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Library and Information Science Paper (ID LIS012211)

Birmingham Libraries Co-operative Project (BLCMP)
No.12, p.211-230
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Birmingham Libraries Co-operative Mechanisation Project (BLCMP) involves three library systems, the Libraries of the Universities of Aston and Birmingham, and the Birmingham Public Libraries. The overall aim of BLCMP has been to design and develop a system which utilises centrally produced machine readable bibliographic records in the MARC format in local situation, and to assess the practicability of a regional data bank, which is accessible to a number of libraries, using these records together with records produced locally. The advantages of co-operation were taken to arise not only from the vastly increased service potential that can be provided but also the greater economy resulted from the pooling of resources. The participating libraries are representatives of the different types of libraries, and therefore the experence and expertise gained in this particular exercise in generating and utilising a very large data base of MARC formatted bibliographic records should be of considerable significance to future developments along the same lines. Co-operation also implies standardisation, and a great deal of effort has been committed by the three participating libraries to achieve this. The evaluation of MARC for cooperative use, the definition of cataloguing practices and filing rules, a common costing approach, the application of the MARC format to the serials date base, and the definition of a common processing system to generate and maintain a machine readable union catalogue, all have involved regular participation and effort from members of staff of the three libraries. BLCMP therefore has not only been an exercise in the application of MARC but also a major exercise in library co-operation. The first part of the aim has been achieved to date and the development and implementation of the monographs and serials cataloguing system which untilises centrally and locally produced bibliographic data in MARC format has been completed. A union catalogue data base of the holdings of the three participating libraries was established in January 1972 and the data base now provides the products and services to the member libraries cost effectively. The project is now concentrating on the second aspect of the original aim, which is the extension of the use of the union catalogue data base to other libraries in the West Midlands region.

The author had an opportunity to visit the three participating libraries and discuss about the project with BLCMP staff in December 1973. The present article attempts to describe the outlines of the project based on the talks she had with the project staff as well as documentary sources.

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