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DATE: December 14, 2009

NAME: Defining codes for online and direct access electronic resources in 008/23 and 008/29 (Form of item)

SOURCE: Program for Cooperative Cataloging

SUMMARY: This paper proposes making code "s" electronic obsolete in 008/23 and 008/29 (Form of item). It proposes defining new codes in character positions 008/23 and 008/29 (Form of item) for online and direct access electronic resources.

KEYWORDS: Field 008/23 (Books, Music, Serials, Mixed materials) (BD); Field 008/29 (Maps, Visual materials) (BD); Form of item (BD); Online access (BD); Direct access (BD)

RELATED: 2009-DP04

12/14/09 - Made available to the MARC 21 community for discussion.

1/16/10 - Results of MARC Advisory Committee discussion: Approved as amended. Change code "n" to "q" (direct electronic); change code "o" to "online; add to 008/22 (Form of original item) for Continuing resources; add character position 008/23 to Computer files; add to 006. Code "s" (Electronic) will not be made obsolete, but remain for those institutions not requiring the level of granularity provided by the two new codes.

02/26/10 - Results of LC/LAC/BL review - Agreed with the MARBI decision.

Proposal No. 2010-01: Defining codes for online and direct access electronic resources


The ability to distinguish online resources from other material types such as direct access files (on a CD-ROM, DVD, etc.) helps library users find and access online resources in the catalog. This process is facilitated when systems allow users to limit searches to online resources and provide and identify online resources in search result screens in OPACS and network interfaces such as OCLC. Yet there is currently not a consistent method for assigning material types in the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format, AACR, and ISBD to distinguish records for online electronic resources from records for direct access electronic resources. Code “s” (electronic) is defined in 008/23 for Books, Continuing resources, Mixed materials, and Music and in 008/29 for Maps and Visual Materials.  It is used for both online and direct access electronic resources. There are other clues given in MARC 21 records cataloged according to AACR2 that a resource is electronic but no consistent means of identifying online resources. 

There is already a code “r” in 007/01 (Specific material designation) for Electronic resources to indicate that the resource is “remote”. However, this has not been considered adequate, since Field 007 may be used to code for physical description pertaining to the main resource described in the record as well as to indicate physical description information for any accompanying material.  There is no way to designate what the 007 is describing.

This paper proposes that new values be defined for 008/23 and 008/29 (Form of item) to clearly identify whether electronic resources are online or direct access. They will only apply to the main resource described and not to accompanying material.

It should be emphasized that these new values relate to the format of the resource as issued, not to how the resource may be adopted at a local, regional, or consortial level. For example, a direct access resource is sometimes networked locally, and becomes effectively, for these users, online. In this case, the record in OCLC and other national databases should still be coded for "direct access" (proposed below as code “n”). How it is coded locally would depend upon the needs of the local institution.

In July 2009, MARBI discussed this topic outlined in discussion paper 2009-DP04 and agreed to move it forward as a proposal to make code "s" obsolete, define code "o" to designate "online access," and define code "n" for "direct access" in fields 008/23 and 008/29.  It was also agreed that this coding would not apply to the single record approach to cataloging print and electronic resources. See that paper for a discussion of the data elements in MARC that contain information about whether the resource is electronic and online.


2.1 Definition of code "s" in 008/23 and 008/29

008/23 (Form of item) for Books, Continuing resources, Mixed materials, and Music and 008/29 (Form of item) for Maps and Visual materials is a one-character alphabetic code that specifies the form of material for the item being described. The current code used for both direct and online access resources is defined as:

s - Electronic
Intended for manipulation by a computer. May reside in a carrier accessed either directly or remotely, in some cases requiring the use of peripheral devices attached to the computer (e.g., a CD-ROM player). Not used for items that do not require the use of a computer (e.g., music compact discs, videodiscs).

2.2 Definition of new codes and making code “s” obsolete

Code "s" could be made obsolete in 008/23 and 008/29 and broken out to specify direct vs. online access. This proposal defines two new codes to identify remote and direct access resources uniquely. The new code for online will not be used in situations where the "single record" approach is being used, that is, where a record for a print (or other format, e.g., CD-ROM) resource contains URIs and notes about the online version.


3.1 Make code "s" obsolete in 008/23 and 008/29.

3.2 Define code "o"
           o – online access
           The resource is accessed by means of hardware and software connections to a
           communications network. Use this code only on a record representing the online

3.3 Define code "n"
           n – direct electronic
           Storage on a directly accessible tangible recording medium, e.g. disc, tape, playaway
           device, flashdrive, portable hard drive, etc.

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