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DATE: December 20, 2019

NAME: Reinstatement of Field 241 in the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format

SOURCE: Network Development and MARC Standards Office (NDMSO), Library of Congress

SUMMARY: This paper proposes the reinstatement of Field 241 (Transliterated Title) with updated indicators, subfields, and a revised field definition and scope.

KEYWORDS: Field 241 (BD); Transliterated Title (BD)

RELATED: 82-17

12/20/19 – Made available to the MARC community for discussion.

01/26/20 – Results of MARC Advisory Committee discussion: MAC was split between support for the proposed solution and concern for the impact on existing practices from the large scale divergence between Model A and Model B treatment. Questions also arose about vernacular data in non-title transcription fields and whether transliteration would be needed for them. Concerns were also raised about the future of legacy data in 880 fields. Even if field 241 were reintroduced, since there were no plans to make field 880 obsolete, any system would have to be capable of inputting and outputting both fields, as they do now since the way 880 has been used is a convention, not a specification by the format. OCLC and other library systems must be capable of exchanging records following all implemented practices. More analysis of the current usage of Models A and B and more information about the impact of any change to current transliteration practices would be useful. There was also a call for more complex examples to be included in a future paper.  Some suggested that, since DLC’s initiative on transliteration practices is currently at a testing stage, a local field might be more appropriate for use in this context.  NDMSO will take these concerns into consideration when it drafts a proposal.

Discussion Paper No. 2020-DP05: Reinstatement of Field 241


Field 241 (Romanized Title) was made obsolete in 1982 when field 880 (Alternate Graphic Representation) was defined. In the 1980 edition of MARC Formats for Bibliographic Data, the field is defined as follows:

"This field is used when the bibliographic title of the work is in a nonroman alphabet and the manual cataloging copy uses non-roman script. Since the MARC system does not have the capability at present of handling bibliographic data in nonroman alphabet languages, the romanized form is transcribed in the title field, tag 245, and repeated in this field."

Field 241 had the following content designation: the first indicator position specified whether a title added entry should be generated (values 0, 1); the second was defined for nonfiling characters (values 0-9). The subfield codes were: $a (Romanized title), $h (Medium).

Before the 1960s when MARC/automation disrupted the catalog card processes, catalog records used the vernacular for all transcribed information and generally only the title was also transliterated and commonly referred to as the “filing title” on catalog cards that contained transcription data in non-Latin alphabets.


When the community started reintroduced non-Latin scripts into MARC cataloging records two techniques were described in the MARC documentation.

Model A: Vernacular and transliteration. The regular fields may contain data in different scripts and in the vernacular or transliteration of the data. Fields 880 are used when data needs to be duplicated to express it in both the original vernacular script and transliterated into one or more scripts. There may be unlinked 880 fields.

Model B: Simple multiscript records. All data is contained in regular fields and script varies depending on the requirements of the data. Repeatability specifications of all fields should be followed. Although the Model B record may contain transliterated data, Model A is preferred if the same data is recorded in both the original vernacular script and transliteration. Field 880 is not used.

The Library of Congress and others in the community used a form of Model A for MARC Bibliographic records with the rule that all vernacular was to be in 880 fields, whether it was transliterated or not. The regular fields contained transliterated data.

Model B was generally employed for Authority records and 880 was not used.

For many years, systems had limited non-Latin character set capabilities so MARC continued to carry extensive transliteration, even after Unicode was developed.  Unicode at last supported encoding "all" scripts in a consistent manner.  With the shift to using MARC in an XML serialization (MARCXML), which requires use of Unicode, MARC was Unicode-enabled but old practices survived.  With the latest development of using BIBFRAME for interchange, which also requires Unicode encoding, progress to full Unicode is needed.  With these advances over the last 30 years, the Library of Congress is planning to simplify some cataloging practices and use vernacular for descriptions again, especially for transcription.  Transliteration is not useful to end users and it is both costly to produce and difficult to consistently implement for vocalized scripts.  Thus most transliteration will be eliminated for the transcription areas of MARC and BIBFRAME descriptions (but not in the access points like 1XX, 240, 700-740, etc.).  Other than access points the only data that the LC will consistently transliterate is the title, subtitle, and number and name of a part from the 245 field.

As data transformations between MARC and BIBFRAME are developed, new decisions about the treatment of data in non-Latin scripts have been evaluated. This new process has led to a need to record the transliterated (romanized) title (245, $a, $b, $n, $p) in a distinct MARC field, as field 245 is not repeatable. The title in vernacular script will be recorded in field 245, and field 880 will not be used.

This discussion paper proposes reinstating field 241 to facilitate data conversion between MARC and BIBFRAME. The indicators, subfields, and field definition and scope also need to be updated to reflect this new usage for the field.


In the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format, reinstate field 241 as follows::

Field definition and Scope
This field contains the transliterated title of a non-Latin title transcribed in the 245 field. The field consists of the title proper. The title proper includes the short title, the numerical designation of a part/section and the name of a part/section.


245 10 $a 최신 행정 우리 나라 지도
241  #0 $a Ch'oesin haengjŏng uri nara chido

245 10 $a Kоранические мотивы в западноевропейской и русской литературе : $b на материале творчества И. В. Гёте, А. С. Пушкина, Л. Н. Толстого, Н. С. Гумилёва
241  #0 $a Koranicheskie motivy v zapadnoevropeĭskoĭ i russkoĭ literature : $b na materiale tvorchestva I. V. Gëte, A. S. Pushkina, L. N. Tolstogo, N. S. Gumilëva

245 10 $a 大般若波羅蜜多經. $n 卷第一百九十三 : 殘存一卷
241  #0 $a Da bo re bo luo mi duo jing. $n Juan 193 : can cun yi juan


BIBFRAME enables the identification of the transliteratedTitle as a subclass of the Title.


6.1. Does the proposed solution meet the needs discussed?

6.2. Does the field definition and scope for field 245 need to be updated?

6.3. Are there other potential consequences of the change?

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