Frequently Asked Questions: MARS Authority Control

  1. Will I need to completely replace my existing authority database once Backstage finishes its authority processing?
  2. When I add or delete authorities in my authority file, how do I ensure that Backstage's authority file reflects those changes?
  3. How do I know what format my records are in?
  4. How often do clients simply select the profile defaults?
  5. Are there right or wrong answers when filling out the profile questions?
  6. What if I want to fill out my online profile in a way that completely deviates from the default settings? Is that okay? Does it increase the cost of processing?
  7. Can I upload files at any time?
  8. Is there somewhere I can interact with other users of the Backstage MARS service?
  9. What databases do you have available and how often are they updated?
  10. Can I retrieve files at any time? When will my files be removed from the server?
  11. I'm considering one of your optional reports. Can I see an example before I add it to my regular workflow?
  12. How often should I send in my new bibliographic records for processing?
  13. How often should I receive authority updates?
  14. Sometimes the Library of Congress updates a heading but doesn't include the older form of the heading in its updated cross-references. This affects linking in my OPAC. How can Backstage help with these changes?
  15. What are the export and loading procedures for my ILS?
  16. How do I find more information about specific questions in the online profile?
  17. I want to change an option in my online profile. Do I need to contact my project manager first?
  18. How can I tell exactly how many authorities (and what types) Backstage currently has on file for my institution?
  19. How is Backstage addressing RDA?
  20. How is Backstage addressing the new Bibliographic Framework Initiative?
  1. Will I need to completely replace my existing authority database once Backstage finishes its authority processing?

    When Backstage initially processes your backfile of bibliographic records, it will match headings within those records and return to you all matching authorities.

    As the resulting authority file represents all of the matched authorities that were found, completely replacing your existing authority database with the one we deliver back to you will prevent conflicting data issues when the two files collide.

    If you do not replace your authority database with the new authority file from Backstage, you may encounter problems with blind references or duplicate authority records.

    Of course, if you have added local notes to your authority records over a period of time, it may make sense to retain those notes with any updated authorities that Backstage delivers to you. We can retain local notes that contain $5 plus your ID, or you can select a range of fields to retain. Then, when we update those authorities, your local notes will be preserved as part of the new authority file.

  2. When I add or delete authorities in my authority file, how do I ensure that Backstage's authority file reflects those changes?

    To make sure the Backstage authority file is current with your authority file, please send in any changes you have made to those authorities. This usually involves copies or control numbers of any authorities you have added to your database outside our automated process or have deleted from your database.

    Typically, it is a good idea to send in your adds and deletes just before we are scheduled to process your Notification Service updates.

    For more information, please see step 6.5 in our planning guide.

  3. How do I know what format my records are in?

    As a rule of thumb, newer systems tend to use UTF-8 instead of the older MARC-8 format.

    At Backstage, we examine leader byte 09 to determine the format of the records. If LDR[09] is 'a', the record can be said to be UTF-8.

    However, Backstage can also readily identify the format type after seeing a sample of your records. We can also help you determine whether retaining the existing format or changing to the other format would best fit your needs.

  4. How often do clients simply select the profile defaults?

    Our default settings are responsive, not prescriptive. Selections are flagged as defaults because they represent the choices of the majority of our users.

    Broken down by profile section:
    • 93% of users choose the default settings on Step 2,
      Bibliographic Validation and Cleanup
    • 66% of users choose the default settings on Step 3,
      Authority Matching and Headings Cleanup
    • 68% of users choose the default settings on Step 4,
      Bibliographic and Authority File Output
    • 75% of users choose the default settings on Step 5,
      Reports Display and Optional Reports
    • 56% of users choose the default settings on Step 6,
      Ongoing Services Frequency and Options
    Of course, flexibility is a core feature of our system, so we want to accommodate your preferences. You can select any option in the profile.

    If our profile doesn't offer the process you're looking for, let's talk. We may still be able to help.

    Many of our libraries have very specific programming and processing applied to their records. We'll work with you to minimize any extra costs that your custom programming might entail while at the same time giving you room to express your expectations.

  5. Are there right or wrong answers when filling out the profile questions?

    When it comes to your catalog, the only answer that is right is the one that matches how you want your records processed. We provide default options in the profile simply as guideposts. Your path through the profile should indicate what you would like to see happen.

    You can select any option, even if it might invalidate a previously marked choice. We don't want you to have to worry about the domino effects of your selections. If we have questions about your intent, we'll contact you for clarification of what you're trying to accomplish.

  6. What if I want to fill out my online profile in a way that completely deviates from the default settings? Is that okay? Does it increase the cost of processing?

    We understand that authority control practices are not uniform across all libraries. That's why our system doesn't try to force you into a one-size-fits-all process.

    Our default settings are intended as guideposts, and they can be helpful if you are unsure of what you'd like to do. But if you know what you want, you should aim for that, whether it fits a standard profile or not.

    You can fill out the profile however you want. In the vast majority of cases, the options you select will not increase the cost of processing your files.

    If there is a possibility that your choices will change your pricing, we'll contact you to discuss exactly what results you are aiming for. In addition to the profile options already available, we can meet custom programming requests and generate custom reports, whatever you want.

    We'll help you understand your options so you can weigh the benefit of a custom process against any cost that might be involved, before you incur any additional expense.

  7. Can I upload files at any time?

    Backstage employees do not work over the weekend, although our processing server does. For our normal processing workflow, you can submit files whenever it fits your schedule. If your upload takes place after hours or over a weekend, you can expect us to begin processing your batch as soon as your project manager is back in the office on the next business day.

    Backstage also offers the MARS Authority eXpress service. MAX can accept a file of records at any time of the day, on any day of the week. Files uploaded through MAX are given highest priority in our system. Processing 20,000 records per hour, MAX can return small update batches to you in minutes, rather than hours or days.

