I have an issue I’d like to put on the radar of ILS developers generally, especially open source ILS developers, especially apropos since the Evergreen Serials module is in the process of being developed.
When trying to integrate my Link Resolver with my ILS recently, I wanted to accomplish a task that seems like you’d often want to accomplish: When given a particular journal citation (say, issn, volume, and issue), identify if we have it in print, and identify the particular ILS record(s) that correspond to that serial holding in print.
In our environment, this turned out not to be possible to do in a reasonably confident way. Part of the problem is the Z39.71 standard, which is used to express serials coverage/holdings in a human readable format. While z39.71 holdings statements are theoretically intended to be consistent and maybe even machine-processable—anyone who has tried to machine process them will have discovered they aren’t really suitable for recovering the sort of information needed to perform my task, for example.
On top of that, in many actual ILS environments, catalogers end up entering z39.71 purely by hand. I don’t know if there is even a way to validate z39.71 holdings statements automatically (I suspect there is not, an obvious problem in itself), but I’d guess that in a typical environment around half of z39.71 statements in a corpus are probably not strictly legal z39.71. Whether through typo, cataloger misunderstanding of the standard, or simply lack of concern with following the standard I don’t know, probably a different mix in different institutions.
So it’s just not working. We need another way to format these things, that is actually machine actionable, where software can actually answer questions about holdings, as well as present holdings/coverage to users in reasonable ways (ideally including set arithmetic on several holdings statements, to be able intersect, union, difference, etc. in presenting to the user.)
Enter the ONIX For Serials Coverage Statement standard. Turns out a draft of this standard already exists, and is just perfecty suitable for what we need. It is intended to be sort of a ‘plug-in’ for coverage information in *both* the ONIX Serials Online Holdings (SOH) format and Serial Products and Subscriptions (SPS) format. But to my reading, it’s really quite suitable for use as an independent thing apart from any other ONIX format too, for instance as a component of an OPAC that otherwise uses MARC. It’s XML. According to the draft standard
It provides for enough detail to support the following basic functionalities:
• To allow a system to produce an eye-readable display that will give an end-user an understanding of what content is included.
• To allow a system to determine whether or not a particular issue or citation is included in the holdings represented by a coverage statement
And to my reading, it succeeds with a very sensible XML format.
It is only a draft right now. It does not appear to have been published at all. I happen to have a copy of the draft, which I’m happy to share with anyone interested directly, but I’m not certain I can really ‘publish’ it online.
I’d like to suggest that this at least get on the radar of the development team for Evergreen Serials module (or any other interested ILS developers). It would be great if an ILS actually stored it’s serials coverage information according to a standard like this, so we could actually write software to act upon this information, instead of just dislaying it as-written to the user.