records, but is not an authorized MARC 21 tag. For more information on the use of the 850 tag in Union Catalogue records, please see sections 4.9, A.11, and A.12 on "Locations and holdings statements", and "Appendix B: Notes on 850 subfield codes".
Once a library's records have been successfully processed through both conversion processes, they are ready for loading into AMICUS.