Cataloging Notes

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Map descriptions in RDA

The 2018 ALA Annual Conference has come and gone, and map cataloging continues to be influenced by RDA and the new RDA Toolkit, which was demonstrated in New Orleans on June 22nd. A year ago, at the 2017 ALA Annual Conference, a group of map catalogers met with the RDA Steering Committee (RSC) along with several other cataloging communities for a “pop-up” meeting to consider RDA needs of specialized communities (maps, music, rare materials, and so on). As a result of that meeting, a MAGIRT Task Group was formed (Map and Geospatial Information Round Table of ALA) to submit data elements and vocabulary terms for inclusion in the toolkit. In cooperation with the RBMS (Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of ACRL), some proposals have been sent to the North American RDA Committee (NARDAC).

Proposals submitted:

  1. Establish Prime Meridian as a new element in RDA with its own instruction. DONE – IN THE BETA RDA TOOLKIT. Link for RDA subscribers:

prime meridian: A line of constant longitude passing through a given place on the surface of the earth and the terrestrial poles, from which longitude east and west is measured.

Record a term from a suitable vocabulary encoding scheme (VES)

  1. Add Relief as a new element in RDA. DONE – IN THE BETA RDA TOOLKIT. Link for RDA subscribers:

relief type: A method of indicating the horizontal and vertical dimensions of land surface and terrain.

Record a term from a suitable vocabulary encoding scheme (VES)

  1. Add a 5th supplied statement of scale: “scale not determined.” (As implemented in DCRM-C, the Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials – Cartographic)
  2. Add a new element, Date of Situation. (RDA’s “Timespan” may cover this, but it is not well-developed yet.)
  3. Begin a scale statement with the explicit label, “Scale.”

Currently there is a hiatus on RDA proposals, and the RSC has not decided when or how to accept proposals, so there is no information about numbers 3-5 in the list above. The 2017 version of RDA Toolkit is the current standard to be used, and any new proposals will be implemented only in the new version of the Toolkit, currently in “beta.”


Map Coordinates in MARC – Degrees or Decimals?         

During the past year there has been considerable discussion among map catalogers about the desirability of recording coordinates in MARC bibliographic records using the decimal system instead of the traditional degrees, minutes, and seconds. Specifically, the 034 field, “Coded Cartographic Mathematical Date,” includes encoded data for scale and coordinates; coordinates may be stated in degrees, minutes, seconds format or in decimal degrees, minutes, seconds format. This data is also recorded in the 255 field for viewing by humans.

By encoding coordinates in decimal format in the 034 field, that data can be manipulated by machine and used in the context of a GIS environment much more readily than degrees format; however, most library users are not accustomed to visually interpreting the decimal format. An approach taken by Princeton is to encode the 034 in decimals and record the coordinates for the 255 field in degrees. This issue is being considered by the MAGIRT Cataloging and Classification Committee for a possible recommendation and inclusion in the MAGIRT best practices for cataloging maps document.


Linked Data for Libraries, Production — Cartographic Materials (LD4P-CM)

 The two-year grant for LD4P-CM has now ended as of June 30, 2018. As part of this program a Geospatial and Cartographic Resources Ontology (GCRO) was developed, which extends BIBFRAME 2.0 and bibliotek-o. GCRO beta is available as an OWL file ( and for download via Biblioportal: . The ontology and supporting documentation are available on the project GitHub repository: .

Marc McGee, leader of the LD4P-CM group, wrote a document dated June 24, 2018, giving brief updates and links. Find it here: . More information about the Cartographic Extension can be found here:


ALA Annual Conference, June 2018

There will be further details and information about MAGIRT activities at the 2018 ALA Annual Conference in the forthcoming issue of base line, which will be published in mid-August.

Louise Ratliff
UCLA Library
July 25, 2018

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