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Friday, July 20, 2018

MARC21: An Overview

What is MARC 21? What does the acronym “MARC” mean?
MARC is the acronym for MAchine-Readable Cataloging. It defines a data format that emerged from a Library of Congress-led initiative that began nearly forty years ago. It provides the mechanism by which computers exchange, use, and interpret bibliographic information, and its data elements make up the foundation of most library catalogs used today. MARC became USMARC in the 1980s and MARC 21 in the late 1990s.
How does MARC 21 differ from the USMARC and CAN/MARC formats?
MARC 21 is not a new format. After having discussions and making minor changes to both formats that accommodated USMARC and CAN/MARC users' specific needs, the USMARC and CAN/MARC (Canadian MARC) formats were “harmonized” into MARC 21 in 1997. See for more information about the harmonization.
Who maintains the MARC 21 formats?
The Network Development and MARC Standards Office at the Library of Congress and the Standards and the Support Office at the Library and Archives Canada maintain the MARC 21 formats. Input for development is provided by MARC 21 users from around the world, including libraries, library networks and utilities, and library system vendors. See for more information about the development and maintenance of the formats.
What are the Network Development and MARC Standards Office and the Standards Division?
The Network Development and MARC Standards Office plans and develops library and information network standards at the Library of Congress. It is the maintenance agency for several national standards, including the MARC 21 formats.
Are there any discussion groups or forums for the MARC 21 formats?
The MARC Forum is a listserv maintained by the Network Development and MARC Standards Office and is open to anyone interested in the implementation, maintenance and development of the MARC 21 formats. The forum provides an opportunity for members of the information community to participate in discussions related to the formats. Vendor, network, technical service, automation, and reference staff and researchers are encouraged to participate. While there is a close linkage between MARC 21 and the cataloging of materials, the focus of the forum is on the use of MARC 21 as a communications format.
What documentation is available and and how do I obtain it?
The MARC Standards page has links to both extensive documentation on MARC 21, including both the full and concise formats, code and field lists, information about MARC 21 development, and documentation to help users with the MARC 21 format. There is a format overview listing changes to MARC documentation. Some documentation is also available in translation. A bibliography is also available on the Library's MARC Standards webpage.
How often is MARC 21 documentation updated?
The MARC 21 formats are updated two times per year, in the spring and fall. Other documentation is updated as it becomes necessary.
May I use excerpts from MARC 21 documentation?
Using excerpts is permissible as long as credit is given.
Are SGML or XML versions of the MARC 21 formats available?
The Network Development and MARC Standards Office has developed a framework for working with MARC data in a XML environment. This framework is intended to be flexible and extensible, allowing users to work with MARC data in ways that meet their specific needs. The framework contains many components such as schemas, stylesheets, and software tools developed and maintained by the Library of Congress. Conversion utilities between MARC (ISO 2709) and MARCXML are also available. Please see
The Network Development and MARC Standards Office also developed a MARC to SGML and SGML to MARC conversion program. The following documents contain the program and additional information:
MARC DTDs: Background and Development
MARC DTDs: Beta Test Version
MARC-SGML and SGML-MARC Conversion Program User Guide
MARC-SGML and SGML-MARC Conversion Programs Maintenance Guide
Is MARC 21 mapped to other metadata standards? Are other standards mapped to MARC 21?
MARC 21 has been mapped to the following metadata standards:
Dublin Core
MARC Character Sets to UCS/Unicode
Digital Geospatial Metadata
RDA (See Tools tab)
The following metadata standards have been mapped to MARC 21:
Dublin Core
Digital Geospatial Metadata to MARC


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