January 23, 2021

“The MarcRecord”

aliceA while back (just about a decade ago actually) I gave a presentation wherein I used a number of quotes and illustrations from Lewis Carroll’s Alice books. One of my favorites is this exchange:

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.

“Oh, but you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

I had used as inspiration for that talk a document I had written back in the 1980s at UC Berkeley about moving from print to electronic circulation.  Some things just never go out of style.

For whatever reason I pulled up that old presentation and looked at it again. I had forgotten that I had changed some words in Carroll’s famous poem to speak to my library audience. With just a couple minor tweaks I reproduce it here.

The MarcRecord

‘Twas internet, and the slithy toves
Did google and yahoo in the wabe:
All mimsy were the catalogers,
and the library directors outgrabe.

“Beware the MarcRecord, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the RDA, and shun
The frumious Vendor!

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the metadata foe he sought–
So rested by the bookdrop,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in cataloger thought he stood,
The MarcRecord, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And bibframed as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And has thou slain the MarcRecord?
Come to my arm, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! On METS! On MODS!
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas internet, and the slithy toves
Did google and yahoo in the wabe:
All mimsy were the catalogers,
and the library directors outgrabe.

What were the library directors doing? According to this source, they were doing “something between bellowing and whistling, with a sneeze in the middle”. Well, duh.

Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.