  8. Is there somewhere I can interact with other users of the Backstage MARS service?

    Backstage has set up an internal listserv for our clients. We periodically send out updates and requests via the listserv. In addition to Backstage announcements, the listserv can be a useful tool for clients to converse with each other about loading procedures and other ILS-specific questions.

    Click here to register for our listserv.

  9. What databases do you have available and how often are they updated?

    Backstage currently subscribes to or maintains local files from 11 national databases for you to choose from. Each of these is updated on its own schedule. Some are updated every week, while others are no longer updated at all, though they still remain very useful.

    Click here for a full list of sources, update schedules, and database sizes.

  10. Can I retrieve files at any time? When will my files be removed from the server?

    Backstage typically retains files — both on FTP and our website — for at least one year. We make the files available for an extended period of time so our clients can retrieve the files when it works best for your schedule.

    This practice also provides flexibility in reviewing older processing results when the need arises.

    When we do remove your files from the FTP or website servers, we still keep them backed up for an extended period of time. Please let us know if you ever need access to these files.

  11. I'm considering one of your optional reports. Can I see an example before I add it to my regular workflow?

    We offer more than 40 optional reports, so we expect that you might be curious about some of them.

    Either for a sample run or for your ongoing processing, you can simply talk to your project manager and request the optional reports you are interested in. We'll turn on those reports for one processing run, then you can decide whether the reports that were generated make sense to keep as a regular part of your reporting.

    Click here to explore the list of reports you can choose.

  12. How often should I send in my new bibliographic records for processing?

    For our Current Cataloging authority control service, we recommend sending in new batches for processing according to how often you accumulate 5,000 new records. So, if you add something close to 5,000 new records to your catalog every 3 months, we would advise you to set your processing at a quarterly frequency.

    For comparison:
    • 5% of our users choose weekly processing
    • 6% of our users choose monthly processing
    • 49% of our users choose quarterly processing
    • 10% of our users choose semi-annual processing
    • 15% of our users choose annual processing
    • 15% of our users choose some other frequency (daily, tri-annual, irregular, etc.)

  13. How often should I receive authority updates?

    Our Notification Service provides authority updates at scheduled intervals. Optimizing your library's notification schedule will depend on the size of your authority database and the staff time you require to ingest the updated authorities into your system once Backstage delivers them to you. Your project manager can help you explore the best fit for your situation.

    For comparison:
    • 9% of our users choose monthly notification
    • 63% of our users choose quarterly notification
    • 6% of our users choose semi-annual notification
    • 10% of our users choose annual notification
    • 12% of our users choose some other frequency (weekly, tri-annual, etc.)

  14. Sometimes the Library of Congress updates a heading but doesn't include the older form of the heading in its updated cross-references. This affects linking in my OPAC. How can Backstage help with these changes?

    When LC has updated an authority record and has omitted the older form of the heading, it may still be useful to preserve these older headings in your database, enabling the ILS to make the update from the older form (4XX) to the newer form (1XX).

    Recognizing this need, we provide, at no extra cost, a means to include most older forms in your updated records — tracking changes back as far as 2007. We can hide the obsolete form of the heading from your patrons while still ensuring that your ILS takes care of the update behind the scenes.

  15. What are the export and loading procedures for my ILS?

    Unfortunately, our Backstage staff can't be experts in the nuances of each integrated library system and its numerous versions. We recommend contacting your system vendor for detailed inquiries on export and loading processes.

    Our listserv is also a good resource for asking other librarians your ILS-specific questions relating to the authority control process.

    Occasionally, an ILS change or version update will turn up visibility issues such as a diacritic display error with a particular language set. We're always happy to work with you to adjust the way we process your authority file to match the formatting needs of your system.

  16. How do I find more information about specific questions in the online profile?

    Each online profile question also has a question mark to the right. Hovering your mouse cursor over this will give you a quick synopsis of that question. Clicking on the question mark will take you to the relevant page in our authority control wiki for further details.

  17. I want to change an option in my online profile. Do I need to contact my project manager first?

    You can make changes to your online profile at any time. Just be sure to save the profile step where you made the changes. This updates the online profile and sends us an email notice of what changes have been made.

    If we have any questions about your changes, we will contact you for further clarification.

  18. How can I tell exactly how many authorities (and what types) Backstage currently has on file for my institution?

    Once we have run either an initial basefile on your bibliographic database or a remaster of your authority file, we maintain a master authority file in our system. This file represents all of the matching authorities that we have verified and delivered back to you.

    To view the details of your master authority file, log in to our online portal with your username and password.

    On the right side of the web page, you'll see an arrow to expand the name of your institution. This display reveals counts for all authority files we have delivered to you. Each time we process a batch for you — whether it's a gap file, current cataloging, a MAX run, etc. — this count will be updated.

  19. How is Backstage addressing RDA?

    Backstage is ready to upgrade your existing AACR2 records to RDA format, or validate existing RDA records, according to your preferences. In addition to our standard online profile for addressing pre-RDA processing, we have a separate profile dedicated to formatting options for RDA.

    If you are interested in dipping your toes in before taking the plunge, please consider sending in a few hundred records and testing out our upgrade/validation options for RDA.

  20. How is Backstage addressing the new Bibliographic Framework Initiative?

    Backstage recognizes the need for some institutions to move away from MARC format handling. New discovery paradigms like Linked Data and Resource Description Framework offer exciting ways to propagate, collate, and control your data.

    We are starting to explore both linked data and RDF and are looking for ways to make this useful for your institution. We anticipate offering additional services along this line in 2013, with more to follow.

    Stay tuned for more details.