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MARC elements

This version was saved 9 years, 11 months ago View current version     Page history
Saved by Karen Coyle
on February 15, 2011 at 2:01:01 pm


Analysis: Fixed Fields: 007, 008

               Number and Code Fields (0XX)

               Variable Fields (1XX-8XX) 

Resulting Data (in various formats)



Any future metadata format for library bibliographic information must be able to address the legacy data that is stored in MARC format.  A first step in addressing that data is to analyze MARC into a set of data elements, independent of the ISO 2709 record structure. As much as possible, the elements must be atomistic and clearly defined. This is in contrast to the MARC record structure, which bundles data elements into complex fields, and which has areas that are more in the nature of marked-up text than data elements in the usual sense.


The set of atomistic elements will not provide the same overall structure as the MARC record; that should be achieved by an actual application. Throughout the process of developing a MARC21 element description, it will be important to keep in mind the difference between the declaration of properties and vocabularies and the actual creation of instance data. Properties and vocabularies should be tested to make sure that they do funciton for instance data, but they do not have to replicate an actual MARC21 record in structure.


The Field Types in the MARC Record


There are three general field types in the MARC record:

  1. Fixed fields (00X)
  2. Number and code fields (0XX)
  3. Variable bibliographic fields (100-899)


The fixed fields meet the definition of "data elements" in most cases: they are coded values with defined value lists. (There are a few structured values, e.g. for dates.) Each field is of fixed length, and the data elements are assigned to fixed positions within the fields. This should be the easiest area to translate into a set of discrete data elements.


The number and code fields are variable length fields with variable length subfields. They contain data that is not considered to be very human-friendly such as identifiers, mathematical data (mainly geographic), and classification numbers. These fields are mostly textual in nature, however, and some key data elements, like ISBNs, are in subfields that also can contain free-text notes:


  020 __ |a 046503912X (hardback)


Variable bibliographic fields make up the majority of the MARC format. These are for the most part the fields that display to users and that are searchable: authors, titles, information about publishing details, notes, and subjects. All of these are textual in nature. Most contain both the full punctuation that would normally be included in text as well as punctuation required by the International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD). For example, in the following, the use of " = " is the ISBD indication that the second set of text is a translation of the first into another language:


245 14 |a Der Ring des Nibelungen. |p Das Rheingold = |b The ring of the Nibelung. The Rhinegold /


Many of the variable fields that represent agents (persons, corporate bodies, events) and subjects have a corresponding record in an authority file. The authority file is a form of controlled list and to some extent the agents and subjects could be represented by the identifier for the entry in the appropriate authoritative list.


Complicating the analysis of variable fields is an internal structure of links between fields, and qualifiers that can significantly change the meaning of fields.



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