How, in times past, did a title for a book get into a bibliographic record?  Well, someone, a cataloger for instance, typed it onto a card or into a worksheet or directly into a Marc record.  What if that wasn’t necessary?  What if the title data was available to be displayed in a catalog before any cataloger was involved?  Would that not removed some of the burden from libraries?  What if sufficiently detailed and formatted information came from the publisher?

ONIX is “the international standard for representing and communicating book industry product information in electronic form.”   Publishers and vendors have come together to develop a standard way of communicating information about individual publications that is web-based and goes far beyond the detail required of AACR2.  ONIX data allows publishers, book vendors, and rights managers to communicate automatically with each other.  The one group not using ONIX data is libraries.

Leaving aside, for the moment, that not all publishers have implemented ONIX, lets consider the possible advantages of making use of ONIX data to populate (in part) our catalog displays.  First, the obvious one: if someone else has already done it we don’t have to.   Second, the ONIX folks have developed an web-friendly labelling scheme for bibliographic data that we could adopt in our quest to find a replacement for dear, old, web-unfriendly MARC.

If publishers are providing ONIX descriptive data for most of our acquisitions what is left for catalogers to do?  Well, there’s creating the data for items without ONIX data, of course.  AND, what about subject analysis & classification!?!?  The great ignored part of cataloging!  Yes, subject analysis & classification.  And cross-referencing.  And all those other things that might make a catalog usable.