’MACS: Multilingual Subject Access’, IFLA, ELAG and TEL The Multilingual
The Multilingual Subject Access (MACS) project is an attempt to obtain “co-
operation” from national libraries in order to allow international users to search online
national library catalogs through “equivalent subject headings” by linking each libraries‟
subject access authority files to a list of subject headings used in the participating libraries. Four libraries in 1997 saw this linking approach as a promising solution. Genevieve Clavel-Merrin (2004a; 2004b; 2005) and Patrice Landry (2004), two of the original team members that created the MACS project, are still rallying support for multilingual access to national libraries now as a portal to The European Library (TEL), which has much more support and library partner co-operation. Clavel (2005) writes that the MACS prototype only contains authority headings for a few subject categories; but while it is an expensive and time consuming “taking on” they are “slow moving forward”
and hopeful for it to be more compressive.
Discussions of international multilingual subject access can be traced back to a 1995 workshop sponsored by the International Federation of Library Association and Institutions (IFLA) Section of Cataloging in Istanbul, Turkey on August 24, entitled “Multi-script, multilingual, multi-character issues for the online environment” (IFLA
1995). In 1995, the original theory stated:
The indexer should be able to analyze a document and assign headings in his/her
native language, while the user should be able to search in his/her native language.
The language of the document itself should have no influence on the language of
the subject heading language used for indexing nor on the language used for
searching. (Clavel 1999a)
At the 1995 IFLA Conference, Clavel (1999a) “outlined the discussions at the Swiss
National Library concerning a format for multilingual authorities and underlined the fact
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that the need to offer multilingual access to bibliographic databases affects both institutions in multilingual countries such as Switzerland and those in what might normally considered to be monolingual countries.” This concern for an international
collaboration can also be seen in Bourne (1995) who considered the gaps in technology affecting national bibliographic control in Lithuania and Namibia, and in Oddy (1998) when she wrote, “Globalization is one of the defining concepts of the age in which we live. It is generally defined as a process that moves the level at which political, social, and economic forces operate from the control of the nation state and produces an increasingly homogenized culture….The economy of bibliographic control was once local, became national, and is now international in scale.”
The MACS program began in 1997, when the Conference of European National Librarians (CENL) asked Computerized Bibliographic Record Actions (CoBRA+) to find a solution to the problem of multilingual subject access to bibliographic databases. A working group under the CoBRA+ Task Group A was organized to discuss that issue with regard to national libraries. The group consisted of librarians in Europe working in national libraries who have had concern for international collaboration and multilingual access. Genevieve Clavel (Swedish National Library), Magda Heiner-Freiling (Die
Deutsche Bibliothek), Martin Kunz (Die Deutsche Bibliothek ), Patrice Landry (Swedish
National Library), Andrew MacEwan (The British Library), Max Naudi (Bibiliothèqu
nationale de France), Pat Oddy (British Library), Angélique Saget (Bibiliothèqu
nationale de France), and Ross Bourne (British Library) made up the initial team. In 1997, The Swiss National Library (SNL), Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF), Die
Deutsche Bibliothek (DDB) and the British Library (BL) accepted the challenge of
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defining a concept and conducting a study to determine the feasibility of establishing links between different subject headings languages (SHLs) (Landry 2003): German (SWD/RSKW), French (RAMEAU) and English (LCSH).
Using the theory stated at the IFLA 1995 Conference by Clavel (1999a), the group produced a concept (SHLs) that would permit users to search library catalogues in the language of their choice, and a pilot study was conducted up to the beginning of 1999. A prototype was scheduled to be launched in 2000 and tested by over 400 people (http://laborix.kub.nl/prj/macs/demo/?MACS_LANGUAGE=english). Landry (2000)
presented her paper, “The MACS Project: Multilingual Access to Subjects (LSCH,
RAMEAU, SWD)” at the 66th IFLA Council General Conference, Thursday, August 17, in Jerusalem, Israel to show the results achieved. At the same conference, Elhanan Adler (2000) reported on Israel‟s status in the multilingual scope of things:
Israel is an extreme case of a multilanguage and multiscript environment. Several
different library approaches have evolved…The use of subject headings and word
searching, primarily in English, seems to be the prevalent trend in academic
libraries while public libraries are just beginning to evolve from classified
catalogues to Hebrew language subject headings. (Adler 2000)
When considering the MACS approach for Israel, Adler (2000) writes: “Subject access in
such a multilingual environment is, however, much more problematic and the approaches taken much more varied.”
