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DATE: May 29, 2020

NAME: Defining a New Subfield for Sound Content in Field 344 of the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format

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

SUMMARY: This paper proposes adding a new repeatable subfield to Field 344 (Sound Characteristics) in the MARC21 Bibliographic Format to record the sound content of resources, in additiona to expanding the field definition and scope to record "silent" as a sound characteristic.

KEYWORDS: Field 344 (BD); Sound Characteristics (BD); Sound Content (BD)

RELATED: 2020-DP03, 2017-05

05/29/20 – Made available to the MARC community for discussion.

07/01/20 – Results of MARC Advisory Committee discussion: There was general conceptual support for the paper, though there was difference of opinion with respect to field 344 vs. 345 (Projection Characteristics of Moving Image) as the optimal location. This data is primarily of concern to moving image catalogers, eliciting some support for field 345. Others argued, however, that non-musical bibliographic resources could contain sound elements which catalogers may want to record and that, under these circumstances, being able to use a field for recording sound content which is as neutral as possible in terms of the implied carriers would be desirable, warranting better placement in field 344. Preference for field 344 will be pursued by the authors. The paper will return as a proposal.

Discussion Paper No. 2020-DP14: Defining a New Subfield for Sound Content in Field 344


In Discussoin Paper No. 2020-DP03, the encoding of sound content in field 340 (Physical Medium) was proposed, but the paper asked if field 344 (Sound Characteristics) was a better location for this information. Based on feedback at the January 2020 MAC meeting, this discussion paper has been modified to place sound content information in field 344.

Field 344 is currently defined in the Bibliographic format as follows:

The Field Definition and Scope for field 344 states "Technical specifications relating to the encoding of sound in a resource."

RDA 7.18 is defined as Sound Content. The instructions for recording both this element include controlled vocabulary terms which can be used and assigned URIs, and it encourages use of the terms in a linked data environment (e.g., Sound Content: sound, silent).


Sound content information is recorded in field 300 (Physical Description) $b (Other physical details) and field 007/05 (Electronic resource, Projected graphic, Motion picture, Videorecording).

The OLAC Best Practices for Cataloging DVD/Blu-ray – Version 1.1, also adds that notes can be added to a description to explain or clarify the details of the sound content. For example:

300 ## $a 1 videodisc : $b sound, color
500 ## $a Silent film with added theatre organ musical accompaniment.

Since RDA defines Sound Content as a separate element, we propose creating a distinct subfield – $i for Sound Content. We also propose a re-wording of the Field Definition and Scope to incorporate silent as a type of sound content.

Storing this information in field 344 will also facilitate data conversion between MARC and BIBFRAME as the standard identifier or URI of the Sound Content term can be retained along with the term’s label.


In field 344 (Sound Charcteristics) of the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format, make the following changes:

3.1. Change the Field Definition and Scope

Current text:
Technical specifications relating to the encoding of sound in a resource.

Change to: Specifications relating to the encoding of sound or the absence of sound in a resource.

3.2. Add Subfield $i

Add and define new subfield $i as follows:

$i – Sound content (R)
Indication of "sound" or "silent" for projected graphic resources, moving image resources, and their electronic equivalents.


344 ## $i
silent $0 $2 rdasco

A note could be added in field 500 to provide additional context
344 ## $i sound $0
500 ## $a Silent film with added orchestral accompaniment.

Field 344 could augment accompanying materials information from field 300
300 ## $a 28 pages : $b illustrations ; $c 24 cm. + $e 1 sound cassette (analog)
344 ## $a analog $i sound


BIBFRAME Work or Instance: bf:soundContent (property), bf:SoundContent (class), accommodating either a designation of the sound content as a URI from a list or as a literal. The current MARC-to-BIBFRAME data conversion generates sound content triples from MARC 007/05 (electronic resource, projected graphic, motion picture, videorecording).

Using field 344 to record this information will facilitate the conversion of data between BIBFRAME and MARC as the URIs will be preserved.


6.1. Do you agree there is a use for a subfield in these fields to record sound content URIs?

6.2. Does the proposed solution meet the needs discussed?

6.3. Are there any alternative format solutions to what is being proposed?

6.4. Are there any potential consequences this paper does not address?

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