Friday, March 25, 2011

MARC Printed Documentation

LC is seeking comments on changing from print to online documentation.
The Network Development and MARC Standards Office is considering some changes in the publication of the MARC 21 Format documentation. For many years we have printed the formats and their updates and the code lists and sold them through our Cataloging Distribution Service (CDS). In the last decade, however, CDS and our Office have developed alternative publication channels -- first the Concise formats were made available online for free, then the format documents were added to Catalogers Desktop where they were enriched with links to code lists and cataloging norms, and finally the full format content was published for free on the web. As a result, the demand for the printed format documentation has dwindled to very small numbers. (I, myself, rely totally on the online now and am not expeditious about filing in those updates!)

Format updates:

I have announced at the last two ALA meetings that we were considering not printing several of the updates and I have talked with a number of persons individually about that. Now we are ready to act and are proposing not to print any of the full format documents henceforth -- Bibliographic, Authority, Holdings, Classification, Community Information -- but want the community to have an opportunity to voice any concerns. We would continue to print the concise format annually, but perhaps in a reduced form -- only a looseleaf binder with Bibliographic, Authority, and Holdings.

We would also establish a printing stylesheet for the online format pages that would eliminate internet framing material, yielding pages very close to the current print. They could be used by those who prefer print to update a printed format resource.

The free online version of each format would continue to be available online in both full and concise forms, as it is now.

The annual printing schedule has also hampered us from issuing updates after each MARC meeting and made it difficult to make minor corrections. Over time we have begun to make the minor corrections to the online as they are found but are still wrestling with the update schedule and as a result are beginning to get the print and online out of synch (the online currently goes through Update 12 (October 2010) while the print has been published through Update 10/11 (February 2010)).

If we go to updates only online, as noted above, we would still print the Concise Bibliographic, Authority, and Holdings annually. We would update the online with an official update in September/October and March/April of each year. Minor corrections would be made to the online text as they are discovered.

Code lists:

The Language, Geographic Area, and Country MARC code lists are still printed on an occasional basis. The latest updates are Language in 2007, GACs in 2006, and Countries in 2003. The Organization codes, and the Relator and Source code lists ceased to be printed several years ago and are online only because they are more frequently changed than the ones mentioned above. The Language, Geographic Area, and Country code lists are also online and are updated as changes occur. These code lists are also in CDS's Catalogers Desktop with rich links, downloadable in an XML format from the MARC site, and are available through a new web service: Authorities and Vocabularies Service (, commonly called ID. In ID, the codes and their captions are being augmented with links to each other and with their corresponding terms in LCSH and NAF, where possible.

Our proposal is to no longer issue the Language, Geographic Area, and Country code lists in print form but depend on the different online services for access.

We would like to hear from you on these plans. Could you please respond via email to by April 4, 2011.

As the publisher and distributor of the MARC 21 formats in English in Canada and of the French formats worldwide, Library and Archives Canada will also review its plans for production of printed updates pending any decision taken by the Library of Congress.

The content and structure of the French MARC 21 formats at is currently being upgraded to align with the printed full formats.

Canadian users of the MARC 21 formats in English may send their comments to the Standards team at Library and Archives Canada at:

1 comment:

julanna said...

I have only used the online version since it came out.