Automatic Creation of Order Records Through BNA's NTO on UHCARL

Marla J. Whitney


The University of Hawaii has worked with CARL Systems, Inc. and BNA (Blackwell North America) to develop automatic creation of order records in CARL acquisition system. These order records are generated once an item is ordered from Blackwell's NTO (New Titles Online).

Connecting to the NTO Service Through Acquisitons

Blackwell's NTO system is an online database of bibliographic records for over 100,000 titles. The NTO database is used for verification, reference and electronic ordering. In August of 1992 the option to connect to NTO was added to the UHCARL acquisitions and serials menu (see Figure #1). After adding the option, staff at UH Manoa could use their Wyse-50 terminals to log directly into NTO from the technical service module rather than having to logout of UHCARL and then connect via the Internet.

Using selection slips which have been submitted by collection development librarians, staff may search for the requested titles in the NTO database. Once a title is found, library staff use the NTO electronic ordering system and fill in the appropriate library fund number, destination, NTO's N-number (BNA's unique identifying number for that title) and specify the quantity wanted (see Figure #2). The title is on order from that moment. The next working day, the order record will be accessible in the UHCARL acquisitions system. No other action is required from the staff for this process to take place.

Acknowledgement File Collected on NTO

Each night Blackwell North America runs a program which gathers up all of the NTO orders placed on that day into a file called the Acknowledgment File. The file is in IBM EBCDIC format and contains the information entered by the acquisitions staff plus basic descriptive information for the item ordered (title, author, ISBN, publisher), date ordered and price, all of which is taken from the NTO order record. The ability to order for more than one site is possible. The University of Hawaii has ordered books for the William S. Richardson School of Law Library by using a different password. A separate acknowledgment file is created for each password that is used to logon to NTO. This processing insures that all orders for a specific site are grouped together in the acquisitions system.

Acknowledgement File Retrieved by University of Hawaii via Internet

A batch program which runs overnight on the University of Hawaii's Tandem mainframe computer uses ftp (file transfer protocol) to retrieve the most recent Acknowledgment File from NTO via the Internet. The files are named with the logon used to order those records, and the date. The date on the file can be used to identify and select a specific file if it is not retrieved the day it should have been.

Acknowledgement File Turned Into Orders

Once the Acknowledgment File is transferred to the University of Hawaii computer another program is run which converts the file from EBCDIC format to ASCII format. The resulting file contains the basic bibliographic information from NTO and the additional information the acquisitions staff entered into the NTO order screen. The ASCII data in the converted file (see Figure #3) is used to create order records in UHCARL's acquisitions system.

The UHCARL program that processes the order records from the converted file also checks to see if there is already a MARC record for each ordered title, as would be the case if the title were a second copy. The program originally checked ISBN (International Standard Book Number) and LCCN (Library of Congress Control Number). If matched, the order would be attached to the existing MARC record rather than creating a temporary short bibliographic record. Problems occurred when two different titles had the same ISBN. The order would be attached to the wrong MARC record. The program now checks both ISBN and the first 20 characters of the title to avoid this problem.

Once the order records are created in UHCARL's acquisition system, the acquisitions staff edit the records to add the name of the requestor, any internal notes and additional information (see Figure #4).

Problems Encountered

The biggest problem encountered with this function occurs when BNA does not run the program that collects the files at the usual time. The UHCARL retrieval program looks for the most recent file. If the BNA file has not been run yet, the retrieval program will pick up the same records it picked up the day before. The order creation program was modified to add a check that verifies whether orders have already been processed. The check procedure notes whether the BNA retrieval file name has already been used if so an error report is produced. This check has solved the problem of duplicate orders being created.

A second problem occurs when BNA runs the collection program twice in one day (once in the early morning for the orders for the previous day and once late in the evening for the orders for the same day). Both files have the same name since the name is based on the date. A modified retrieval program was created in order to allow interactive retrieval of the Acknowledgment File for a specific date. This is essentially a manual override of the duplicate check to be used in cases where two files with the same name are known to contain unique data.

Another problem resulting in duplicate records occurred when the program to turn the Acknowledgment File into orders was accidentally run twice on the same day.

Both of these problems were corrected by the creation of a file named ALREADY. ALREADY keeps track of all of the NTO file names that are collected and then compares them to the file name that is currently being processed. When the File being processed exists in the ALREADY File, the BNA Report prints out the message, "File ALREADY done".

The customer support at BNA has been extremely helpful. On the occasions when problems were encountered they have been quick to respond to both email and phone calls. The NTO overnight program failed to collect records on one occasion. When notified that the acknowledgment file had not been created, the contact person at BNA quickly arranged to have a modified program run to collect the file for the missing day.

Desired Enhancements

The full MARC records for the titles ordered are currently sent to the University of Hawaii on magnetic tape. When the tapes arrive, they must be loaded into the Tandem mainframe by operations staff, the records must be converted to bibliographic records in the UHCARL Public Access Catalog (PAC) and the order must be manually attached to the MARC record by a staff person in the acquisitions department. An improvement to the NTO function would be if the MARC records were sent via the Internet rather than the short records in the Acknowledgment File. The Library would no longer need to load the tapes and the orders would already be attached to the bibliographic record.

The acquisitions staff would like to see the ability to put more information into the NTO order screen (selector and any notes). More information could also be added to the acknowledgment file, i.e. series information. If MARC records were used rather than order records the additional information would be easier to retrieve.

Selectors for the library currently have the ability to view records in read-only mode on NTO. Their password allows them to log on and search, but not to order records. The selectors have requested ability to mark records so that they could select the titles to order without having to use form selection slips.


The work between BNA and CARL Systems, Inc. has enabled the staff at the University of Hawaii to work more effectively. Through the use of networking technology, they are able to easily logon to a remote vendor service, select an item to order, and immediately know that the order has been placed. Orders are received faster since several days of mailing time have been eliminated. The cost of postage has also been reduced.

The automatic order creation of order records through BNA's NTO using UHCARL is a small step toward the goal of the "paperless office."


Thank you to Thelma Diercks and Martha Chantiny for their comments and suggestions for this article.

Marla Whitney is currently a customer support representative at CARL Systems, Inc. Previously she served as a Systems Librarian at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Hamilton Library Email: Internet: