Encoding Standards: ALA Annual Report 2020

MARC Advisory Committee (MAC) Meetings, June 30-July 2, 2020


Report by Karen Peters (Library of Congress), Chair, Encoding Standards Subcommittee



June 30, 2020 Meeting, 10:30-12:30 EDT


Chair Matthew Wise began the meeting and explained the ground rules for this set of virtual meetings, the first ever such MAC meetings, which were held via WebEx. After MAC members introduced themselves, minutes from the January 2020 meeting at ALA Midwinter were approved, and it was noted that there have been no fast track changes since that meeting.


Proposal No. 2020-04, “Defining a New Subfield for Illustrative Content in Field 340 of the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format,” was introduced by Jodi Williamschen on behalf of NDMSO. The proposal defines $p for the stated purpose.


Applicable to other papers as well as this one, Thurstan Young brought up the issue of whether $0 or $1 (Real World Object) is the appropriate location for identifiers: while Program for Cooperative Cataloging practice indicates that $0 is appropriate, the RDA Steering Committee has written a paper expressing the contrary opinion. Chew Chiat Naun, on behalf of the PCC, stated that the RSC’s paper has been sent to the appropriate PCC subcommittee, which has not yet issued a response. Subsequent discussion seemed to favor the idea that this is not an issue with the Proposal, or with MARC—which has defined both $0 and $1—rather, this is something to be decided by the various cataloging communities. Young, however, pointed out that interoperability would benefit from agreement on this issue, and further noted that according to the beta RDA Toolkit, $1 is, in fact, the appropriate location. The issue could not be resolved at this time, and it was agreed that it need not be raised again in these meetings when discussing similarly affected papers.


The proposal itself passed with two changes: addition of language that states the current general 34x field practice of using separate fields for terms from different vocabularies; and a modification of the definition of the new $p to read “General and/or specific indication of the type or types of illustrative content present in a resource.”



Proposal No. 2020-03, “Modernization of Field 856 in the MARC 21 Formats,” was introduced by Jay Weitz on behalf of OCLC and the German National Library and would achieve this modernization by making nine of the current subfields obsolete, clarifying the use of current second indicator values, and defining a new second indicator value for Portion of Resource.


Discussants raised numerous issues with the proposed second indicator value changes and further suggested the addition of new subfields, $3 (Materials specified) in particular. With so many issues raised, the Chair suggested that the proposal go forward only with regards to the obsolescence of the subfields in question. Discussion then focused on the advisability of making these subfields obsolete as opposed to simply asking that they no longer be used, or even leaving Field 856 as is and defining a new field (possibly 857) as a modernized version of Field 856 instead. In the end, the proposal to make the nine subfields obsolete passed, with the remaining issues to be taken up in future proposals and/or discussion papers.



Proposal No. 2020-05, “Renaming Field 345 and Defining New Subfields for Aspect Ratio in the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format,” was introduced by Jodi Williamschen on behalf of NDMSO. The proposal renames the field “Moving Image Characteristics” (replacing “Projection Characteristics of Moving Image”) and adds 2 new subfields: $c (Aspect ratio value) and $d (Aspect ratio designator).


Discussion of this proposal focused on whether coding for aspect ratio belongs more properly in Field 345, which deals with moving image resources, or in Field 346, which deals with video characteristics. Kelly McGrath, while essentially pointing out that videos are moving image resources, stated that aspect ratio applies to all images—even still images—and noted difficulties introduced by the way that RDA divides certain categories—digital versus video characteristics, for example. Jay Weitz noted that the split between video and motion picture film, as well as the recorded sound aspect of these, dates back to AACR1, and that RDA has further complicated matters in this regard. Weitz suggested that Field 345 attempts to untangle some of the moving image versus recorded sound issues, and questioned the current perceived limitation of 345 to motion pictures on film.


Thurstan Young asked how aspect ratio for still images is coded at present. McGrath answered that only dimensions, but not aspect ratio, are coded for still images, and Kate James expressed the opinion that still image catalogers do not need to code for aspect ratio—they have not expressed a need for this, and she doesn’t believe they ever would. Kathy Glennan noted further that recording aspect ratio for still images would require a change to RDA. The proposal passed subject to “minor editorial cleanup.”