Clavel (1999a), at the 65th Annual Conference for IFLA in Bangkok, presented the first MACS project report after two years of international collaboration with national libraries: 1997 to 1999. The year before, at the IFLA 64th General Conference, Andrew MacEwan (1998, 1999) of the British Library discussed the “cost of cooperation
[between libraries] and the achievement of access [for users].” There, MacEwan (1998,
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1999) confirmed that the British Library has used LCSH, and shares plans for further development of the headings to allow for better online retrieval. Heiner-Freiling (2000) reported the results of an IFLA survey measuring the use of LCSH by European libraries. In another paper, Oddy (1999) presented his views of on the “co-operation” of cataloging
for multilingual access through subject headings.
Tracking the IFLA Conferences to the 67th Annual Conference in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, finds Carlo Peters supporting the multilingual access development. The same view of globalization of information is seen when he writes, “Users of
internationally distributed networked collections need to be able to find, retrieve and understand relevant information in whatever language and form it may have been stored”
(Peters 2001). In his presentation, Peters (2001), describes the work of the UNICODE Consortium (http://www.unicode.org) that has designed “a single encoding scheme for
mapping all of the world‟s languages.”
Different from the MACS project, Peters (2001) describes natural language processing within information systems‟ databases, as opposed to a linked multilingual thesaurus controlled by subject authority files. Further, Peters (2001) explains that “in
cross-language text retrieval the task is to develop methods which successfully match queries against documents over languages and rank the retrieved documents in order of relevance. In monolingual retrieval, the traditional way to do this is through some kind of word matching and weighting; with crosslanguage text retrieval we have the additional problem of matching (and weighting) words across languages.”
Another multilingual approach in cataloging was discussed by Monika Muennich (Senior Cataloguer, Universitäts Bibliothek, Heidelberg, Germany), the Multilingual
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Dictionary of Cataloging Terms and Concepts. In her description, Muennich (2001) summarizes the essential idea of her project:
The dictionary will comprise terms of “official” international documents esp.
IFLA documents such as ISBDs, FRBR, GARR; Anglo-American international
documents such as AACR, Dublin Core and machine-readable formats such as
MARC21 and UNIMARC and national documents in comparison. The source
language will be English – according to the above mentioned documents - with as
many target languages as possible.
During the 70th IFLA Conference in Buenos Ares, Argentina, Muennich (2004) presented a demonstration of the MulDiCat database found at http://subito.biblio.etc.tu-
bs.de/muldicat/. Currently the languages for translation are English, German, and Russian. An interview with Muennich can be found at http://www.bsz-bw.de/infopub/infoswb/2002/muennich1.html, where she discusses the German‟s
involvement with IFLA and her role in the development of MulDiCat. ELAG and TEL
From 1995, Clavel and Landry have been visual in the benefaction of multilingual international access. Not only have they been vocal at the IFLA Conferences, but research shows their involvement with the European Library Automation Group (ELAG) as well. Clavel (1996b) and an international team (including Landry) gave report on three issues in “Multilingual problems in Networking”:
1. The user interface
2. Multilingual access to bibliographic data
3. Language problems, including responsibility for creating and maintaining
A report to the ELAG Conference in Bled, Slovenia outlining projects and research that was being undertaken by the SNL including the MACS project and a focus for a European international repository of digital (NEDLIB, http://www.konbib.nl/nedlib) and
print/archive (MALVINE, http://www.malvine.org/) information (Clavel 1999b). At the
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24th ELAG Conference in Paris, Clavel (2000b) with another international team presented the paper, “Integrating Authority Files in a Multicultural Environment.”
Clavel (2004b) and Landry (2004), colleagues at the Swish National Library, are also working on another multilingual library collaboration, The European Library (TEL), which an international approach to connect every national library throughout the continent of Europe and around the world; the concept strives to create full access to national library resources. MACS is being considered as another interface for TEL (Landry 2004).
