MARC 21 Concise Bibliographic: Introduction

The MARC 21 Format for Bibliographic Data is designed to be a carrier for bibliographic information about printed and manuscript textual materials, computer files, maps, music, continuing resources, visual materials, and mixed materials. Bibliographic data commonly includes titles, names, subjects, notes, publication data, and information about the physical description of an item. The bibliographic format contains data elements for the following types of material:

Books - textual material that is monographic in nature.

Continuing resources - textual items with a recurring pattern of publication, e.g., periodicals, newspapers, yearbooks. (Note: Prior to 2002, continuing resources were referred to as serials.)

Computer files - used for computer software, numeric data, computer-oriented multimedia, online systems or services. Other classes of electronic resources are coded for their most significant aspect. Material may be monographic or serial in nature.

Maps - all types of cartographic materials, including sheet maps and globes in printed, manuscript, electronic, and microform.

Music -
printed and manuscript notated music.

Sound recordings -
nonmusical sound recordings, and musical sound recordings.

Visual materials -
projected media, two-dimensional graphics, three-dimensional artifacts or naturally occurring objects, and kits. Used for archival visual materials when format or medium is being emphasized.

Mixed materials -
primarily archival and manuscript collections of a mixture of forms of material. Material may be monographic or serial in nature

Information for Translators and Other Users
Items highlighted in red indicate changes made after the 2003 edition of the MARC 21 Concise Formats was published and are included in the 2004 printed edition of the MARC 21 Concise Formats.

Kinds of Bibliographic Records

MARC bibliographic records are distinguished from all other types of MARC records by specific codes in Leader/06 (Type of record) which identifies the following bibliographic record types.

Language (textual) material

Nonmusical sound recording

Manuscript language (textual) material

Musical sound recording

Computer file

Projected medium

Cartographic material

Two-dimensional nonprojectable graphic

Manuscript cartographic material

Three-dimensional artifact or natural objects

Notated music


Manuscript music

Mixed material

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Fill Character

A fill character (hexadecimal value '7C'), represented in this document and ASCII as a vertical bar (|), may be used in bibliographic records in some positions in fields 006, 007 and 008, and subfield $7 of the linking entry fields (760-787). A fill character may not be used anywhere in the leader, or in tags, indicators, or subfield codes. The use of the fill character in records contributed to a national database may also be dependent upon the national level requirements specified for each data element. The presence of a fill character in a bibliographic record indicates that the format specifies a code to be used but the creator of the record has decided not to attempt to supply a code.

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Typographical Conventions

Throughout this document, the following typographical conventions are used:

0 - The graphic 0 represents the digit zero in tags, fixed-position character position citations, and indicator positions. This character is distinct from an uppercase letter O used in examples or text.

# - The graphic symbol # is used for a blank (hex 20) in coded fields and in other special situations where the existence of the character blank might be ambiguous.

$ - The graphic symbol $ is used for the delimiter (hex 1F) portion of a subfield code. Within the text, subfield codes are referred to as subfield $a, for example.

/ - Specific character positions of fixed-length data elements, such as those in the Leader, Directory, and field 008, are expressed using a slash and the number of the character position, e.g., Leader/06.

1 - The graphic 1 represents the digit one (hex 31). This character must be distinguished from a lowercase roman alphabet letter l (el) (hex 6C) and the uppercase alphabetic letter I (eye) (hex 49) in examples or text.

| - The graphic | represents a fill character (hex 7C)

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Organization of the Electronic Version of the Concise Format

This electronic concise format is organized into parts that generally mirror the tabbed sections of the full printed format documentation. Each part is divided into chapters that usually cover a single field and all of the data elements possible within it (that is, character positions for fixed-length fields and indicators and subfield codes for variable length fields). The Leader and the Directory are described in the first main part, followed by parts containing the variable control fields and variable data fields arranged in numerical field tag order.

Obsolete and deleted content designators are not listed. They are found in the full printed version of the format and in the electronic MARC field lists.