MarcEdit: Past, Present, & Future

The ALCTS Cataloging & Metadata Management Section (CaMMS) and the Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC) co-sponsored the forum “MarcEdit: Past, Present, and Future” at the 2019 ALA Annual Conference. The forum celebrated the twentieth anniversary of MarcEdit, a tool used by library workers to edit, create, and manipulate library metadata. Terry Reese, the creator of the MarcEdit, spoke to a packed room on the tool’s creation, development, and future directions. He was joined by Mike Monaco from the University of Akron Libraries and Bryan Baldus from OCLC, who presented on their individual use of the tool at their institutions.

Screenshot of MarcEdit dashboard, showing 6 tools: MARC Tools, MarcEditor, Delimited Text Translater, OpenRefine Data Transfer, Harvest OAI Records, RDA Helper
Dashboard of MarcEdit version 7. Screenshot courtesy of Terry Reese.

Reflections on 20 Years of MarcEdit

Reflecting on the last 20 years, Terry Reese opened by thanking the library community for embracing him and MarcEdit and for being the sort of place where they both could develop and thrive. MarcEdit came into being around 1999. Working as an undergrad in the University of Oregon’s Map Library under Peter Sark, Reese began coding MarcEdit as a way to better understand MARC and to circumvent OCLC’s Passport for Windows program. The program developed over time, and Reese thanked the many along the way who made MarcEdit possible including, Kyle Banergee (who sacrificed his computer so Reese could learn to program Windows), Karlye Butcher (who wrote language into Reese’s contract that allowed him to retain control over MarcEdit), Ian Fairclough (who helped to create a community around MarcEdit and hosted the email discussion list at George Mason), and lastly a group of individuals who — wanting a Mac version of the software — took up a collection and had an Apple computer delivered to Reese’s door. Today MarcEdit boasts over 20,000 users, 1000 of whom are Mac users and 500 of whom use Linux.

Reese employs several development rules around MarcEdit, which is a real-world metadata tool. Although called MarcEdit, it is MARC agnostic and also supports metadata beyond the Anglo-centric community. He also considers it to be only one part of the larger library metadata tooling environment. In considering developments, Reese reaches out to the MarcEdit community to ask what they want in future developments. In Reese’s view, MarcEdit should be fun. To that end, Reese has hidden ‘Easter eggs’ in MarcEdit — partly at the behest of high school students whom he teaches to code robots who thought MarcEdit was boring. One such Easter egg includes cats that come up when you search for cats and another includes a version of the game Asteroids that can be played inside MarcEdit.

MarcEdit Projects at the University of Akron

Mike Monaco is the coordinator of cataloging services at the University of Akron Libraries. He uses MarcEdit to perform authority data clean-up. Previously, the libraries had a vendor for their authority data but had fallen behind in manual authority control, such as open death dates and old versions of names. As an example, MarcEdit allows him to force in 4xx fields to be able to later flip headings in their Sierra Integrated Library System (ILS). Monaco uses the tool to do clean up bibliographic records, convert records to Resource Description and Access (RDA), and harvest electronic theses and dissertations. He also used MarcEdit in a project to refresh records in Ohio’s consortium, OhioLINK.

Using MarcEdit at OCLC

Bryan Baldus is the consulting database specialist at OCLC. Bryan estimated that he has been using MarcEdit for 10 to 15 years, downloading the tool around version 3 or 4. In his work, he uses MarcEdit most commonly to examine and evaluate records of general everyday use, of vendor-contributed MARC21 records, and in potential new authority files. He also uses the tool to transform vendor records, moving records from MODS to MARC21, and for post-conversion clean-up. Finally, he uses MarcEdit in WorldCat database clean-up using the tool’s preference option to enforce defined normalization such as those around diacritic usage.

What’s Next for MarcEdit?

To wrap up, Terry Reese took the stage again to talk about upcoming MarcEdit updates to be released in MarcEdit 7. He’s working on a way to convert OCLC Connexion MACROS. He’s also building a lightweight XML editor, citing how Oxygen is useful but expensive. He’s also working on an individual editor because of BIBFRAME work, although it will not be tied to BIBFRAME. MarcEdit 7 will have an expanded XML–JSON Wizard to give it some functionality of what one can do currently in OpenRefine, but without having to learn OpenRefine. Finally, he’s planning to update tutorials and help documentation for MarcEdit. When asked about a possible Android or iOS version of MarcEdit, Reese says he has no current plans. Another question asked about changing the tool’s name with the coming “death of MARC” to which Reese said he was hesitant to change the name given that it is so well known by it now and currently does more than MARC. Finally, when asked about succession planning, Reese said that he thinks the community is so big around MarcEdit, and the tool is open-source, so he’s confident it would continue on with or without him.

Presentation slides, audio, and video are available to registered ALA Annual 2019 attendees.

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