Discussion Paper 2002-DP02

DATE: December 18, 2001

NAME: Renaming the 008 Positions to Reflect their Content in the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format

SOURCE: CONSER; ALA Map and Geography Round Table

SUMMARY: This paper discusses the need to rename specific 008 fields because of new terminology or changes in the scope of the fields. These include changing the names of the 008 for Books, Serials, Maps, and Computer Files.

KEYWORDS: Field 008 (BD); Books (BD); Serials (BD); Maps (BD); Computer Files (BD)

RELATED: 95-09 (June 1995); 97-3R (June 1997); 2001-05 (June 2001)


12/18/01 - Made available to the MARC 21 community for discussion.

01/21/02 - Results of the MARC Advisory Committee discussion - Many participants favored the suggested name changes, although there was some concern about implementation costs. Many felt, however, that the benefits outweighed the impact that a change of names would have on documentation. There was some concern that changing a name of the 008 type might work but may be problematic for 006 types. There was not a strong consensus about whether the short or longer form of names should be adopted, although it was felt that complete consistency was not important. The discussion was not conclusive, although there was consensus that "continuing resource" and "electronic resource" should be used because these are well-known names.

Discussion Paper 2002-DP02: Renaming the 008 positions to Reflect their Content


Field 008 (Fixed Length Data Elements) in the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format contains coded information about the record as a whole and about special bibliographic aspects of the item which are potentially useful for retrieval and data management purposes. Generally the data elements available concern aspects of the content of the item, rather than its physical form, which are coded in field 007 (Physical Description Fixed Field). Character positions 00-17 and 25-39 have definitions that apply to all types of materials; positions 18-34 have varying data elements depending upon the type of material as coded in Leader/06 and /07.

There are a number of instances in which the name of the 008 type has become too narrow because of format changes or does not reflect more current terminology. This paper explores the renaming of the following 008 types: Books, Computer files, Maps, and Serials.


2.1. Field 008 definitions

The following table details which 008 is used for each Leader/06 type (in some cases combined with the code in Leader/07 (Bibliographic Level)).

Leader/06 code



Leader/07 code


008 used

Visual Materials
Computer Files
Mixed Materials

2.2. Books 008.

Proposal No. 95-09 (Encoding of Digital Maps in the USMARC Bibliographic Format) and Proposal No. 97-3R (Redefinition of code "m" (Computer file) in Leader/06 in the USMARC Bibliographic Format) explored the issue of coding field 008 for content rather than physical carrier and resulted in the redefinition of code "m" (computer file) in Leader/06. In the latter paper, the possibility of changing the name of field 008 for Books was discussed, since the term was no longer appropriate because the field would be used for various other types of textual materials other than books (e.g. microforms or computer files with textual content). It was suggested that the Library of Congress bring a proposal to consider the change in name of the Books 008 to a term such as "Text" or "Language material" at a later date.

To determine the type of 008 used for textual material, Leader/07 (Bibliographic level) must be considered. For textual material that is coded as a monographic component part, collection, subunit, or monograph, the Books 008 is currently used. Thus, if the physical carrier is a computer file and its content is basically textual, the Books (or Serials if appropriate) 008 is used. Many categories of electronic text, e.g. a Web-based article that is primarily textual, is not accurately called a "book". It would be appropriate to rename the field to "Textual materials"or "Textual resources".

One consideration is to distinguish the Books 008 from the Serial 008, both of which describe textual resources. However, serials/continuing resources are also textual but do not use the same 008, and this name does not convey that. Instead of using a namefor books that combines these aspects (e.g. "Text, non-serial", "Text, non-Continuing resource"), which would become unwieldy, this distinction could be made in the field description.

2.3. Serials 008.

Proposal 2001-05 (Changes in MARC 21 to Accommodate Seriality) explored changes needed to the MARC 21 bibliographic format for AACR2 rule changes. The new concept of "continuing resources" was discussed in terms of the format; it is defined as:

  Continuing resource: a bibliographic resource that is issued over time with no predetermined conclusion. Continuing resources include serials and ongoing integrating resources.