On Friday, April 19, 2002, Clavel (2002) presented the MACS prototype to ELAG. The prototype allows users to enter one or more search terms in the language of choice (English, German, French), and results are then retrieved from the all participating libraries in their with appropriate targets; independently of the indexing language used in those target systems, the Z39.50 protocol which “specifies a client/server-based protocol
for searching and retrieving information from remote databases” is used wit. Clavel
(2002) explains, “In the prototype options are provided for a brief display or for a full display in the MARC format used by the selected library” (USMARC, UNIMARC, etc.). The following year finds Landry (2003) giving an “update” on MACS at the 27th ELAG
Library Seminar in her parent institution, the Swish National Library, at Bern, Switzerland, and describes a new approach of developing the Link Management Interface that will essentially be another access point to TEL. “The ultimate goal,” writes Landry (2003) “of MACS is to enable users to carry out subject searches in the language of their
choice, either in one online catalogue…or across many target catalogues, using the
Z39.50 protocol” which has been tested since 2002.
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At the 2003 ELAG meeting in Switzerland, Maja Žumer and Theo van Veen presented their paper, “The European Library (TEL): Access to European National Library Collection” as described TEL as a “collaboration between a number of European national library under the auspices of CENL…[who‟s goal] is to establish a single access point to their holdings for users in Europe [and] worldwide.” Žumer and Veen (2003) explain that TEL is feasibility project; however there is a strong commitment to develop an operational service based on the findings. For the multilingual aspect the write there will be a “service translating user input or received metadata into different languages to create queries” (Žumer and Veen 2003).
The MACS project is still begin discussed in the literature by Clavel (2004) and Landry (2004); however, Clavel (2004a) writes that the “interest of the library
community in MACS is underlined by the fact that the national library partners in the TEL project wish to integrate the product in the TEL portal, which, in its prototype phase, aims to offer access to the resources of 8 European nation libraries.” The main theory behind both TEL and MACS is authority control, as Clavel (2004a) states. At the 69th IFLA General Conference and Council in Berlin, 2003, Clavel (2003; 2004b) sums up the purpose of TEL:
For many years, the public image of national libraries has been that of closed
institutions open only to researchers as a place of last resort. National libraries are
seeking to change that image and, through cooperation, establish themselves as
access points for information, nationally and internationally. TEL, The European
Library, is an example of how this may be achieved.
The project participants of TEL are (Lanrdy 2003):
; The British Library (Co-ordinating Partner),
; Die Deutsche Bibliothek (Germany),
; Koninklijke Bibliotheek (Netherlands),
; Helsinki University Library (Finland),
; Swiss National Library (Switzerland),
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; Biblioteca Nacional (Portugal),
; Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale Firenze (Italy),
; Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo Unico (ICCU) (Italy),
; Narodna in Univerzitetna Knjižnica (Slovenia),
; Conference of European National Librarians (CENL)
Currently there are four “work pages” or issues of concern for the project: “Publisher
relations”; Business plans and models”; “Metadata development”; and “Interoperability
testbeds” (Landry 2003).
This paper focused primarily on European national libraries with research seen in the forefront of two primary scholars, Clavel and Landry; however, other scholars were discussed, and multilingual research in Italy (Peters 2001) was briefly mentioned. In theory, further tracing of the work of Peters will lead to more research of multilingual research. Other original team members of the MACS program (Heiner-Freiling 2000; Kunz 2003; MacEwan 2000, 1999, 1998, 1994; Oddy 1999, 1998, 1996; Bourne 1997, 1996, 1995) can be traced for more views of multilingual access. It is needless to say the European national librarians are in the forefront of providing multilingual access to the world‟s national libraries: first in Europe, then global if the trend catches. The most current project for multilingual access to library collection is TEL. Clavel (2004b) explains that the “concept of life-long learning, the informed citizens and peoples‟
networks…means that wider access to the resources of national libraries is seen as
essential…at an international level.” The issues of life long learning and library
international collaboration are the fires that ignite the theory called multilingual access.
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Adler, E. “Multilingual and Multiscript Subject Access: the Case of Israel.” 66th IFLA
Council and General Conference, Jerusalem, Israel, August 17.
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