Lessons From a Batchload Reclamation Project: Part 1

Our Batchload Reclamation Project is over. It was interesting. Truthfully, this was the first project of 2013 to kick my ass. You might call this a failure of knowledge. I have decided to call it a case of professional development.

For those of you who are not Tech Service Librarians:  Batchload Reclamation is the name that the system folks at OCLC give to a project whereby a member library exports their MARC records to their servers. Then OCLC matches the information in those records to the holdings in their databases, strips out the weird shit, dupes, and incomplete material, then sends it back to the library in question. The new records get uploaded into that library’s ILS and the result is a cleaner catalog that can be more effectively searched in WorldCat.

Our catalog, not to put too fine a point on it, was a mess. Fragmentary records, old records, thousands of records that had never been synced with OCLC’s holdings. Our big weeding project from last year helped identity a number of the inconsistencies between our shelves and the online catalog, but OCLC had no records that matched the fixes we implemented. So in the same way that looking at distant stars through a telescope means looking at the light they radiated millions of years ago, any libraries looking into our holdings via WorldCat or FirstSearch would have seen a catalog that was years out of date.

Additionally, we are in the process of implementing Summon, Serials Solutions’ discovery platform, which showed real promise for expanding the currency of our holdings and being able to demonstrate the value of such things to our students and faculty. Demonstrating these things to our administration will take more work (they think we can do the same thing with Moodle. They are wrong. But, baby steps.)

Anyway, Summon also requires current and accurate holdings and catalog records, so we needed to clean up the catalog. Besides that, we wanted to take advantage of the fact that OCLC will do a one-time batch load reclamation project for any library that is a member and has not done such a project since 2005. It’s a win-win project. Or so it sounded when I described the process to my co-workers.

Getting there in practice was another story entirely.

The problem:  Summon uses local control numbers as primary access points for scanning MARC records. Specifically, they use the 001 field as a repository for their own tracking data. The problem for us was that our ILS used those same 001 fields as the primary tracking field for our own use.

The Proposed Solution: Move the contents of our 001 fields over to something more easily accessible–namely, the 035 field–and allow Serials Solutions to populate the 001 fields of our uploaded records with their own data. We retain the ability to track our records on the way and and Serials Solutions can track everything with their data once the scan is complete.  Win-win, right? Of course, right.

The first hint of something having gone wrong was that my first export to the Summon server went . . . strangely. First, there was the size of the file: 67MB.I use Filezilla as an FTP client on my PC, but the network in my library isn’t as robust as I’d like. Data transfers stutter along, and something frequently gets caught hanging for long enough that the receiving server decides that the connection has been lost and restarts the the transfer from the beginning. With a giant file, this is problematic. Not a huge problem in terms of lost sanity, but stressful nonetheless.

Ultimately, however, the transfer got done. Summon’s implementation team’s news: we see your records. But . . . there’s no item location or object type information in them. What happened?

What happened is that I had never set up a proper export in Symphony Workflows before and didn’t know exactly what I was doing. Resolving to do better, I called SirsiSynix’s tech support crowd and got one of their reps to walk me through the procedures. I took notes and everything.

So when I had to export the files for OCLC’s project, I thought I knew what I was doing. And I did. Sort of.

In Part 2 of this story–which I’ll post on Monday–I’ll let you know what happened.


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