The Use of RETROCON Technology in the National Library of the Czech Republic
The Projects with the Use of RETROCON Technology
The year 1997 was an important milestone for retrospective conversion of Czech catalogues and bibliographic lists. In that year, research and development grants of the Ministry of Culture made it possible to start a full-scale conversion of the General Catalogue of the Universal Library Holdings, and, which was even more important, to launch the co-operative project "Access to Czech Books Published in the 20th Century over the Internet and on CD-ROMs" that had been in preparation for a long lime. Before we describe the two projects in detail, we should also mention two smaller projects, namely the retrospective conversion of the lending collection catalogue and the so-called Kunc File, which made a valuable foundation of the national name authority files.
Lending Collection Catalogue
It was the first (pilot) project with the full-scale use of the RETROKON technology. The project was made possible by poling together resources from a specific-purpose grant by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic and various research and development grants. The Lending Collection Catalogue covers a part of the NL holdings used for off-site loans, mainly to students. These are the NL holdings that are used most frequently. Because they consist of mostly Czech books, a part of it (from 1983 onwards) was already available in the database format, and only about 40,000 entries remained to be converted, which was a suitable amount for a pilot programme. Students were invited to help with the conversion of the catalogue into the UNIMARC database.
General Catalogues of the NL
The objective of the Retrospective Conversion of the General Catalogue of the Universal Library Holdings of the NL of the Czech Republic (GK UKF) is to convert records in that catalogue into the structured database in the UNIMARC format and make it generally available to both on-site and off-site NL clients. The GK UKF is the most comprehensive "map" of the universal library holdings (i.e. of books that can be borrowed, although mostly on-site only) of the NL. A full retrospective conversion of a catalogue containing over 3 million cards would require more money than is available- or is likely to be in the foreseeable future. For that reason, it is necessary to proceed in steps, eliminate the less frequently used layers of the catalogue (these will remain in the scanned records format only) and, prioritizing the conversion of the so-called "live holdings", focus on the more frequently used sections of the catalogue. In order to avoid duplication, it is also necessary to eliminate records converted in the retrospective conversion of Czech books published in the 20th century.
Due to inadequate resources, the retrospective conversion of the GK UKF advances very slowly, which causes complications for the operation of the automated circulation system in the NL. The Retrospective Conversion of the General Catalogue of the Universal Library Holdings of the NL of the CR is a typical example of important big projects that are currently experiencing severe problems in finding adequate operating funds. The project's importance far exceeds the library's boundaries, just as its financial requirements exceed the possibilities of its more and more restricted budget. Because the project has moved to the operation stage, it can no longer be financed from R&D budget. Thus the project that must necessarily go on for an extended period of time must "fight for its life" every year. Originally a part of the RISK grant programme and now included in the VISK grant programme, the project faces uncertain future, and it is getting more and more difficult to maintain its continuity and hold the trained team of already 30 students together.
In connection with the GC NLH, it may be interesting to mention the new (the third) attempt at cooperation with the OCLC. This time, books published in English were selected because many of them are included in the WorldCat catalogue, and the pre-1970 period was selected because at that time our records had no UDC or subject headings, which reduced the number of necessary changes in records taken over from an external database. The suggested price of 4 USD per record, however, was 4 times higher than the per-record price when the RETROKON technology was used.
General Catalogue of the Slavonic Library
The Retrospective Conversion of the General Catalogue of the Slavonic Library was launched thanks to the Open Society Institute grant. The progress of retrospective conversion after the grant period has also been very slow because this project faces same problems as the GK UKF.
The development of databases and library cooperation underlines the importance of the development and maintenance authority files. The retrospective conversion of the so-called Kunc File (on loan from the National Literature Memorial) carried out as part of the "Access to Records of Czech National Authorities over the Internet and on CD-ROMs" project helped create the core of the national name authorities file (using a modified RETROKON technology).
Making Czech Book Production of the 20th Century available via the Internet and CD-ROM
In the late 20th century, the NL published a CD-ROM with bibliographic records of most of the books published in the Czech Republic (and some published in Slovakia) in the 20th century. The records are also available on the Internet. The conversion of over 400,000 records from the printed to the digital format (including their partial modifications according to international standards) is the output of the "Making Czech Book Production of the 20th Century available via the Internet CD-ROM" project carried out between 1997 and 2000 as a part of the R&D grant programme. It has been the most important retrospective conversion project in Czech libraries to date. The project's objective was to adjust the RETROCON technology for the conversion of large bibliographic records and its parallel application in a number of institutions, to convert records of Czech books published in the 20th century and received by the NL as legal deposit copies to the UNIMARC format, and make them generally available via the internet and CD-ROMs. The printed Bibliographic Catalogue (published since 1922) was used as the main source, while complementary sources were also used for the beginning of the century.
The outcome was 400,000 high-quality bibliographic records that include a number of bibliographic and subject data, and a large number of records are provided with abstracts. It was a cooperative effort of ten big Czech libraries headed by the NL that included the Moravian Library in Brno plus all state research libraries. The project had extraordinary national as well as international importance. From the international cooperation point of view, it made a major contribution to the UBCIM and UAP projects. The project results are made available in WorldCat, the biggest world union catalogue. It is important nationally not only because it covers, maps and makes available a substantial part of Czech books published in the 20th century but also because it allows the rationalization of retrospective conversion of catalogues in Czech libraries where Czech books make up Important project results - Czech Books Published in the 20th century the fundamental part of their holdings.
Making Collections of Large Czech Libraries Widely Available
The project was launched in 2000 and it is still continuing. One of its lines is linked to the above " Making Czech Book Production of the 20th Century available via the Internet CD-ROM " project.
The first objective of three closely connected projects of the NL, the Moravian Library in Brno and the State Research Library in Olomouc is providing a general access to holdings of these big Czech libraries by retrospective conversion of their catalogues based on a uniform technology, effective cooperation and sharing of technical equipment, financial and human resources, and of experience gained. Effective management and optimisation of retrospective conversion processes in all three libraries will be ensured by a comprehensive information system developed and tested by all three libraries participating in the project. The second objective is to extend the "Access to Records of Czech Books Published in the 20th Century over the Internet and on CD-ROMs" to include records of Czech books that were not included in the Bibliographic Catalogue (not delivered to the NL as legal deposit copies, or were delivered too late), but are included in the catalogues of the NL, Moravian Library in Brno or the State Research Library Olomouc.
The third objective is the coordination of retrospective conversion of foreign documents according to the extent to which they are used in individual libraries.