Metadata Object Description Schema (MODS) is a schema for a bibliographic element set that may be used for a variety of purposes, and particularly for library applications. The standard is maintained by the Network Development and MARC Standards Office of the Library of Congress with input from users

It is funny, I recently joined an Australian listserv for librarians interested in library systems and library technology – aliaLIBSYSTEMS. It was thought that all the other standard listservs were aimed more at US librarians and US libraries and that we needed something specific to us. I think they’re right.

Of course, just after I signed up to this, one of my other listservs, NGC4LIB simply exploded with discussion. NGC4LIB (or Next Generation Catalogs [sic] for Libraries) talks/complains/discusses/bemoans the new generation of catalogues and opacs that are available for libraries to use. Mostly I just watch them all complain about how noone does anything and then they have discussion on ways we could fix stuff and then it peters out and starts again. The past little while has had an absolute heap of emails revolving around how MaRC is an antiquated format and should be bought into the new era (and why it hasn’t been and etc etc).

Being a cataloguer I am aware of what MaRC’s history and how it has (or hasn’t) evolved. What I really wasn’t aware was of some of the projects out there to ‘modernise’ MaRC and bring it into line with what the world is currently using, xml based schemas. The currently MARCXML scheme is a tad crap.

100__$aWest, Christian,$d1982-.
245__$aThis is my title /$cChristian West


<datafield tag=”100″ ind1=” ” ind2=” “>
<subfield code=”a”>West, Christian,</subfield>
<subfield code=”d”>1982.</subfield>
<datafield tag=”245″ ind1=” ” ind2=” “>
<subfield code=”a”>This is my title /</subfield>
<subfield code=”c”>Christian West.</subfield>
<datafield tag=”650″ ind1=” ” ind2=”0″>
<subfield code=”a”>Biography.</subfield>

Which, logically, makes sense. It’s just HUGE, sizewise, in comparison to the MaRC part and rather hard to read if you’re not a computer (MaRC is also hard to read if you’re not a computer, just not as hard as the MARCXML bit).

MODS is a way of simplifying this by using actual terminology in the tags rather than the MaRC numbers which, although nice for their day, are a bit passe in terms of the way we currently code.

From what I gather, the MODS record will look something like the below:

<title>This is my title /</title>
<name type=”personal”>
<namePart>West, Christian</namePart>
<namePart type=”Date”>1982-.</namePart>
<roleTerm type=”text”>creator</roleTerm>
<subject authority=”lcsh”>

This seems a bit easier to me to read, especially if you’re a programmer. You don’t have to worry about what all the numbers and indices refer to. This wouldn’t matter if you were programming in a vacuum, but if you want your records to be used by nerdy young people programming at home, this is probably the best way to go about it. You instantly know that the ‘topic’ of my book is Biography. You many not know what the lcsh ‘authority’ for it means, but you get the general gist of the whole thing. It is still pretty big, granted, but it is a lot easier to understand.

Anyways, that is my rant for today. I was just very fascinated when I had a look at MODS and thought I’d share.


2 thoughts on “MODS

  • October 12, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    Having yet to see a decent implementation of MODS I wouldn’t say that it rocks…but it does have potential.

    And I quite like working in Melbourne. Sure our weather is a bit cruddy but you can’t have it all.


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