DATE: December 2, 1994
NAME: Merging Field 755 with Field 655 in the USMARC Bibliographic Format
SOURCE: Association of College and Research Libraries, Rare Books and Manuscripts Section, Bibliographic Standards Committee; ALA, Subject Analysis Committee
SUMMARY: This paper discusses the impact of merging field 755 (Added Entry--Physical Characteristics) with field 655 (Index Term--Genre/Form), making field 755 obsolete.
KEYWORDS: Added Entry--Physical Characteristics; Field 655 (Bibliographic); Field 755 (Bibliographic); Form; Genre; Index Term--Genre/Form; Object Characteristics; Physical Characteristics
12/2/94 - Forwarded to the USMARC Advisory Group for discussion at the February 1995 MARBI meetings.
2/5/95 - Results of USMARC Advisory Group discussion - A proposal was requested to make field 755 obsolete (Option a). The proposal should be forwarded to the USMARC list for electronic ballot.
DISCUSSION PAPER NO. 82: Merging Field 755 with Field 655 1. INTRODUCTION This paper discusses making field 755 (Added Entry--Physical Characteristics) obsolete in favor of field 655 (Index Term-- Genre/Form) which already accommodates similar data. It is not the first time that the need for field 755 has been questioned, in fact, controversy has always surrounded this field. During an era where efforts are being made to simplify the USMARC formats and make them easier to use, a reexamination of the usefulness of this field seems appropriate. 2. DISCUSSION In the 1980's, two fields were added to the USMARC Format for Bibliographic Data to accommodate what is called "form/genre data" and "physical (object) characteristics". Field 655 was approved with strong consensus as an access point for form and genre information. It was placed in the 6XX block by analogy with the inclusion of headings for form and genre in Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). Field 755 was eventually defined as an access point for the physical characteristcs of an item. It was placed in the 7XX block because the data was not considered to be "subject" in nature. The definition of two fields came several years after the initial rejection of a proposal for a separate field for physical characteristics. Definition of field 755, which was included in Proposal 220 (Dec. 4, 1979), was rejected because the need for the data was questioned. Lacking any controlled vocabulary for describing publishing/physical aspects, the new USMARC field could not be justified. The proposal for a separate USMARC field for physical characteristics data came up again in June 1983 as part of a lengthy proposal (82-21) covering format enhancements for visual materials. This time, the community was persuaded that physical characteristics involve an aspect different enough from form/genre that it should not be recorded in field 655. A number of thesauri have been written in the intervening years for use in these two fields. The Bibliographic Standards Committee of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), Rare Book and Manuscript Section (RBMS), has published several of them. The Prints and Photographs Division (P&P) of the Library of Congress (LC) has published one for historical graphic materials. A full list can be found in the section of the USMARC Code List for Relators, Sources, Description Conventions, that defined codes for subfield $2 in field 755. Of the many thesauri that are commonly used, only two of them, the Art & Architecture Thesaurus and LC's Thesaurus for Graphic Materials II: Genre and Physical Characteristics Terms, include terms that are designated for use in both field 655 and field 755. Other thesauri specify the use of either field 655 or 755 for all terms (a few do not include USMARC tagging instructions at all). As a result of the Airlie House Conference on Subject Subdivisions, held in 1991, ALA's Subject Analysis Committee has been investigating the various ways form data are represented in catalog records. To that end it appointed the Subcommittee on the Nature and Use of Form Data, which undertook the task of devising a working definition of form and articulating recommendations to promote the consistent treatment of form data in bibliographic records. Discussions at ALA conferences indicated that catalogers did not agree on the relative scope of fields 655 and 755. The Subcommittee finally prepared a definion of form that includes both intellectual content (field 655-type) and physical characteristics (field 755-type) information. The SAC definition does not distinguish between the two. Their definition reads: "Form data are those terms and phrases that designate specific kinds or genres of materials. Materials designated with these terms or phrases may be determined by an examination of: * their physical character (e.g., video cassettes, photographs, maps, broadsides), * the particular type of data that they contain (e.g., bibliographies, questionnaires, statistics), * the arrangement of information within them (e.g., diaries, outlines, indexes), * the style, technique, purpose, or intended audience (e.g., drama, romances, cartoons, commercials, popular works), or * a combination of the above (e.g., scores). "A single term may be modified by other terms, in which case the whole phrase is considered to be form data (e.g., aerial photographs, French dictionaries, conversation and phrase books, wind ensemble suites, telephone directories, vellum bound books, science fiction)." At the 1994 ALA Annual Conference in Miami, the Subcommittee expressed its preference that the distinction between intellectual and physical form be removed from the USMARC bibliographic format. The issue of form/genre versus physical characteristics has also been discussed by other groups. In meetings of the Working Group on Form and Genre Vocabularies, which is working to reconcile the various form/genre thesauri, members have been unable to define the distinction between field 655 and field 755 in a satisfactory manner. In the absence of a logical distinction that holds up in all cases, members of the group have reached the conclusion that the best course is to eliminate field 755. The RBMS Bibliographic Standards Committee discussed the issue in Miami and also came to the conclusion that field 755 should be eliminated and asked MARBI to consider this idea. Another group using field 655 and field 755 is the archival community. There have been indications in the past that archivists generally consider the distinction between intellectual and physical form a valid and significant one. It is not clear that this distinction has actually been embodied in practice or in particular thesauri used by this community. It should be noted that many automated systems do not index data in fields 655 and 755 separately. (For example, LC provides access to field 755 data in the same index used for field 655 data.) It is anticipated that existing thesauri that specify use of field 755 could be changed to require the use of field 655 instead. 3. POSSIBLE OPTIONS a) Make field 755 obsolete in favor of field 655. The definition of field 655 would have to be modified slightly to cover physical characteristics. Since field 655 already has the same subfields defined as field 755, no other changes would need to be made to the field. b) Allow field 755 to remain in the USMARC Bibliographic format but change the field definition and scope for both field 755 and field 655 to make it clear when each is to be used. The rationale for using one field over the other should be more than arbitrary or based on the instructions of various thesauri. A solid logical, and easily understood basis for the differentiation between form, genre, and physical characteristics is needed. The USMARC bibliographic format currently differentiates the three as follows: * Form - physical format categories * Genre - style or technique of intellectual content * Physical characteristics - media, production processes, and/or materials Given the lack of success of the SAC subcommittee in distinguishing between the two, this may not be possible. 4. QUESTIONS a) Do any current uses of field 755 support retaining the field in the USMARC Bibliographic format? For example: form, genre, and physical characteristics are central to the arrangement, description, and control of archival materials, but is a separate field for the third of these required? b) Does the catalog user understand the difference between field 655 and field 755 data and expect to be able to seach on genre characteristics (e.g., diaries) and physical characteristics (e.g., daguerreotypes)? c) If field 755 is made obsolete, is there a need to attempt conversion of field 755 to field 655? (LC currently has 23,149 occurrences of field 755 in its database of over 4 million bibliographic records. Most, 22,780 occurrences, of the fields are in visual materials records.)