Proposal No. 2020-06, “Defining a New Field for Manifestation Statements in the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format,” was introduced Reinhold Heuvelmann on behalf of the MARC-RDA Working Group (MRWG). The proposal defines Field 881 for the stated purpose.


Manifestation statement (“A statement appearing in a manifestation and deemed to be significant for users to understand how the manifestation represents itself”) is a new element in RDA. Comments on the proposal included questioning the need for so many subfields in light of the notion that this information could be scanned into a bibliographic record without further manipulation; questioning why no subfield for “other” was included; and suggesting accommodation for both basic and enhanced coding, similar to what is done in Field 505. Heuvelmann noted that the MRWG discussed all of the issues raised but ultimately decided to keep to a simple approach. Matthew Wise pointed out that the subfields were provided to accommodate RDA. John Myers, noting his previously-expressed concerns in this regard, stressed nonetheless that it not the place of MARC to define practice: ultimately it will be up to catalogers to decide whether or not to use these subfields. Kathy Glennan reiterated Myers’s comments, noting that the field has been designed for “incredible flexibility.” Thurstan Young expressed agreement with Glennan, noting that the field is meant to support the varied needs of different communities, including catalogers of early printed resources; and as for concerns expressed about basic versus enhanced coding and related data provenance issues, suggested that use of the subfields themselves will make the nature of any data manipulation apparent. The proposal passed as is.




July 1, 2020 Meeting, 10:30-12:30 EDT


At the beginning of the meeting, Sally McCallum gave a report from the Library of Congress. There are now new MODS 3.7-to-MARC and MARC-to-MODS 3.7 conversions. The new BIBFRAME-to-MARC conversion and specifications were introduced at the beginning of May, motivated by the desire that BIBFRAME Pilot participants be required to encode a bibliographic description only once—in BIBFRAME—as opposed to the current practice of encoding in both MARC and in BIBFRAME. Future updates will provide BIBFRAME to MARC and MARC to BIBFRAME conversions and specifications in parallel.



Proposal No. 2020-07, “Recording the Extension Plan for Bibliographic Works in the MARC 21 Bibliographic and Authority Formats,” was introduced by Thurstan Young on behalf of the MRWG. The proposal defines a new Field 335 for the stated purpose.


Extension plan (“A categorization reflecting an intention to extend the content of a work”) is a new element in RDA and takes on some aspects of the current RDA’s mode of issuance (see also Discussion Paper No. 2020-DP16 below). The discussion of this proposal focused primarily on the perceived need to define a $3 (Materials specified) to account for changes in extension plan. Such a change is not accommodated in RDA, however, and Kathy Glennan stated that this is something that is not likely to change—although it was later noted that the serials community has requested such a possibility. Specific issues raised include incorrect inferences of extension plan by catalogers, journals changing from print to electronic (in which case, according to Regina Reynolds, new ISSNs are not likely to be issued), duplicate records for serials in OCLC, and the reopening of closed sets without creation of new bibliographic records. Glennan stressed that the important consideration here was the accommodation of RDA, and that implementation issues should be decided by cataloging communities, not by MARC. Calls for the addition of a $3 nevertheless proliferated. While Young noted that further discussion between the International Centre for the Registration of Serial Publications and the RDA Steering Committee appeared necessary, and suggested that a follow-up discussion paper might be used to propose the addition of a $3, many others were not willing to wait for that process to play out. Use of $3 would not be required; if used, prevailing opinion is that records with 040 $e rda may not entirely conform to RDA. The proposal passed with the addition of $3.



Discussion Paper No. 2020-DP08, “Subfields for Recording Date of Assignment of Dewey Decimal Numbers in the MARC 21 Formats,” was introduced by Alex Kyrios on behalf of OCLC and would allow MARC to accommodate the fact that Dewey is no longer published in discrete editions, but is updated continuously.



