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Collecting and evaluating large volumes of bibliographic metadata aggregated in the WorldCat database: a proposed methodology to overcome challenges

Vyacheslav I. Zavalin (School of Library and Information Studies, Texas Woman’s University, Denton, Texas, USA)
Shawne D. Miksa (College of Information, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas, USA)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 9 August 2021

Issue publication date: 4 November 2021




This paper aims to discuss the challenges encountered in collecting, cleaning and analyzing the large data set of bibliographic metadata records in machine-readable cataloging [MARC 21] format. Possible solutions are presented.


This mixed method study relied on content analysis and social network analysis. The study examined subject representation in MARC 21 metadata records created in 2020 in WorldCat – the largest international database of “big smart data.” The methodological challenges that were encountered and solutions are examined.


In this general review paper with a focus on methodological issues, the discussion of challenges is followed by a discussion of solutions developed and tested as part of this study. Data collection, processing, analysis and visualization are addressed separately. Lessons learned and conclusions related to challenges and solutions for the design of a large-scale study evaluating MARC 21 bibliographic metadata from WorldCat are given. Overall recommendations for the design and implementation of future research are suggested.


There are no previous publications that address the challenges and solutions of data collection and analysis of WorldCat’s “big smart data” in the form of MARC 21 data. This is the first study to use a large data set to systematically examine MARC 21 library metadata records created after the most recent addition of new fields and subfields to MARC 21 Bibliographic Format standard in 2019 based on resource description and access rules. It is also the first to focus its analyzes on the networks formed by subject terms shared by MARC 21 bibliographic records in a data set extracted from a heterogeneous centralized database WorldCat.



Zavalin, V.I. and Miksa, S.D. (2021), "Collecting and evaluating large volumes of bibliographic metadata aggregated in the WorldCat database: a proposed methodology to overcome challenges", The Electronic Library, Vol. 39 No. 3, pp. 486-503.



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