Records in the ils (Integrated Library System): Bibliographic records Holdings records Item records Authority records In this course, we are mostly concerned with bibliographic records

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LIS 606—Advanced Cataloging

Spring 2015 (Chopey)

MARC21 Bibliographic Format in Voyager and OCLC

Catalogers are most concerned with 4 types of records in the ILS (Integrated Library System):

  1. Bibliographic records

  2. Holdings records

  3. Item records

4. Authority records
In this course, we are mostly concerned with bibliographic records and authority records.
Bibliographic records in library catalogs are usually structured by, and encoded according to, MARC 21 Format for Bibliographic Data (ANSI/NISO Z39.2). Bibliographic records can also occur on catalog cards or in non-MARC encoding schemes, but almost all automated library systems (e.g. Hawai‘i Voyager) and bibliographic utilities (e.g. OCLC WorldCat) are designed to use MARC21 Bibliographic as the format for bibliographic records.
(We will talk about authority records later in this course.)
Broadly speaking, the MARC bibliographic record contains 5 categories of data for our purposes:

  1. Fixed fields

  2. Standard number and code fields

  3. Descriptive fields

  4. Name and title access point fields

  5. Subject heading fields

Fixed Fields
Fixed fields, which include the record leader, directory, and control fields 001-008 (see for definitions and values for these fields) are “fixed” in the sense that these fields are of fixed length, and can therefore be machine-interpreted. For example, the 008 is always 39 characters in length, and the 3-letter code for “place of publication” is always carried in character positions 15-17 in the BOOKS 008.
Every MARC bibliographic record contains a leader, a directory, and at least one primary 008 fixed field, which may be any one of the following:

  • 008--BOOKS


  • 008--MAPS

  • 008--MUSIC




The cataloger chooses the type of primary 008 fixed field based on the predominant characteristics of the item being described in the bibliographic record. Simple and clear guidelines on making this choice can be found at

For machine processing purposes, a MARC bibliographic record with a BOOKS 008 will appear identical to a bibliographic record with a MUSIC 008. In the “raw” MARC that is transmitted between library systems, both of these records will contain exactly 39 characters of fixed field data. In both records, character spaces 15-17 will contain a 3-letter standard MARC code for “place of publication,” and because that code always occurs in exactly those character spaces, the catalog software will be able to interpret that code as such.
However, while character spaces 18-21 in the BOOKS record will contain up to four single-letter codes for the type of illustrations contained in the item, character spaces 18-21 in the MUSIC record will contain a 2-letter code for the “form of musical composition,” followed by a one-letter code for “format of music,” followed by a one-letter code for “music parts.”
The library catalog software determines how to interpret and render character spaces 18-21 (and the other character spaces within the fixed field that are variable for different types of material) based on the value contained in character space 6 of the record leader. If the value of leader character 6 is “c” (notated music), then the catalog software knows to render the 008 as a MUSIC 008; if the value is “a” (printed language/textual material), then the catalog software knows to render the 008 data as BOOKS 008 data.
Different catalog software will render the same string of 008 data in different ways for display in the cataloging module (adding labels, for example, to make the data more easily readable and interpretable for the cataloger). For example, a string of “raw marc” data such as:
0 sd|fzngnn|m|e| 901012p19871986enkopn dei ger d  ­a

will be rendered by OCLC Connexion cataloging client as:

The same string of “raw MARC” 008 data is rendered by Endeavor Voyager’s cataloging client as:

The raw MARC data with position 6 of the leader (type) coded as “a” for language material generates 008s that look like the following in OCLC Connexion client and Voyager cataloging client, respectively:

Note that in each of the foregoing examples, the labels assigned by the cataloging software are not actually part of the MARC bibliographic data that is transmitted from one system to another. They are assigned by the cataloging software, which can automatically determine the meaning of the codes in every character space of the 008 based on the “type” that is coded in character space 6 of the record leader.

Besides the primary 008 fixed field for the predominant characteristics of the item being cataloged, there are also 007 and 006 fixed fields for additional characteristics—we will discuss these 006 and 007 fixed fields later.
Note that fixed field data are defined by the MARC standard—not by RDA or any of the other content standards that catalogers use.

Standard Number and Code Fields
In MARC bibliographic records, standard numbers (including classification numbers) and other codes are carried in fields 010-099.
Although there are some RDA rules and LC-PCCPSes that address some of the standard numbers that appear in bibliographic records, for the most part the content standard for MARC fields 010 through 099 is usually a standard MARC code list, some other standard code list, or one of the various library classification system schedules.
RDA addresses the content of:

  • Descriptive fields

  • Name and title access point fields

the syntax of these fields in MARC21 (punctuation within and between fields, e.g.) is addressed by appendices D-E in RDA.

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