Retrospective Conversion at Yale: Project Overview

The Retrospective Conversion Process

Retrospective conversion is typically accomplished by one or a combination of two basic methods: matching and extracting machine-readable records from a resource file or keying records directly into a database. Both of these can be performed locally by library staff or contracted to one of several vendors specializing in such work.  At Yale, though we contract with experienced vendors for as much of the retrospective conversion process as possible, there is considerable in-house effort associated with each project.  The retrospective conversion process is best described as consisting of four separate phases of activity: 

Preparation of project specifications

Staff on the Catalog Management Team prepare project specifications for the vendor.  The specifications contain detailed information and instructions on all aspects of the project, including cards to be skipped, records to be flagged, and guidelines for matching and editing records and for recording location, call number, and other copy-specific information.  The project specifications constitute the heart of the contract between the vendor and Yale. 


Vendor staff convert records at the rate of approximately 50,000 records each month.  Conversion is accomplished by (1) adding a copy statement to an existing bibliographic record in Orbis (2) modifying a record existing in the vendor's resource file or (3) creating a new record based upon the cataloging information on the card in hand. 

Database loads

Records produced by the vendor are loaded into Orbis on a twice monthly basis. 

Quality control and problem resolution

Staff on the Catalog Management Team undertake a variety of  quality control and problem resolution activities to (1) ensure that the records are in compliance with local and national standards as well as with vendor and other contractual requirements and (2) address problems that are specifically "flagged" for our attention by the vendor as well as those that are inevitable in a retrospective conversion undertaking that is as complex as ours.  A given project is considered "done" only when this final phase of activity has been completed. 

Yale's Retrospective Conversion Project

Yale's retrospective conversion project in reality consists of several separate projects that range in size from fewer than 20,000 to almost 2,000,000 records.

The bulk of our retrospective conversion will be accomplished over the course of the next three years using the Official Catalog and the Serials Catalog, which are alphabetically-arranged catalogs containing main entry records for monographs and serials held in all locations in the Yale University Library system, including school and departmental libraries.  From these catalogs, records representing materials in several campus libraries will be converted, including the Classics Library, the Science Libraries, the Social Science Library, the Seeley G. Mudd Library, and Sterling Memorial Library. 


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Last updated: 8 November 1999