MARC21. The New Game From Milton Bradley!


It has been awhile since I’ve written for this library specific blog. I had a rough beginning of the year with my stress levels reaching an all time high with work, home, and school. The core class that I opted out 1/2 through was the expected F. The irony here is that the class being taken was within walking distance from my home rather than the trek I do up to Tampa each semester and second, these was a reference class which is the same department I work in. Again, I just could not work this core into my hectic life. For the most part, I thought this class was being offered again in the spring of 2011 and with the same professor. As luck would have it, this core class that I failed was offered this fall semester BUT it is with a professor who I have disliked since the beginning of my library degree journey. I am at a crossroad….

On the same token, several weeks ago, I registered for a class which was not my strongest effort – cataloging. This is not to say that I could understand the class but I am of the firm belief that what you learn should have a direct correlation to the job you perform. With cataloging, well… we don’t do cataloging at the branch level. All the materials we receive are already in the system following the MARC21 standard for cataloging. When it came down to the course work, this was a very alien concept even for my highly over developed noggin BRAIN. To a novice librarian, this gobbledygook looks like another language with makes no sense. However, to a degree I understand it much the same way I understood how to program in BASIC. There are a series of commands that computer will understand in a sequential order.

Let’s begin with this: the picture above is a MARC record. This stands for MAchine Readable Cataloging. The MARC21 format contains symbols that are seen such as: 260, $, $a, $b etc are referred to as data signposts. When a computer reads these signposts, the reader will be able to see the bibliographic record of the cataloged item. Each line number are called tags and serves a purpose on the order on how the data will be displayed and is consistent from record to record and library to library. For example, 260 line marks the publication information.

Now, having said all this, we as librarians and patrons don’t see all the data except for the actual bibliographic record which give us data on the book or material. I look at the pic above and compare this to HTML – Hyper Text Markup Language. Both are programs with instructions for the computer and browser respectively to read and present just the data like this entry blog. If you wish to view the HTML for this entry you would see a bunch of commands and data which may not make sense at first.

After the tags, you might see another set of numbers which are referred as indicators values. Each number has a specific value which tells the computer how to read and display the data. For example, if line 245, had 14 instead of 10, the display of the title would be different. The first indicator, 1, tells us that there should be a separated title entry in the catalog. The second indicator, 4, if there was the word THE at the beginning of the title, tells the computer to skip 4 spaces which bypasses the word altogether in the catalog display. Which means, when looking up a book like, “The Old Man and the Sea,” the catalog record would have the record displayed as, “Old Man and the Sea.”

For now, I am going to give this a rest as I need to get some rest for work tomorrow and my trek to Tampa this weekend. All in all, I fairly have a good understanding of the layout and since it is a consistent format, I just need to refer to my notes and the many entries I am planning to make to maintain and expand my cataloging knowledge for something I rarely do at work.

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~ by The Monster on August 26, 2010.

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