Main parts:

Each MARC format consists of a Summary Statement of Content Designators followed by a detailed presentation of each content designator.  Following the descriptions of the Leader and the Directory, the detailed descriptions for each variable field are arranged in numeric field tag order.  The variable data fields are presented in groupings in order to bring together fields that serve related functions.

Appendices vary for each format, providing information about control subfields, full level record examples, minimal level record examples, multiscript record examples, an alphabetical listing of ambiguous headings with suggested tagging, a multilingual list of initial definite and indefinite articles for the nonfiling characters indicator position, lists of changes to the format since the last edition or update, and a listing of organization code sources.

General Information sections:

General information sections are provided for groups of fields with similar characteristics.  These general information sections provide instructions for the content designators that are common to each field in the group.  The description for each of the fields refers back to the general information section for that group.

For example, in the Bibliographic Data Format, the X-- General Information section is provided for types of headings (X00 Personal Names; X10 Corporate Names; X11 Meeting Names; X30 Uniform Titles).  These general information sections provide instructions for the content designators that are common to each type of heading whether it is used in a 1XX main entry field, a 6XX subject access field, a 7XX added entry field, or an 8XX series added entry field.  The description for each of the individual fields (i.e., 100, 600, 700, 800, etc.) refers back to the X-- general information section for that type of heading.

Components of the detailed descriptions:

The detailed description for each variable field generally consists of six parts:  page banner; character position or field definition and scope; guidelines for applying content designators, with examples; input conventions; content designator history; and related MARC field or document.

1.  The page banner area contains:

the tag number and name of the field

the field repeatability/nonrepeatability code (R or NR)

the validity by material type (for some control fields)

2.  The character position or field definition and scope area describes the contents of the character position or field, the appropriateness of its use in specific kinds of MARC records, and gives other information, such as field repeatability in particular circumstances, the use of required lists or rules in formulating the data, etc.

3.  The guidelines for applying content designators area is presented in a table format and describes the content and scope of each coded value, indicator, or subfield code and gives other information, such as appropriateness for use and repeatability in certain circumstances.  The coded values and subfield codes in this area are listed in numerical/alphabetical order.  Examples showing the use of the content designator are provided immediately following its description.  The examples illustrate the application of specific MARC content designation.  The data may be fuller or less full than would be used in actual cataloging practice.  Most of the examples reflect the application of AACR 2 and ISBD; however, some reflect a generalized MARC application.  Other examples illustrate specific points.

For the Leader and the variable control fields, the list gives any defined coded values.

For the variable data fields, the list gives the names of the indicator positions and any defined coded values and the names of the subfield codes.

For all variable fields, the repeatability/nonrepeatability code at the field level specifies whether the field may be repeated in a record.

For variable data fields, the subfield repeatability code specifies whether the subfield code may be repeated within a field.

4.  The input conventions area provides general guidance to ensure consistency in the application of the content designators, and for such things as punctuation, spacing, and the use of display constants.  The punctuation used within a field is generally dictated by descriptive cataloging or subject heading system/thesaurus rules.  The input conventions clarify MARC punctuation practices especially with respect to final punctuation.  In the discussion of punctuation practices, mark of punctuation is a period (.), a question mark (?), an exclamation mark (!), or a hyphen (-).

5.  The content designator history area provides a record of significant content designator changes.  The types of changes that are included are:

newly defined content designators that impact on coding consistency within a file, e.g., in bibliographic format records, the location of a meeting entered under a corporate body was not separately subfield coded in the X10 fields prior to the definition of subfield $c in 1980.

redefined codes and values, e.g., in bibliographic format records, in X10 fields, both the number and the name of a part/section of a work were contained in subfield $p prior to the redefinition of subfield $p for only the name of a part/section of a work in 1979.

changes in codes and values for consistency across MARC specifications, e.g., in bibliographic format records, in 008/24-27 for the books specifications, code f (Handbooks) was identified by code h prior to 1979.

changes in repeatability when it impacts on file consistency, e.g., in bibliographic format records, field 020 was not repeatable prior to 1977; multiple ISBN data were contained in repeatable subfields $a, $b, and $c.

restructuring, e.g., in bibliographic format records, field 007 (Physical Description Fixed Field) in 1980.

obsolete content designation, e.g., in bibliographic format records, subfield $b (Number) in the X11 fields when subfield $n was redefined to include meeting numbers in 1979.  Obsolete content designation formerly defined in only one format are designated [USMARC only] or [CAN/MARC only]; unmarked items were defined in both formats.

In the MARC formats, a distinction is made between obsolete and deleted content designators.

   An obsolete content designator is one that may have been used in MARC records and that may continue to appear in records created prior to the date it was made obsolete.  Obsolete content designators are not used in new records.  An obsolete content designator is recorded in the Content Designator History area.  Content designation instructions are provided for retrospective conversion of records having data elements that would have been identified by the obsolete content designator.

   A deleted content designator is not recorded in the history area and will no longer appear anywhere in the MARC documentation.  A content designator that had been reserved in MARC but has not been defined, or one that had been defined but is known with near certainty not to have been used, may be deleted from the format.  A deleted content designator is available for redefinition in a format.

6.  The related MARC field or document area provides references to related fields within the same MARC format and to other MARC documents that are to be used in formulating the content of the field (e.g., a MARC code list).  It also provides references to non-MARC documentation that is to be used in formulating the content of the field (e.g., Library of Congress Classification).

To return:

A General Introduction to the MARC Format