MARC21 For Everyone


Reproduced by permission of the American Library Association, ©2003 by Deborah A. Fritz


Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpleróAlbert Einstein


This book is intended for those who, for whatever reason, feel they need to know a little bit about MARC. More importantly, this book has been written for those who really donít care about MARC, donít think it is important, canít see why they should have to know anything about it, really donít want to know anything about it, but still, after all is said and done, realize that they do need to know something about it.


Perhaps we should have been able to make this whole MARC thing incredibly simple and easy to understand, but we couldn't, because it isn't simple and easy to understand. You will not learn everything there is to know about MARC from this book, but what you will (hopefully) get from it is a good ideaof how MARC works and a solid grasp of why MARC is important.


What is MARC? MARC is a lot of things, but for the purpose of this book, MARC is defined as a standard for entering bibliographic information into a computer record that can be used by a library automation system to provide a library catalog.


Included in this bibliographic information, and therefore in MARC records, are:

-†††† descriptions of library materials;

-†††† searchable headings like authors and subjects;

-†††† elements to organize collections, like classification numbers;


There are a few different approaches to the question of what is MARC. One approach is for you to go to an Ďintroductoryí workshop where someone talks about tags, subfields and coding for a number of hours. You may need to attend such a workshop at some stage, to learn more about of the intricacies of MARC coding. But as a starting point, we think that you will understand more and remember more if you know the underlying reasons behind MARC and how MARC is meant to work in a libraryís automated system. Because, whether or not you are a cataloger, we feel that if you know how MARC affects patrons, then perhaps you will find MARC as fascinating as we do.


Who needs to know MARC? We believe that everyone who works in a library should know something about MARC, but especially: Library directors, Reference librarians, acquisitions and circulation people and, obviously, systems people and catalogers and their support staff! See Chapter 6 for more particulars on who needs to know what.


Why do you need to know MARC? Because we now use library automation systems instead of catalog cards in most libraries (or if we still use catalog cards, we may not for much longer), and the database at the core of most library automation systems is made up of records in this MARC format.


So if you know how those MARC records are supposed to work, you will discover two rather important things about your automated catalog:

-†††† Why patrons can find some items in your catalog and not others.

-†††† Why patrons can see certain information in your catalog and not other information.


You will be glad to know more about MARC if you have ever asked questions such as these:

-†††† Why can I find a book by its author but not its title?

-†††† Why does the catalog say I have 6 Spanish books when I know I have hundreds?

-†††† Why canít I find Hamlet the video without wading through every book record in the catalog to get to it?

-†††† What happened to the record for such and such a book, it was there yesterday--but now I canít find it anywhere?


How can you learn MARC?† Take it step by step. Perhaps you began the process at Library School, perhaps you have had some on the job training, or maybe you are starting from scratch here and now. This book will take you the first few steps on your way.


By the way, we are going to use the terms "MARC" and "MARC21" interchangeably throughout this book. We'll explain the history of these terms in a later chapter, but for the time being you just need to know that MARC21 is simply the most current version of MARC used in most English speaking countries.


MARC21 for Everyone is organized in such a way that you should be able to read a bit, do a quick quiz, take a break, read a bit more, and so on, eventually working your way through the book with a minimum of pain and stress.


MARC21 for Everyone is copiously illustrated with examples that will, hopefully, clarify some of the many cataloging terms that the experts love to throw around.



Hereís a general outline of what we are going to cover in the pages to follow:


Part One--MARC: The Underlying Fundamentals

Ch. 1: Library patrons, bibliographic information and the library catalog

We begin by introducing the educational, informational and recreational needsof patrons and examine how we provide Ďbibliographic informationin library catalogs to make library materials accessible to patrons to meet those needs. There is a brief introductory mention of how MARC fits into this picture.


Ch. 2: The rules for bibliographic information and the standards for MARC

Next we discuss why libraries follow rules when they are supplying bibliographic information for patrons, and how following these rules makes it easier for patrons to find out about our materials and decide whether those materials truly satisfy their needs. We also take a quick look at how those rules connect to MARC.


Ch. 3: MARC records; what are they, why do we need them and how do we get them

Then we consider what MARC is, how it got started and how it continues to develop. We also touch on the different kinds of MARC available, why we need the MARC standards, and how we get MARC records.


Ch. 4: MARC21 and the computerized catalogs of today

We move on to consider how MARC is used in the catalogs of today, beginning with how patrons search in our catalogs and how the results of those searches are displayed. Even though displays vary between different catalogs, we will see that all displays come from the same MARC records.


Ch. 5: MARC21 terminology

It might help you to know that we still use many of the same terms when talking about MARC records that we used to use when we typed catalog cards. We will describe what some of those older terms mean, then look at some new MARC terms.


Ch. 6: MARC21, who needs to know what

Before we move on to some actual MARC coding, we briefly describe the MARC codes that might be of particular interest to people in various departments of the library.


Part Two: MARC21 Codes You Should Know

This section will introduce you to actual coding in specific fields that you will commonly encounter in MARC records. It is the longest section in the book, and gets down to the level of explaining how to code actual fields, indicators, subfields, etc.

Ch. 7: Indexed fields--Headings

Indexed fields contain Names, Titles and Subjects that patrons might want to search by to find the materials in our collections. There are definite patterns in the MARC coding for these headings fields that you may find surprisingly easy to remember.


Ch. 8: Display fields--Bibliographic description

Display fields contain the descriptions that we want to show patrons of the materials in our collections. All of these fields are meant to be displayed to patrons. Some of them are also searchable in both Browse and Keyword indexes, some are searchable only in Keyword indexes, and some are for informational purposes only and are not indexed at all.


Ch. 9: Coded fields

Coded fields contain important codes that are used by library automation systems. They are never displayed to patrons.


Ch. 10: Number fields

Number fields contain important numbers that are used by catalogers, systems staff, library automation systems, and sometimes patrons. Some number fields are indexed, and some display to patrons; we concentrate on the ones that are used for finding matching records.


Ch. 11: Summation

We attempt to summarize and distill the contents of the entire book into two pages!


Ch. 12: MARC21 sample records

Most of the chapters above end with a simple quiz, and we also wrap things up with a final look at some sample records so that you can practice reading them.