Mobile MARC Cataloging demo

By reeset / On / In MarcEdit

So, this isn’t even 1/2 baked yet, but I’ve been working on a project to move cataloging onto the mobile phone.  Is there a practical application here – maybe.  I’ve got a couple of ideas where something like this might be useful…maybe in helping with recon projects where catalog cards or shelves of uncataloged materials are presents.  Likewise, I think that there could be an application for gifts processing – maybe two.  For gift processing, I could see subject selectors given the ability to essentially scan and “catalog” a work if a record is found, essentially speeding up the process of getting an item to the shelf.  Additionally, I could see this process being expanded to aid in doing valuation of gifts – where a selector could scan books and have the utility go out to amazon and keep a running valuation.  So, there could be some interesting applications.

The demo –

  • Written in C#, borrowing components from MarcEdit
  • Runs on Windows Phone 7.5 or possibly Android with the Mono Touch support (though I haven’t tried it yet)
  • Supports scanning and searching of ISBN data, OCRing card catalogs and reading/acquiring barcoded materials.
  • Can download records from Z39.50 targets and upload records using TCP to an ILS system

A couple of notes:

  • ISBD…while you would think that this would make scanning and reading catalog cards easier – it doesn’t.  Using both Google’s free OCR services and Microsoft’s OCR products, I’m finding that the punctuation on the catalog cards is fouling the OCR.  I think the reason is that OCR systems are trained to look for words, and the punctuation, especially in the subject blocks, doesn’t make sense.  So, it makes the OCR basically worthless.  I can parse parts of things – generally titles, authors and ISBN data, which is good enough to search for a record – but at this point, generating a record straight from a catalog record seems unlikely unless a better OCR service is found.
  • Programming this was actually really easy.  On the windows phone, it’s a combination of C# and Silverlight.  This was admittedly easier because I could reuse some of the MarcEdit codebase in doing this, but I think you could do this on other systems as well by simply moving some of the data processing off the device and to a web-service.  It means more data is moving between the device and the web, but ease of development may be worth the speed trade-off.
  • Reactions to this type of tool are interesting.  I gave a brief (and choppy) demo of this process at a local technology conference, Online NW.  Unfortunately, the computer wouldn’t cooperate to show the demo video till the end, so the lightening talk was abbreviated – but I was talking to a colleague after the conference and it was interesting that people in the crowd (I’m assuming catalogers) gasped at horror with the idea that someone, other than a cataloger, might actually go and download records and put them into the ILS (which reminds me – I need to delete the record I downloaded into our ILS Smile)


Anyway – for those folks interested in seeing a 1/2 baked demo, feel free to watch this video placed on youtube this afternoon.

QuickMARC Proof of Concept