DATE:Dec. 6, 1999

NAME:Community Information Format Integration with the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format

SOURCE:Library of Congress

SUMMARY: This paper discusses the possibility of integrating the MARC 21 Format for Community Information with the MARC 21 Format for Bibliographic Data. It identifies the small number of data elements that are unique in the CI format and the impact integration of these might have on the bibliographic format.

KEYWORDS:Community information format integration (BD,CI)

RELATED:98-04 (Jan. 1998)


12/6/99 - Forwarded to the MARC Advisory Committee for discussion at the January 2000 MARBI meetings.

1/15/00 - Results of MARC Advisory Committee discussion - It was felt that there was not sufficient justification in integrating the bibliographic and community information formats to warrant the difficulties, particularly with the different 008 fields and with the lack of a 245 field in the community information format. It was agreed that having two formats does not prevent a system from integrating the records. The group did not recommend that LC pursue this further.

DISCUSSION PAPER NO. 120: Community information format integration


The MARC 21 Format for Community Information was developed in 1992 by a Public Library Association funded committee with NDMSO, based on prototype implementations that used the Bibliographic format in existing library systems. PLA provided assistance that led to the development of a new format. Despite great similarities between the data elements defined for community information and bibliographic information, it was finally decided to publish the list of MARC data elements for community information records as a separate format. The published format was made available in early 1993. Since that publication appeared, the Community Information format has had modest use in library systems. Even though the format has had limited support in vendor library systems, many systems still do not support the format because, as currently defined, it implies a separate system module, much of which duplicates data elements and functionality in system modules for the MARC 21 Bibliographic format. Statewide CI databases have been developed in Ohio and Maryland, with other large projects under consideration. Questions have arisen about the line between the community information and bibliographic items, especially in relation to cataloging online resources. This discussion paper suggests integrating into the MARC 21 Format for Bibliographic Data the small number of data elements unique to the CI format, with the goal of 1) allowing more flexible use and 2) decreasing the cost of implementation and maintenance.


2.1 Separate format

The decision to publish the MARC 21 specifications for Community Information records as a separate format certainly played a role in its limited implementation. Prior to development of the format, MARC-based bibliographic systems were used to create and maintain databases which included community information records. The absence of a few new community information-specific data elements was the major shortcoming. After publication of the format, some systems simply added the new CI elements to their bibliographic record applications and avoided full CI format compliance. Since the development and maintenance of MARC bibliographic, authority, and holdings modules already represent a significant workload for most library system vendors, it is not surprising that adding community information format support has not taken a higher priority.

2.2 Advantages of integration

Integration of the MARC 21 Bibliographic and Community Information formats will result in a more consistent data dictionary and simplified implementation path and format documentation, both in terms of the content and the process of maintaining it. A separate format has meant in some implementations not only a separate system module, but perhaps separate databases, separate record creation workflows, and separate documentation (in print and online). MARC 21 documentation has now expanded to five formats, consisting of almost 3,000 pages. The integration of the CI elements into the Bibliographic format would significantly reduce the total number of pages, since many of the CI format data elements also exist in the Bibliographic format already.

The integration of the formats would also mean the general availability of data elements which are now only available in one format or the other. Over the past few years, there has been low-key, although constant migration of data elements between the two formats. The Community Information format has carried over a number of fields defined in the Bibliographic format, and surprisingly, the Bibliographic format has even taken several from the Community Information format. As the creators of MARC bibliographic records have worked to handle metadata about electronic resources, the dividing line between bibliographic and community information has become less clear. This has been the primary force behind the definition of CI data elements in the Bibliographic format. The trend is bound to continue as more and more electronic resources become available in libraries.

2.3 Possible disadvantages

It is not known if the integration of community information would pose a problem for catalog/OPAC users, although integration of different media in one database has become more common (with the use of qualifiers to simulate divided files).

Another disadvantage lies somewhat hidden in the CI format data themselves. CI records have a couple of unique features which would be new to purely bibliographic databases. It is possible, for example, for a community information record to lack the equivalent of a title (field 245,has traditionally been considered the most basic required element in a MARC bibliographic record). Since even in an integrated bibliographic format (one including the CI record type code "q") it should be possible to identify data conditions under which a certain MARC data element might be absent, this would still be new to bibliographic systems, and might require changes to validation.

It is interesting to point out that during the development of the MARC SGML implementation, the MARC 21 Bibliographic, Holdings, and Community Information data elements were integrated into one DTD. The MARC Holdings format was always intended to be used with the Bibliographic format. The extension of this conceptual integration to the CI format was done for practicality in the SGML environment, where differences in the structure of fields such as field 008 were inconsequential.


The changes resulting from integration of the CI format into the Bibliographic format would not be as drastic as some might fear. Most of the differences in the format involve data elements that were newly defined for Community Information records in the 3XX and 5XX field groups. The new fields used tags that had not been assigned in the Bibliographic format, except in a small number of cases. Several years ago a project was undertaken by MARBI to eliminate conflicts between data element definitions in the MARC Bibliographic and Community Information formats. (See Proposal No. 98-04 (Elimination of tag conflicts in the USMARC Bibliographic, Community Information, and Holding formats)) The effort resulted in a small number of tag assignment changes in both formats. A change in one additional tag, to eliminate a clear tag conflict with the definition of field 501, would be needed. Otherwise, differences in the formats have already been reduced to a point that the integration process, if it were to occur, would not be difficult. The following data elements represent those which would be new to the Bibliographic format, if the CI format was integrated with it.

Coded data:

LDR/06   q - Community information (new Leader/06 value)
LDR/07   Kind of data   (new values could be integrated with Bibliographic level 
         the Bib. format)
007   Physical Description Fixed Field-Accommodations for the disabled (007/00=e)
008   Fixed-Length Data Elements (008/06-14 defined uniquely for CI records; 
      no 008/15-39 defined)
058   Other Geographic Classification Code (Make obsolete in favor of expanded 052)
073   Type of Program or Organization Code
Special descriptive data about facilities and equipment:
303   Activities and Scheduled Meetings
311   Meeting Rooms and Facilities Available
312   Equipment Available
Special notes:
501   Currency of Information Note (conflicting definition with Bibliographic field 
      501-With Note)
531   Eligibility, Fees, Procedures, Note
570   Personnel Note (overlaps with obsolete bibliographic field 570)
571   Volunteers Note
572   Affiliation and Other Relationships Note
573   Credentials Note
574   Transportation and Directions Note
575   Accommodations for the Disabled Note
576   Services Available Note
587   Other Information Available Note

4.1. Could the data elements in the Community Information format field 008, which is much shorter in length than the standard 40-position field 008 in the bibliographic format, be transferred to a different tag? (Perhaps a new flavor of field 006?)

4.2.If CI records do not retain the current field 008 configuration, could they use the more generic Mixed Materials field 008 instead for the core coded data?

4.3.The current CI format lacks many of the data elements in the MARC 21 Format for Bibliographic Data (e.g., all the 76X-78X Linking Entry fields). Would the integration of the two formats and the availability of many new elements in CI records pose a problem for current CI format users?

4.4.Would there be any need to establish guidelines for data elements appropriate to CI records?

4.5What is the impact on vendors with or without separate CI format modules?

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