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On the first stage main financial were put into computers, local networks, automated library systems, modules or single programs. All of those either came from abroad or were created by the local programmers. As a result in our country we have now a lot of libraries that were involved in the automation process in some degree. They use various machine-readable formats for their purposes.
Some of the formats are based on the USMARC format others on UNIMARC or UKMARC and some of the libraries have their own internal formats. However, if any institution refers to its format as to USMARC or UNIMARC it does not mean that it is USMARC or UNIMARC really. For example Russian Book Chamber while sending the records in UNIMARC format to three different organizations, uses three different formats. The USMARC format that Russian State Library uses is in fact RSL own format based on USMARC.
The second stage begins with the initiating of the LIBNET program (1997-1999).
This program is to coordinate all the activities on the integration of the information resources. This will be done on the basis of All-Russia's library network creation.
The best specialists of different institutions join in LIBNET program. The Ministry of Culture considers the LIBNET program to be the main way of library's automation.
On April, 24 1998 Russia's Parliament recommended that Government should begin the financial support of the LIBNET program. From the very beginning the LIBNET program has been supported by UNESCO.
In October 1995 Russian Library Association began to work on the project "Creation of National machine-readable Format for the Bibliographic Records." The initiative of the project belongs to the Ministry of Culture. The aim of the project is quite clear from its name. The representatives of the largest libraries partake in this project. Some of them are: Russian State Library, Russian Book Chamber, National Library of Russia, Russian National Public Library for Science and Technology, Library for Foreign Literature, etc.
Once the LIBNET program started it included this project as one of its parts.
One of the main branches of this project is the creation of the national exchange format for bibliographic and authority data.
Russian Exchange Format is an adaptation of an International Exchange format UNIMARC to the Russian cataloguing rules and cataloguing practice.
While the UNIMARC format accepts any variants of some content designators filling we chose the variant that is more common.
It concerns, in particular, the following alternatives:
The first quotation: During many years the attempts of inculcation in Russia of advanced systems like VTLS, DYNIX, ALEPH, TINLIB, etc. had shown an extremely effectless of these efforts. After hard, long and expensive adaptation those really good systems do not work properly in Russia.
The second quotation: Although the ideologies of the LIBNET program do not produce any barriers for the libraries to buy the program products in abroad, we supposed that is better to inculcate the new generation of Russian library systems. The main their advantage is that they are built on Russian library traditions, languages, standards, rules and technologies at the very beginning. In addition to this they are not so expensive, their producers live in Russia, speak on Russian, they are always and easily available to support the inculcation and development of their systems.
The end of quotation.
What does it mean for the Russian format? Keeping in mind that UNIMARC adaptation was done within the LIBNET program, this work is the concrete expression of joint efforts of the various libraries. Ministry of Culture accepted Russian Exchange Format as a mandatory one to precede the bibliographic data exchange between the institutions that belong to Structure of Ministry of Culture. This means that all library systems either being designed or inculcated in our country should either include RUSMARC converters or support the cataloguing in this format.
Thus now there are good conditions for the inculcation and for the development of the UNIMARC Format in Russia.
On the one hand: We have the document that is adapted to Russian rules and allows to begin the work. The participation of leading specialists in the RUSMARC project warrants the quality of this document. The positions of Russian Library Association and Ministry of Culture regarding Russian Exchange Format are expressed clearly and unambiguously. On the other hand: More and more librarians understand that it is absolutely necessary to join the efforts in the common work. That is why many specialists recognize the common exchange format as necessary.
It seems there are may be no doubts that Russian Exchange Format will be inculcated successfully. However we have situation when a lot of Russian libraries either have the automated systems or work with simpler programs already. But it is not a result of coordinated activities or joint state policy in the field of library automation. Surely, the attempts to coordinate the activities in this field have being made in the past, but the LIBNET was first to express state policy in the field of library automation. Our estimation of the situation when a lot of different systems, single programs and machine-readable formats exist in the country may differ, but all of these systems, programs and formats have one advantage at least: they are working.
We can understand the anxiety of those system holders when they recognize the necessity to make any changes under the condition of extremely unstable financial situation. In our case a new exchange format is proposed be to used either as exchange format (and where to take the converters?) or internal format of cataloguing (and where to take those systems and money to purchase them as well?).
Thus, there are two general conditions under which Russian Exchange Format can survive and become really indispensable tool.
The first one is the creation of necessary software that is able to support the Russian Exchange Format. (converters and library systems as well). Companies interested in such kind of work exist in Russia.
The second one is creation of Russian Service for Format Support and Development.
This service is supposed to solve the tasks as follows:
We do not mention about the third -- if not first -- condition that is obviously necessary. The seed should be watered sometimes to grow out. Unfortunately the gold rain is extremely rare phenomenon in our country.
This makes us especially grateful to Ministry of Culture and Open Society Institute. They made all the work on UNIMARC adaptation in Russia possible.
We are also grateful to PUC and especially to Mirna Willer, Sally McCallum, Marie-France Plassard, Brian Holt, Yakov Shraiberg for their active attention to our work. A separate thanks to Anthony Curwen. While taking part in the work of Consortium of European Research Libraries we used his detail consultations for the work on Russian Exchange Format as well.