Discussion Paper No. 2020-DP09, “Chronology-Only Data in Holdings Fields 853-855 and 863-865,” was introduced by Elizabeth Schlueter on behalf of OCLC and seeks to better accommodate coding of chronology-only (as opposed to enumerated) publication patterns.



Discussion Paper No. 2020-DP12, “Moving Form of Musical Notation from Field 546 to Field 348 in the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format,” was introduced by Karen Peters on behalf of the Music Library Association and proposes encoding this element in a manner that supports all four recording methods (unstructured description, structured description, identifier, IRI) provided by (beta) RDA.


The discussion paper presents two options for the encoding of this information in Field 348. One option would repurpose $b, currently defined to carry a (at this time nonexistent) code corresponding to the form of notated music term recorded in $a, to carry one or more terms from the RDA Form of Musical Notation Vocabulary Encoding Scheme (VES). The second option would define a new $c for this purpose and make $b obsolete. Commentators preferred a variant of the second ($c) option, modified to leave $b as is: although an examination of OCLC data indicates that few catalogers are using $b for its intended purpose or using it correctly, the MARC Advisory Committee has generally not approved making existing subfields obsolete, and in this specific case some members argued that somebody somewhere in the world might be using $b as intended. Peters noted that, unlike fields in the MARC 33x range, no other field in the 34x range accommodates the use of both terms and corresponding codes, and asked about the implications of (actively) employing such codes in Field 348. Perhaps due to limitations on the time available for discussion, however, commentators seemed unwilling to engage in such consideration.


As for what codes might legitimately be used in Field 348 $b as currently defined, Jay Weitz mentioned the possibility of using the MARC 008 codes for scores. While noting that there has been a great deal of modification in these codes over time, he suggested that it might be possible to finalize a stable set of codes that could be aligned with the terms in the RDA Format of Notated Music VES. Based on the current lack of correspondence between the 008 codes and the VES terms, however, Peters expressed doubt that this could be done. Another possibility suggested by Kathy Glennan and Adam Schiff was the use of the numeric codes from the RDA Registry (1001, 1002, etc.) for this purpose, in which case Schiff suggested that $d might be defined to carry this code for the RDA Form of Musical Notation VES term as well.


Regarding Field 546 $b, it was advised that this change be couched as a suggestion to prefer use of Field 348 for recording form of musical notation. Thurstan Young, in fact, expressed a preference for the recording of such information as an eye-readable note in Field 546. The sense of members of the Encoding Standards Subcommittee, however, is that notes more extensive than a listing of terms (as would be done in Field 348) are instead generally placed in Field 500. This opinion could be verified or dismissed thorough an examination of OCLC data prior to converting this paper into a proposal.



Discussion Paper No. 2020-DP14, “Defining a New Subfield for Sound Content in Field 344 of the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format,” was introduced by Jodi Williamschen on behalf of NDMSO and would define $i for the recording of terms from the RDA Sound Content VES.


An earlier discussion paper suggested recording this information in Field 340, as Field 344 “is highly oriented to sound recordings,” for which the recording of sound content should be unnecessary. That placement, however, was ultimately rejected as unsuitable since Field 340 is defined as “Physical Medium.” This time, discussion suggested considering placement of this information in Field 345 rather than 344; but as sound content may be applicable to a variety of resources other than moving image, that idea was rejected as too narrow.



Discussion Paper No. 2020-DP10, “Changes to Fields 008/21 and 006/04 for Type of Continuing Resource in the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format,” was introduced by Regina Reynolds on behalf of the ISSN Review Group and would permit coding additional/more granular categories of such resources: blog, directory, journal, magazine, newsletter, and institutional repository. The question of coding for podcasts was raised, but Reynolds noted that the ISO standard does not cover these.




July 2, 2020 Meeting, 10:30-12:30 EDT

(My thanks to Amy Strickland for representing MLA at this meeting in my absence and for taking such careful notes!)