The proposal included the addition of a new bibliographic level code "i" for Integrating resources that would use the Serials 008. The proposal also suggested that the renaming of the Serials 008 to "Seriality". After the approval of the proposal the Library of Congress began to update the documentation to reflect the changes. It was found that the use of the term "seriality" did not fit in with the other field 008 type definitions, and that the term "continuing resource" was more appropriate to describe the type of material coded in the field. "Seriality" is a broad concept that can be more widely applied; "continuing resources" is more specific and encompasses both serials and integrating resources.

The Serial 008 is focussed primarily on the bibliographic level and especially the serial aspects of a resource, even though it is used only with language material (non-language material that is serial uses the 006 for seriality aspects of the resource)

2.4. Maps 008.

In the AACR2 cataloging rule community, who are all users of MARC 21, the general material designation "Cartographic material" is now specified for what was previously "map" and "globe". Although field 008 names are not controlled by general material designations established in AACR, in this case it would be appropriate to consider a change to the 008 type which is currently "map". The Maps 008 is used for any specific form of cartographic material, coded as "e" or "f" in Leader/06. These Leader codes were renamed with Proposal No. 95-09 (Encoding of Digital Maps in the MARC Bibliographic Format) from "printed map" and "manuscript map" to "cartographic material" and "manuscript cartographic material". The proposal also detailed the use of these codes for digital cartographic material, the first of the "content versus carrier" proposals. The physical format type for cartographic material is detailed in field 007, which can be coded for map, globe, or remote sensing image, all cartographic material that would be coded as Maps in field 008. The term "maps" does not adequately convey the type of material; "cartographic" would be more accurate.

2.5. Computer files 008.

The International Standard for Bibliographic Description dealing with computer files has been extensively revised, and the new document is called "ISBD-ER". The term "electronic resource" is now used for the concept previously known as "computer file" in the ISBD documentation, where the general material designation has also been updated to use the new term. It would be appropriate to consider the change of the name of the 008 type to reflect this new terminology.

2.6. Other 008 types.

The only other 008 type that is not completely accurate in its terminology is Music, since it is used for not only notated music and musical sound recordings, but also for nonmusical sound recordings. However, there does not seem to be a clearly understood, simple term that embraces all these types, nor has there been a specific request to make a change.

The Mixed materials 008 terminology may be problematic, since it is defined primarily for archival and manuscript collections of mixed forms of materials, rather than for items that are a general mixture of different types of materials, such as kit, which uses the visual materials 008, or multimedia computer files, which uses the computer file 008. However, finding a more suitable term may be difficult, and there is no compelling reason for such a change.

The Visual materials 008 adequately represents the material coded as such.

2.7. Consistency in terminology.

It could be argued that if changes are made to 008 fields that consistent terminology may be a worthy goal. Currently some 008 fields use a designation such as "materials" and others do not. One alternative is to leave off that designation, so that the following 008 fields would be defined:

Alternatively, the word "resource" or "materials" could be added to each:
  Textual resources
Continuing textual resources
Music resources
Cartographic resources
Visual resources
Electronic resources
Mixed resources
  Textual materials
Continuing textual materials
Music materials
Cartographic materials
Visual materials
Electronic materials
Mixed materials

However, in some cases, this does not retain the terminology used in the particular community.


Changing the name of four 008 fields would have an impact particularly on MARC 21 documentation which is not trivial. This includes not only the formal standard issued by the Library of Congress, but also manuals issued by bibliographic utilities, system vendors, etc., both in printed form and as electronic help files. Not only would it require changes in the fields themselves, but so much in the format refers to the 008 coding that it would reverberate throughout.

Such a change would also have an impact on system implementations, particularly displays and templates used for encoding the 008 character positions. The benefit of such changes need to be carefully weighed against the costs.


3.1. What are the benefits in changing the names of the 008 fields?

3.2. What is the impact of these prospective changes on: 1) documentation; 2) implementation.

3.3. Is the benefit worth the impact?

3.4. If a change should be made, should consistent terminology be used? Which alternative?

3.5. Should only the change be made to the Serial 008 at this time and the others be deferred?

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