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DATE:May 26, 2022

NAME: Defining a New Subfield in Field 264 to Record an Unparsed Statement in the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format

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

SUMMARY: This paper proposes adding a new non-repeatable subfield to field 264 (Production, Publication, Distribution, Manufacture, and Copyright Notice) in the MARC21 Bibliographic Format to record an unparsed imprint or provision statement.

KEYWORDS: Field 264 (BD); Production, Publication, Distribution, Manufacture, and Copyright Notice (BD); Unparsed Statement (BD); General Statement (BD)


05/26/22 – Made available to the MARC community for discussion.

06/29/22 – Results of MARC Advisory Committee discussion: The paper, along with 2022-DP11, met with little support from MAC members. Most felt they were a step backwards and did not see why the recently approved field 881 for manifestation statements could not be used for this purpose. The primary discussion occurred in the context of DP10. The authors clarified that "unparsed" would more accurately be described as "unsubfielded". The proposed solution drew from BIBFRAME and the authors' reading that RDA supports general, unparsed statements. The argument in the paper against use of field 881 was restated, namely that the field contains "unstructured" information, whereas the information in field 264 is structured. Committee discussion generally exhibited further resistance to the papers' solutions – from the utility of current subfielding practice to parse the data in contexts beyond mere keyword, to the ability of systems to parse the existing subfields into appropriately labeled data elements in displays, to the solutions' dependence on the original iteration of the RDA Toolkit (in contrast to the Official RDA Toolkit currently in publication and awaiting wider implementation). There were multiple comments re-iterating the position that relying on ISBD punctuation to eliminate subfielding was counter to the thrust of developing cataloging practice which was favoring subfielding over the use of punctuation. A straw poll rejected the possibility of this and DP11 returning as proposals, but a subsequent straw poll favored both papers returning as follow-up discussion papers.

Discussion Paper No. 2022-DP10: Defining a New Subfield in Field 264 to Record an Unparsed Statement


Field 264 is currently defined in the MARC Bibliographic format as follows:

Field 264 has considerable overlap with Field 260 (Publication, Distribution, etc. (Imprint)), but provides greater ability to distinguish between the functions of the supplied statements.

Current practice has catalogers record statements for publication, production, manufacture, and distribution in three distinct parts or subfields: place of activity ($a), agent of activity ($b), and date of activity ($c).


Cataloging rules, specifically RDA (Publication), (Production), (Distribution), and (Manufacture), often indicate that it is important to record a structured statement about a resource's publication, production, manufacture, and/or distribution.  It has been MARC practice to split these statements into parts, which employ ISBD punctuation to connect them and are later combined in displays. While this is a perfectly fine practice, it is more than is necessary per current cataloging rules and, as such, unnecessarily complicated.  Adding a subfield to 264 for the complete, unparsed statement would provide MARC users with a less complex and simpler alternative for recording this information, and arguably one more in keeping with cataloging instructions.

The current proposal would not force any user to choose between using three distinct subfields versus a single subfield, though it would be logical to use one or the other (versus entering the same information twice).

It is often argued that the parsing of this information in the 260/264 is for search purposes. In those cases, users of these fields may wish to continue to parse the 264 statement into parts, but it is also worth pointing out that the variation in how information is currently entered, uncontrolled, in 260/264 has rendered it of limited value beyond a keyword search.  The current proposal in no way eliminates the possibility of a keyword search.  Moreover, it is worth a reminder, in those cases where clear, targeted searching is desired, there are other ways to record the same or similar information in controlled ways in a given MARC record.  For example: the 008 may contain an encoded provision date; a 7XX can be used to record a controlled access point for a provision agent.

The new field 881 (Manifestation Statements), specifically subfields $e (Manifestation production statement), $f (Manifestation publication statement), $g (Manifestation distribution statement), and $h (Manifestation manufacture statement) of the 881, was briefly considered but quickly ruled out. Information entered into Field 881 is expected to be "recorded as an unstructured description" (emphasis added), whereas the information recorded in field 264 is structured, despite the individual pieces of information being recorded as found on the item.


In field 264 (Production, Publication, Manufacture, and Copyright Notice) of the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format, add and define the following new subfield: 

$s – General Statement (NR)
Full, unparsed statement.  This may be used in addition to other subfields or instead.  While not technically incorrect, it should not be used when the second indicator value is "4" (Copyright notice date).


Example 1:
Three versions of the same record:

264  #1 $a[Place of publication not identified] : $bABC Publishers, $c2009.

264  #1 $s[Place of publication not identified] : ABC Publishers, 2009.

264  #1 $a[Place of publication not identified] : $bABC Publishers, $c2009. $s[Place of publication not identified] : ABC Publishers, 2009.

Example 2:

264  #1  $31990-2005 :$sWeston, MA : Prime National Pub. Corp.

Example 3:

264  31  $32006- :$sThousand Oaks, Calif. : Sage Publications

Example 4:

264  #1 $6880-04$sXianggang : Hai feng chu ban she, 1991.
880  #1 $6264-04$s香港 : 海峰出版社, 1991.


This information is collectively referred to as Provision Activity in BIBFRAME.  BIBFRAME would be able to accommodate the information entered in the $s by employing a simple literal property.  It already has the property “provisionActivityStatement” which is for the transcribed provider statements like the traditional imprint statements.


6.1. Do you agree there is an acceptable case for a user to employ a single subfield for imprint/provision information should a user opt to?

6.2. Does the proposed solution meet the needs discussed?

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

6.4. Would it be worth revisiting the definition and intended use of Field 881?

6.5. Should a subfield for the General Statement be defined in field 260 as well?

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

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