Status Report on the Pinyin Conversion Project
as of May 1999

Task Force on Pinyin Conversion Project
OCLC CJK Users Group

A. Current status

The Library of Congress (LC) and the Research Libraries Group (RLG) have been working together on the Pinyin conversion project since 1997 when LC announced its decision to switch from the Wade-Giles romanization system to the Pinyin system.

With the support of a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, RLG has developed the capability of converting all Chinese-language records in the RLIN bibliographic files from Wade-Giles to Pinyin (all parallel fields in the variable fields except the 880 field will be converted). This will include both Chinese-language records that have CJK scripts and those that are romanized only. RLG will do the conversion at no cost to RLG users and member libraries can receive copies of their converted Chinese-language records for loading into their local systems by ordering snapshots at the standard RLG rate of $0.135 per record.

More detailed information concerning RLG's Pinyin conversion project can be found at:

B. Conversion timeline

Although Day 1 can not yet be specified at this point, LC has targeted the completion of the conversion of its bibliographic records on RLIN for spring/summer of the year 2000.

C. Implementation timeline

The timeline quoted below was based on the handout, "LC Pinyin Task Group Pinyin conversion timeline", distributed at the CEAL conference this March. Please note that all targeted dates in parentheses are subject to change.

  1. Chinese romanization guidelines based on the Pinyin system -- Completed and distributed in Dec. 1998.
  2. Conventional Chinese place names (1998/8-2000/12)
    1. Change authority records for geographic headings (ongoing) (see
    2. Change related authority records (1999/2-8)
    3. Change geographic headings on bibliographic records (from 1999/7-2000/12)
  3. Subject headings -- Virtually all terms, established in vernacular Chinese from vernacular sources, and romanized systematically, would be converted (targeted for Dec. 1999). Chinese terms established from old, pre-Pinyin sources will be retained as cross-references. Both LC and RLG plan to produce lists of all headings that will be affected by the conversion.
  4. Classification schedules -- Major changes are anticipated in the DS, G, and PL LC schedules. For Chinese literary authors in the PL schedule, LC plans to end the most recent time period this year (1949-1999). Beginning with the year 2000, cuttering will be based upon the new Pinyin system.
  5. Test plans -- writing and testing of conversion programs by RLG and LC (from 1999/1-12)
  6. Conversion of bibliographic records
    1. Move all LC Chinese records to RLIN (1998/12-1999/9)
    2. RLG converts LC's Chinese records residing in RLIN (2000/2-7)
    3. RLG converts other libraries' Chinese records residing in RLIN (2000/2- )
    4. LC distributes converted LC bibliographic records (2000/4- )
  7. Conversion of name authority records -- Planning was started in 1999. Implementation will wait till after the installation of LC's ILS.

D. Who and What will be affected

All on-line Chinese records as well as other on-line records with related romanized Chinese authority and subject headings will be affected by this conversion. It is difficult at this point to give an estimate of the total number of records to be affected. Workflows of both technical services including acquisitions, serials and monograph cataloging, and public services will be heavily impacted by the conversion.

E. Awareness of the library administration

According to a questionnaire on the Pinyin conversion distributed by the CEAL Pinyin Liaison Task Force in March this year and reported by Amy Tsiang in the annual meeting of CEAL's Technical Services Committee, over 40% of the North American library administrations were not aware of or were not informed of the Pinyin conversion as of that date. The remaining library administrations, though aware of the impending conversion, have not taken any action toward the issue. Almost all libraries, however, plan to start converting the existing files and to use the Pinyin romanization system in their libraries after LC's lead in 2000. It is to be noted that during the 1999 Midwinter ALA, the topic of this conversion was discussed at the meeting of ALCTS Heads of Technical Services in Large Libraries. Suggestions were made to lobby OCLC, LC and RLG for commitment and cooperative action. The group will continue discussing this topic at the 1999 June ALA conference in New Orleans.

F. OCLC's awareness and plan toward Pinyin conversion

OCLC at present is monitoring LC's and RLG's conversion plan and is working with its development staff to evaluate conversion requirements and schedules. More definitive information concerning its own plan will be forthcoming. OCLC may also opt to redistribute all Chinese and related records from RLG after RLG's conversion of those records. OCLC urges member libraries to plan ahead for the necessary budget for the conversion.

G. Conclusion

LC is planning to have Pinyin related status reports mounted on a Pinyin conversion site on the Cataloging Directorate home page in the near future.


1. A major part of the information above is based on handouts from LC, distributed at the 1999 CEAL Technical Processing Committee annual meeting:

  1. Pinyin conversion status report
  2. LC Pinyin Task Group Pinyin conversion timeline
  3. Information related to "Chinese conventional place names" can be found at:

2. Detailed information on RLG's Pinyin conversion project can be found at:

3. Minutes of the ALCTS Heads of Technical Services in Large Libraries can be found at:

Checklist for THINGS TO DO

Based on the facts gathered in the above summary, the Task Force would like to make the following suggestions:

1. Please make sure you have received the romanization guidelines distributed by LC in December 1998.

2. Please inform your cataloging and authority control staff of the changes that are taking place right now in authority records for Chinese geographic headings. Local cataloging policy and/or guidelines may need to be established during the interim period. [see,, and (The site developed by Simpson/Doll is especially helpful because it provides links and Chinese scripts.)]

3. Please inform the following library units of this conversion:

  1. administration
  2. systems people
  3. technical processing people
  4. public services people

4.Please be prepared for implementation operations such as reloading of the bibliographic file, conducting library instructions, interim split-filing, relabelling and hiring additional help.

5. Please have a tentative budget in mind for request or recommendation.

6. Please communicate with colleagues in institutions using the same local system to explore possible cooperative efforts in facilitating this conversion.

Coming Event:

RLG Forum on the Pinyin conversion at ALA scheduled on Sunday, June 27, 9:30 am-12:30 pm, at the Embassy Suites (Lafitte 1) in New Orleans -- The meeting will be focused on all issues related to the impact of these changes on libraries' local systems and catalogs. The first part of the meeting will be on identifying issues and the second part possible strategies and approaches to address these issues.

OCLC CJK Users Group, Task Force on Pinyin Conversion Project:
Sarah Elman (UCLA)
Wen-ling Liu (Indiana Univ.)
Phyllis Wang (UC, Davis)
Hsi-chu Bolick, Chair (Univ. of North Carolina Chapel Hill)

Originally posted on the OCLC-CJK listserv on 14 May 1999.