Discussion Paper No. 2020-DP11, “Adding Subfield $0 to Field 022 in the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format” was introduced by Regina Reynolds on behalf of the ISSN Review Group and seeks to add ISSN URIs to Field 022 (International Standard Serial Number); the addition of $1 is proposed as well. A matter of particular concern expressed was the proposed non-repeatability of $0—commonly repeatable in other MARC fields—which has implications for the treatment of the ISSN-L (linking ISSN) used for serials published in more than one medium (currently coded in $l). The possibility of defining a new MARC field for ISSN-L is under consideration and could eliminate such concerns. Discussion focused on the possibility of restricting application of $0 to the ISSN recorded in $a until such time as a separate field is defined for ISSN-L. Conversion of this paper to a proposal will involve making parallel changes to the Authority Format.



Discussion Paper No. 2020-DP13, “Defining New Subfields in Bibliographic and Authority Field 046 for Expression Dates and Related Elements” was introduced by Casey Mullin and Adam Schiff on behalf of the PCC and seeks to add a number of subfields to both formats: $3 for materials specified, $u and $v for recording source of date information, and $x and $z for non-public and public explanatory notes. It also proposes adding subfields $q and $r for recording expression dates in the Bibliographic Format and seeks guidance from MAC regarding the need to make corresponding changes to the Authority Format, as opposed to using Field 075 (Type of Entity) to indicate whether an Authority Record is for a Work or an Expression, which would permit allowing use of $k and $l to continue regardless of entity. A third option suggested during the comment period before the meeting would be to define an indicator for specifying the intended entity.


To provide guidance, three straw polls were undertaken. The first indicated a strong preference for using an indicator or a newly-defined subfield for encoding the entity. The second, addressing the Bibliographic Format, indicated a preference for using an indicator (rather than a subfield) for this purpose.


The third then considered whether this information needed to be encoded in a bibliographic record, or whether the bibliographic record could rely on/point to the authority record for this information. Much discussion ensued: among the points made were that not all works and expressions have authority records created for them; and not all (or even most) of our discovery systems are able to usefully link authority records to bibliographic records, or even link authority records for works to related authority records for expression. Complete consensus was not reached, although the preferred direction seems to be use of the 075 field in authority records and 046 field indicators in bibliographic records.


Regarding the addition of $u and $v for recording source of date information, the authors were advised to wait until the MARC/RDA Working Group settles data provenance issues before proceeding with this particular change.



Discussion Paper No. 2020-DP15, “Changes to Supplementary Content Information to Accommodate URIs and Notes in the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format,” was introduced by Jodi Williamschen on behalf of NDMSO and proposes two options for encoding this information, the first involving modification of Fields 504 and 525, and the second proposing definition of a new Field 343 (Supplementary Content Characteristics) for this purpose. General preference was expressed for the second option.



Discussion Paper No. 2020-DP16, “Recording the Mode of Issuance for Manifestations in the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format,” was introduced by Thurstan Young on behalf of the MARC/RDA Working Group (MRWG) and seeks to accommodate (beta) RDA’s redefinition of Mode of Issuance (“A categorization reflecting whether a manifestation is issued in one or more units”) through definition of a new Field 334 for the purpose (see also Proposal No. 2020-07, above).



Discussion Paper No. 2020-DP17, “Recording the Type of Binding for Manifestations in the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format,” was introduced by Thurstan Young on behalf of the MRWG and proposes encoding the new RDA element type of binding, which has its own VES, through definition of a new subfield ($l) in Field 340.


This paper proved to be quite controversial and generated a great deal of discussion, raising a number of issues in connection with the recording of this element: provider-neutral records representing manifestations issued with different bindings; the possible effect on bibliographic records in the “binding-neutral” OCLC database; differences (or lack thereof) between hardback and paperback editions that might be represented by the same bibliographic record; rebinding of a resource by the owning library; the boundary between manifestation-level and item-level bindings; the desire to use vocabularies other than the RDA VES, such as AAT; the distinction between type of binding and method of binding; the need to consult with the rare books cataloging community before converting the paper to a proposal. Some commentators decried a (perceived) sacrifice of practicality to the (perceived) strictures of IFLA-LRM as expressed through RDA. Others pointed out the need to accommodate RDA in MARC, noting further that a minimum level of description would not require the recording of this element in any case.