Print Page   |   Sign In   |   Register
TL v57 n1 Bowker's Book Analysis System Using RCL Web
Share |


Tennessee Libraries

Volume 57 Number 1



Bowker's Book Analysis System Using RCL Web 

Suzanne Mangrum
Assessment Collection Librarian

Middle Tennessee State University



Bowker’s Book Analysis System (BBAS) coupled with Resources for College Libraries (RCL) arrived in December 2006. This product offers collection analysis that provides dependable suggestions in a variety of formats, although there are still a few kinks to work out. BBAS compares individual library collections to more than 58,000 titles in available in RCL. This venture is spearheaded by the editors of CHOICE as the predecessor of Books for College Libraries. RCL has designated an editor for each of the 58 subject categories. The editors manage a team of subject specialists who create a list the premier resources for a given topic. The final list is submitted by the editor and is then reviewed by a referee. There is an indication if a chosen resource also appeared in the third edition of Books for College Libraries or if it has been reviewed in CHOICE, but some of the resources are simply works chosen by the editorial team. It includes multiple formats—print, web, and electronic. Like CHOICE and the older Books for College Libraries, the scope of this product is for sources needed to teach undergraduates.

In this presentation I introduce RCL Web and discuss how I used BBAS to compare RCL Web to our library collection

Expected Outcomes

  • Evaluate our collection based on what subject-specific lists of resources we do and do not own
  • Acquisitions aid
  • A starting point for faculty representatives
  • Developing new subject areas/courses

Figure 1. RCL Web at

RCL Web is an annual subscription that is available on the library website for the entire MTSU community. This resource aims to reach all levels of the academic community from students to faculty. For library collection development use, the best search option is resources by subject.

Figure 2.  A partial list of subjects

By clicking on the links I can “drill down” to subtopics within that subject area. Figure 3 shows a list of resources for Education (1450 items) – Social Aspects of Education – Educational Sociology – Educational Equity (10 items) + Gender Differences in Education (8 items).

Figure 3. A list of resources for a Education Equity and Gender Differences in Education

On this screen I can sort the results by using the options on the left side of the screen. The green boxes on top allow options for selected items. The “Add to lists” feature allows a user to create a list of resources that can be public (everyone can add or delete items) or password protected. The list remains until it is not opened for a full year.

Lists are a great option for the liaison program. For example, a professor teaching this topic could add titles to a list entitled “Library Materials for the Education Department” along with the other faculty members. The acquisitions librarian/library liaison could email the list to the acquisitions department periodically. It’s one more way to provide interaction between the library and the faculty.

Summary of What RCL Web Can Provide

  • Subject-specific selection information
  • Environment that promotes collaboration
  • Mark RCL items in the OPAC (This has not been tried at MTSU, but it’s possible)

Bowker’s Book Analysis System (BBAS)

In order to discover how the library’s collection measures up to RCL, one must purchase the Bowker Book Analysis System separately.

Figure 4. BBAS at

The program uses algorithms to match RCL titles to library holdings by matching on Title, Author, LCCN and ISBN. The “How It Works” (Figure 5) link on the top of the page explains the product in detail.

Figure 5. "How it Works" link

The BBAS Process – Step by Step

The first step is to pull the information out of the ILS in the form of MARC records or .csv files. MARC records have slightly better results since a MARC record can contain multiple ISBN numbers. However, I could not pull MARC files because I don’t have server-level access to our ILS. I created my own .csv files in MS Access, our reporting device. (We use Voyager Endeavor.)

The file maximum is 500,000 records. Our library has over 650,000 records, so I needed to divide it somehow. I decided to divide the collection by Dewey range. Here was the process:

First, I created a MS Query (Figure 6) to pull the required data: Title, LCCN, ISBN, and Author for a range of our collection. It was recommended that each record have a unique identifier, so I also included the bib number assigned by the ILS.

Figure 6. An MS query

Then I sent the information to an MS Excel spreadsheet.

Figure 7. An MS Excel spreadsheet

Finally I saved the information as a .csv (comma separated values) file, rather than an Excel worksheet.

When the file was ready I logged on to BBAS and clicked on the FILE DOWNLOAD option.

Figure 8. File Downloads

This link goes to a Bowker server. I would then drag my .csv file to this window in order to send my file to BBAS.

Figure 9.  Sending a file to BBAS

After the file has been downloaded, I click the back button. This goes back to the last screen.

