First library in Africa

09 October 2006

UCT is the first library in Africa to be accepted into the international OCLC (Online Computer Library Centre) Enhance programme.

There are only two other libraries in the programme outside of the US.

OCLC is a non-profit, membership-based co-operative service provider and research organisation furthering access to the world's information while reducing information-sharing costs.

UCT Libraries became members of OCLC in 1999. This meant that UCT could use the database host (OCLC) system while contributing South African records. "UCT libraries contributed approximately 2 000 records in 2005," said Norma Read, the manager of Bibliographic Services at UCT Libraries. Read was also the delegate for SA to the OCLC Members Council (2001-2006), and sits on the Collections and Technical Services Advisory Committee. The OCLC Enhance Programme means that UCT can now not only contribute to the database, but can also update records on WorldCat.

In the past, UCT libraries could only download and change records in-house. These changes would, however, not be of benefit to other libraries. With the OCLC Enhance Programme, UCT libraries are now "entitled to enhance catalogue records for books and are in the process of applying for music scores, CDs and serials," Read said.

UCT libraries applied in May and the team had to compile a portfolio in MARC21 (a machine-readable cataloguing format- nonsensical to the untrained eye) of records contributed over the past 12 months.

Being accepted is a feather in UCT's cap. A team at the OCLC headquarters in Dublin, Ohio, decides the fate of the applicant by means of a point system. Each applicant is given 100 points, after which points are deducted, based on strict quality-control guidelines.

Applicants will only be considered if they score more than 80 points. The final score remains undisclosed, yet in an acceptance report they called UCT Libraries' cataloguing excellent.

Read contributes this to the dedicated team, tucked away on the sixth floor of the Chancellor Oppenheimer Library.

She added that a high standard of contribution from South African libraries needs to be maintained as there is very little in terms of centralised quality-control. With UCT Libraries being part of the international cataloguing community, the university accepts the role as a cataloguing pioneer in Africa.

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