Frequently Asked Questions:
Retrospective Conversion, Cataloging, and Reclassification

  1. What is retrospective conversion, and why do I need it?
  2. What is the difference between retrospective conversion and cataloging?
  3. What is the difference between minimal level and full level cataloging?
  4. What database options do I have for finding existing MARC records?
  5. What languages and scripts can Backstage handle?
  6. What classification schemes does Backstage work with?
  7. Can Backstage work with controlled vocabularies other than LCSH?
  8. RDA is everywhere. Is Backstage ready?
  1. What is retrospective conversion, and why do I need it?

    Retrospective conversion — sometimes abbreviated as recon or retrocon — is the creation of MARC records for upload to an ILS from a previous method of cataloging. Historically, most of our conversion work has been a card-to-MARC translation from card catalogs, but we’ve converted data from a variety of media and in handwritten, typed, and computer-generated formats.

    In the retrospective conversion process, titles from the card catalog (or other source) are searched in select databases to identify existing MARC records. A matching record is accepted, then any missing 5xx notes are added, along with a local holdings field.

    Retrospectively converting your card catalog increases the discoverability of materials within the collection. Keyword, author, or title searches can be performed easily at the library or from an off-site location. Increased discoverability often leads to increased circulation.

  2. What is the difference between retrospective conversion and cataloging?

    Retrospective conversion, in most cases, is the process of taking a card catalog and finding matching MARC records to upload into an ILS. Generally, this conversion does not involve match-editing, other than adding 5xx notes or holdings information present on the card.

    Cataloging, on the other hand, is the creation of a MARC record from the physical item or surrogates when no previous cataloging has been performed. You will have the option to choose between minimal level and full level cataloging.

  3. What is the difference between minimal level and full level cataloging?

    Backstage follows the National Level Full and Minimal Requirements as set by the Library of Congress. Minimal level records do not include call numbers or subject headings.

  4. What database options do I have for finding existing MARC records?

    Backstage offers several databases for sourcing MARC records. Our in-house resources include databases from the Library of Congress, Quickcat, the National Library of Medicine, and a collection of Backstage’s original entries. Connecting to outside sources, we have agreements in place to allow searches in WorldCat and the RLUK database.

    When it makes sense, Backstage can also index and search your local database for existing records.

  5. What languages and scripts can Backstage handle?

    Backstage can catalog in more than 40 languages, including numerous Non-Roman scripts.

  6. What classification schemes does Backstage work with?

    Library of Congress Classification is the most requested scheme among our reclassification clients, but Backstage can also classify your data in Dewey Decimal, NLM, and BISAC.

    We also provide on-site, physical reclassification services, for labeling, sorting, and reshelving your newly reclassified items.

  7. Can Backstage work with controlled vocabularies other than LCSH?

    Absolutely. With our knowledgeable staff, we are able to utilize various controlled vocabularies and thesauri including — but not limited to — MeSH, BISAC, TGN and AAT. If you have your own vocabulary, we can work with that too.

  8. RDA is everywhere. Is Backstage ready?

    Backstage has been actively participating in implementation plans for RDA since 2009. In 2010, the Library of Congress chose Backstage as a test partner for its RDA pilot program. Throughout the process, our staff librarians have been keeping up to date on the requirements and timelines of RDA implementation.

    When your institution is ready to begin cataloging in RDA, Backstage is here to help.

    If you are interested in enriching your existing database with RDA elements, we have developed a customizable enrichment process to make the transition virtually painless.

    For more information on our RDA enrichment process, see our RDA FAQ list.