I would then click on the “PROCESS FILE” button next to the “file download” button.

This will go to the Process New File screen (Figure 10).

Figure 10. Process New File

The screen must be filled out with required information. The important thing is that the file name must match the description exactly. On the bottom I chose the file format, .csv (CSV with double quotes). There is also the option to Choose MARC. Because I chose .csv, I was taken to a .csv template page.

Figures 11 .csv template pages

Figure 12.

This template has to be created one time for a .csv file and/or one time for a MARC file. The numbers simply indicate the column that the information is found in (Figure 12).

Figure 13.

As long as the information is consistently submitted to BBAS in the same format, the template does not need to be changed. If I change the report (my Excel file), then I can create a new template. The second image (Figure 13) shows the Excel .csv file I submitted to BBAS and how the numbers match.

After clicking “finish” I will see the report in queue with the other reports. At this point, the reports take about two hours to process.

Figure 14.

After doing something else for awhile, I log back into BBAS, and go to the main screen.

Figure 15

Under “Your File” on the top left of the yellow box, I check to see if my file is available

Figure 16

If I can find my file on the list, then I know has been processed. If I don’t see it, I wait a little longer.

Figure 17

Next to this window I choose the “Subject Classification System,” the choices are:

  • --RCL (58 subject areas found on RCL Web, plus numerous subtopics)
  • --LC,
  • --Dewey

I chose RCL so that I can see what subject areas are lacking.

The other options in the yellow box give options to limit results. I usually choose to run the report with all of the data and eliminate columns after I download it.

After clicking GO, you should see the screen shown in Figure 18.

Figure 18

Figure 19 shows detail from one subject area, Sociology. This example shows Sociology, and the detail of Political Sociology and Political Systems

Figure 19

In order to get a list of titles, I click one of the linked numbers. In this example, I chose the 140 books we do not own in “Family Life.”

Figure 20

Figure 21. The BBAS table is easy to read and gives a great deal of information. To download this information, click download and follow the directions. It’s easy to save the file and open it in Excel.

Problems With BBAS

After initial usage, my impression of this product is it that although the data is presented in an easy to understand format, the results cannot be trusted.

Here is an example to illustrate my findings. Figure 22 is the 700-799 file viewed through BBAS in Dewey.

Figure 22

There are 2,622 Core Titles that our library owns in the 700 area according to BBAS, but there are 98 items that we own that do not fall in the 700 range according to BBAS. They fall in the 700 range in our library, but BBAS would catalog those titles in other Dewey ranges. If these books do not fit in the Dewey range according to BBAS, there are probably other books in the “Core Titles NOT in Library”(4,329 items in the next column to the right) that are in some other range of our library. Everyone catalogs differently, so different libraries will put items in different subject areas. This may not be such a large problem for LC libraries, but there is a significant difference in Dewey.

My first realization was that I had to be able to look at our collection at one time in order to really see what we do and do not own. Although we own over 650,000 items, there are less than 60,000 Core titles.


I continued to run every Dewey range. I downloaded the core titles owned and compiled them into one core title list “Core Titles Held by MTSU” via MS Access and MS Excel. I submitted this new list to BBAS. This was a very time consuming process, but it worked.

Figure 23. The final report

Our percentages of “Core Titles Held” were still lower than expected. As I looked into the titles not owned and compared searched our catalog I received more bad news: BBAS has significant bugs.

For example, Figure 24 shows a book that was on our “Core Titles NOT Owned” list.

Figure 24

However, our catalog shows that we own two copies of this book, shown in Figure 23.

Figure 25

Both of these copies have the same editor and translator as the BBAS copy. I found several examples of this type of problem, so I asked BBAS why this was happening. They responded that I appear to be doing everything correctly; the problem is that they have a bug.


The latest update I have on this problem is that the BBAS program can find matches on title and author (even though the ISBN is different), but the program will not report the matches in the final report. The problem seems to occur in older, well-known works that have multiple editions and publishers.

I think the Bowker support group is very helpful, but the product is flawed. I first learned of this bug in February of 2007, and at the end of May they were still working on it. My guess is that Bowker will find a solution to this problem, but I also feel that our money has been wasted this year. I would encourage any other interested library to wait another year before inquiring about adding BBAS to the RCL Web product. However, I hope that we can continue to subscribe to RCL Web. It’s a great product and I believe it would encourage communication in our liaison program.

Membership Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal