MARC Advisory Committee (MAC) Midwinter Meetings, January 31-February 2, 2023

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

(Recordings of the meetings are available here; note that timestamps are provided for each paper)

Over the course of three days of meetings, four proposals were considered and approved unanimously, and two of the four discussion papers presented were advanced as fast-track proposals for approval by the MARC Steering Committee. At least one of the remaining two discussion papers will return as a proposal for consideration at MAC’s Annual meetings later this year.

Of particular interest to the music and audiovisual communities is Proposal No. 2023-02, drafted by the Encoding Standards Subcommittee and co-sponsored by OLAC. The proposal’s approval will add subfield $3 (Materials specified) to field 041 (Language Code) in the Bibliographic format when MARC Update 36 is published later this year; note that subfield $3 is already available for use in (corresponding) fields 546 (Language note) and 500 (General note). This addition should permit clearer encoding of language information for manifestations that contain multiple works/expressions in multiple languages, and that may also include translations, subtitles, intertitles, transcripts, song texts, program notes, and other supplementary materials. The proposal’s approval also provides changes to the MARC documentation for field 008/35-37 (Language) and the 041 field in support of this addition.


Although the proposal was approved unanimously, Kate James (OCLC) pointed out that the book example added to both the 041 subfield $a documentation and the field 008/35-37 guidelines incorrectly presented information on the original language(s) of the translation(s) in field 546. The examples that will appear in the MARC documentation later this year have been corrected to present that information in field 500.


Potentially of particular interest to the music community is Discussion Paper No. 2023-DP01, authored by NDMSO, which sought to add a new subfield $s to field 264 (Production, Publication, Distribution, Manufacture, and Copyright Notice) in the Bibliographic format. The new subfield would be defined to hold an unsubfielded statement combining the contents of 264 subfields $a (Place of production, publication, distribution, manufactures), $b (Name of producer, publisher, distributor, manufacturer), and $c (Date of production, publication, distribution, manufacture, or copyright notice). The paper’s predecessor, Discussion Paper No. 2022-DP10, along with a similar paper that aimed to add an unsubfielded series statement to field 490 (Discussion Paper No. 2022-DP11), were presented by NDMSO at MAC’s 2022 Annual meetings. Those two papers—the motivation for which Kevin Ford (NDMSO) asserted was related to BIBFRAME, but not because of BIBFRAME—were rejected by MAC, which nevertheless agreed to entertain future similar discussion papers as long as they provided a stronger explanation of the need to encode such unparsed statements. Note that a successor to 2022-DP11 was not presented at the 2023 Midwinter meetings.


2023-DP01 makes it clear that BIBFRAME/MARC conversion of field 264 subfields $a, $b, and $c is problematic. Discussion of the paper during the meeting further clarified that the ISBD punctuation is stripped out of the MARC 264 field during conversion to BIBFRAME, and that adding the punctuation when converting BIBRAME to MARC has proven to be difficult.

Nevertheless, Kevin Ford (again representing NDMSO) seemed more concerned with the fact that the information encoded in subfields $a and $b is not good data, taking as it does the form of uncontrolled statements separated by redundant (since already subfielded) punctuation. While admitting that an unsubfielded statement would not improve this situation, the paper argues that neither would such a statement make matters worse, and attempts to prove the point by using the word “Venice”—a name that might appear as either a location in 260/264 subfield $a or a publisher in $b—to do a search “in a world where 264 $s is used universally.”


Although the results of this search produced only a handful of false drops, Ford repeated the test using “London” instead of “Venice” after a pre-meeting challenge from MLA. Running the test on what he termed “our dataset,” Ford asserted that his search retrieved 1,853 hits in fields 260/264 subfield $b, or only 0.2% of all hits from subfields $a and $b combined. I (who, like Ford, am an LC employee) was unable to replicate Ford’s search using Voyager due to its truncation of results, but it is clear to me that the dataset he used was smaller than the contents of LC’s catalog: my combined search of 260 and 264 subfields $b resulted in 11,020+ hits (the truncated 10,000 hits from the 260 search plus 1,020 hits from the 264 search)—far more than the 1,853 hits produced in Ford’s search. More potentially problematic, however, is the fact that Ford seems to not to have considered that a user might well be interested in retrieving results for the record label London (the 0.2% of hits in his test) without the noise created by London-as-place-of-publication (the other 99.8% of hits in his test).


As the pre-meeting comments on the paper from MAC were almost universally negative, MAC Chair Kate Gerhart (University of Washington) suggested that our discussion focus on helping NDMSO find better solutions to the conversion process than the one presented in the discussion paper. My takeaway from the discussion was that MAC members, while unwilling to give up 264 subfields $a, $b, and $c, generally believe that the presence of an unsubfielded publication statement in and of itself would not be problematic—but that its presence in field 264 would cause confusion, hence it would be preferable to locate it elsewhere. As to the question of uncontrolled data in field 264 subfields $a and $b, some commenters suggested that this is not a problem to be solved by changes to MARC; rather, the desired control could be achieved through the use of 7XX fields—something that would require the creation of authority records for locations and (the numerous) publishers/imprints that do not yet exist (is it possible that the recent presentations on the use of music linked data projects in Wikidata at the 2023 MOUG meeting might suggest a way forward?). In any event, some version of this discussion paper is likely to reappear later this year, possibly even as a proposal.


The LC report from John Zagas (NDMSO) was short, noting only that MARC Update 35 was released on December 20, 2022 and reminding us of the 60-day embargo on implementing its changes. No mention was made of the matter raised by Sally McCallum (NDMSO) during the 2022 Annual Meetings, which concerned LC’s experimentation with the converting of title and name/title authority records from the Authority format to the Bibliographic format. 


In further news: 2023 MAC annual meeting will be held in a 2 three-hour meeting format, instead of the 3 two-hour meeting format established for the virtual meetings. This change should solve a problem encountered by some MAC members, whose ALA Annual travel plans have conflicted with the timing of the first scheduled MAC meeting.


Of possible interest to some, although not of specific interest to the music community: Proposal No. 2023-01 (sponsored by the ISSN International Centre, Paris, and the National Library of Finland) adds a new MARC 857 field for electronic archive location and access information. The proposal generated so much discussion that, in the interest of not delaying implementation of the new field any further, it was passed with the understanding that the details of necessary revisions stemming from the discussion would be worked out after the fact.


Proposal No. 2023-03 (from the PCC Standing Committee on Standards) adds subfields $0 (Authority record control number or standard number), $1 (Real World Object URI), $2 (Source of standard number or URI), and $5 (Institution to which field applies) to fields 720 (Added Entry—Uncontrolled Name) and 653 (Index Term—Uncontrolled) in the Bibliographic format. The paper passed with the addition of subfield $7 (Data provenance) to field 720 to parallel its availability in field 653.


Proposal No. 2023-04 (from the D-A-CH Working Group on Provenance, Task Group on MARC, in cooperation with the German National Library and the Committee on Data Formats), adds a new 361 field for the structured encoding of copy-specific ownership and custodial history. Discussion of the proposal turned up a number of issues, and MAC agreed to continue discussion of the proposal at the following day’s meeting in order to give the paper’s authors the chance to address these. In the end, changes too numerous to report here were made to the proposal prior to its approval (but please feel free to contact me for the details:


The two fast-tracked papers include Discussion Paper No. 2023-DP02 (from the Norwegian Cataloguing Committee), which on approval by the MARC Steering Group will add subfields $0 (Authority record control number or standard number) and $1 (Real World Object URI) to Field 658 (Index Term—Curriculum Objective) of the Bibliographic format; and Discussion Paper No. 2023-DP03 (from the PCC Standing Committee on Standards), which modifies field 368 (Other Attributes of Person or Corporate Body) in the Authority format by renaming (and redefining accordingly) subfield $d “Term of rank or honor or office” (currently, subfield $d is “Title of person”).

The remaining Discussion Paper No. 2023-DP04, from the PCC Standing Committee on Standards, addressed the encoding of a number of attributes of Family in the Authority format, including accommodation of certain (new) Official RDA elements. 2023-DP04 will be revised as a proposal for consideration during MAC’s Annual meetings later this year.