MARC is the acronym for MAchine-Readable Cataloging. It defines a data format that emerged from a Library of Congress-led initiative that began thirty years ago. It provides the mechanism by which computers exchange, use, and interpret bibliographic information, and its data elements make up the foundation of most library catalogs used today. MARC became USMARC in the 1980s and MARC 21 in the late 1990s.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Network Development and MARC Standards Office Library of Congress
Fields, subfields and punctuation (yes, that again!)
The place provided for each item of bibliographic information (author, title, call number, etc.) is called a “field.”
There are two kinds of fields:
Fixed fields (these have a fixed number of characters, i.e. letters, numbers, spaces or signs, like punctuation). In the MARC record, they are contained in the Leader and the 008 field.
Variable fields (these have a varied number of characters)
More to come!
What does a MARC record look like? Section of MARC file for Standard Cataloging for School and Public Libraries Downloaded from Library of Congress catalog Do you see anything you can recognize? What about the title and statement of responsibility?
Variable fields contain the descriptive information about a work. They may also provide access points that can be used to search for, find, and identify a bibliographic record in the catalog. Access points can be names, alternate titles, subject headings, and/or call numbers. Variable fields make up the bulk of the record. Online systems have a certain character called an “end of field” symbol which tells the computer when to end the variable field.
Each field is associated with a 3-digit number called a “tag.” A tag identifies the field -- the kind of data -- that follows. Even though a printout or screen display may show the tag immediately followed by indicators (making it appear to be a 4- or 5-digit number), the tag is always the first 3 digits.
Two common tags are:
100 tag marks a personal name main entry (author)
245 tag marks the title information (which includes the title, other title information, and the statement of responsibility)
MARC Terms and Their Definitions Part III of Understanding MARC Bibliographic: Machine-Readable Cataloging
Indicators do just that—they “indicate” to the computer that it must do something. The indicators are the next two characters after the tag in variable fields.
Each indicator value is a number from 0 to 9. (Although the rules say it can be a letter, letters are uncommon.) Even though two indicators together may look like a 2-digit number, they really are two single-digit numbers.
Tag for title information Indicators: 1 indicates a separate title entry is required ; 4 says “skip first 4 characters and file under “emperor’s” 245 14 $a The emperor's new clothes / $c adapted from Hans Christian Andersen and illustrated by Janet Stevens.
Most of the fields in a MARC record contain several pieces of information. … Each of these pieces is called a Subfield and there are various ways to set these apart and to let the computer know where specific pieces of information can be found. Some of the possible subfields in the 245 field mentioned are title, subtitle, statement of responsibility, and format (also called medium).
245 14$aThe school library media manager /$cBlanche Woolls.
Elements of a field 3 Tag Indicators , indicating 1: separate title entry; and 4: skip 4 characters Delimiters and subfield codes
020 International Standard Book Number -- (ISBN) (R, or Repeatable i.e. there can be more than one 020 field )
Indicators undefined [ entered as ## ].
Subfields used most often:
$a -- International Standard Book Number $c -- Terms of availability (often a price) $z -- Cancelled/invalid ISBN (R)
Example: 020 ## $a 0877547637 The computer is programmed to recognize that field 020 means the standard number and that $a in this field stands for ISBN, so it will display or print that out as ISBN:0877547637
The 245 tag: Title and statement of responsibility
245 14 $a The school library media manager / $c Blanche Woolls.
Notice the / ? Remember what that means? That’s right, it’s the ISBD punctuation that says what follows is whoever’s responsible for the item! Then what comes before it is the title—right? The $a is the MARC sign (called a delimiter ) for the title subfield The $c delimiter indicates the author subfield The 14 isn’t fourteen, it’s 2 indicators : 1 to show that a title added entry is needed, 4 to tell the computer to skip 4 spaces when alphabetizing, i.e. skip “The” and the space (4 characters: t,h,e,space) that follow and start at “school”
The entry in a library catalog that provides the fullest description of a bibliographic item , by which the work is to be uniformly identified and cited . In AACR2 , the main entry is the primary access point . In the card catalog , it includes all the secondary heading s under which the item is cataloged (called added entries ). For most items, main entry is under name of author . When there is no author, main entry is under title .
(i.e. Should the title be indexed as a title added entry?)
0 -- No title added entry (indicates a title main entry; i.e. no author is given
1 -- Title added entry (the proper indicator when an author is given in field 1XX; the most common situation)
Indicator 2: Nonfiling characters
0-9 --Number of nonfiling characters present, including spaces; usually set at zero, except when the title begins with an article; e.g., for The robe , the second indicator would be set to 4. The letters T, h, e, and the space following them are then ignored in alphabetizing titles. The record will be automatically filed under "r" -- for Robe.
Subfields used most often:
$a --Title proper $h --Medium (often used for non-book media) $p --Name of part/section of a work (R) $b --Reminder of title (subtitles, etc.) $c --Remainder of title page transcription / Statement of responsibility
260 Publication, distribution, etc. (Imprint) (R)
Sequence of publishing statements
# -- No information provided
Undefined, therefore #
Subfields used most often:
$a -- Place of publication, distribution, etc. (R) $b -- Name of publisher, distributor, etc. (R) $c -- Date of publication, distribution, etc. (R)
$a -- Extent (number of pages) (R) $b -- Other physical details (usually illustration information) $c -- Dimensions (cm.) (R) $e -- Accompanying material (for example, "teacher's guide" or "manual")
300 ## $a 139 p. : $b ill. ; $c 24 cm.
Where can I find more details about fields and tags?
Tag of the Month from Follett
Need help understanding MARC tags? Turn to Tag of the Month. This helpful resource features a new topic every month, including a description of the tag's uses and working examples. You'll find Tag of the Month only at Follett Software.
The Tag of the Month page also features links to other helpful cataloging resources, including the online version of Understanding MARC Bibliographic: Machine-Readable Cataloging , the definitive book on MARC, co-authored by the Library of Congress and Follett Software.
LC Control No.: 2007009009 LCCN Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2007009009 Type of Material: Book (Print, Microform, Electronic, etc.) Personal Name: Intner, Sheila S. Main Title: Standard cataloging for school and public libraries / Sheila S. Intner and Jean Weih s. Edition Information: 4th ed. Published/Created: Westport, Conn. : Libraries Unlimited, 2007. Description: xii, 286 p. : ill. ; 26 cm . ISBN: 9781591583783 (pbk. : alk. paper)
1591583780 (pbk. : alk. paper)
MARC Record (selected tags) Diving into MARC Tag 020 is ISBN Library of Congress shows delimiters as | rather than $ Tag 082 gives Dewey classification number Subfield |2 (or $2) shows that number could be extended to 025.322 Tag 050 is LC classification Tag 650 marks subject headings Tags in the 500s are Notes Tag 010 is LC control number Tag 040 is Cataloging Source Tag 035 is system control number
The Network Development and MARC Standards Office plans and develops library and information network standards at the Library of Congress. It is the maintenance agency for several national standards, including the MARC 21 formats.To contact it, please e-mail [email_address] .
The MARC Standards webpage has links to extensive documentation on MARC 21, including the concise formats, code and field lists, information about MARC 21 development, and additional documentation to help users with the MARC 21 format. Some of the documentation is available in translation.