DATE: December 2, 1994

NAME: Merging Field 755 with Field 655 in the USMARC Bibliographic Format

SOURCE: Association of College and Research Libraries, Rare Books and Manuscripts Section, Bibliographic Standards Committee; ALA, Subject Analysis Committee

SUMMARY: This paper discusses the impact of merging field 755 (Added Entry--Physical Characteristics) with field 655 (Index Term--Genre/Form), making field 755 obsolete.

KEYWORDS: Added Entry--Physical Characteristics; Field 655 (Bibliographic); Field 755 (Bibliographic); Form; Genre; Index Term--Genre/Form; Object Characteristics; Physical Characteristics


12/2/94 - Forwarded to the USMARC Advisory Group for discussion at the February 1995 MARBI meetings.

2/5/95 - Results of USMARC Advisory Group discussion - A proposal was requested to make field 755 obsolete (Option a). The proposal should be forwarded to the USMARC list for electronic ballot.

DISCUSSION PAPER NO. 82: Merging Field 755 with Field 655


This paper discusses making field 755 (Added Entry--Physical
Characteristics) obsolete in favor of field 655 (Index Term--
Genre/Form) which already accommodates similar data.  It is not the
first time that the need for field 755 has been questioned, in
fact, controversy has always surrounded this field.  During an era
where efforts are being made to simplify the USMARC formats and
make them easier to use, a reexamination of the usefulness of this
field seems appropriate.


In the 1980's, two fields were added to the USMARC Format for
Bibliographic Data to accommodate what is called "form/genre data"
and "physical (object) characteristics".  Field 655 was approved
with strong consensus as an access point for form and genre
information.  It was placed in the 6XX block by analogy with the
inclusion of headings for form and genre in Library of Congress
Subject Headings (LCSH).  Field 755 was eventually defined as an
access point for the physical characteristcs of an item.  It was
placed in the 7XX block because the data was not considered to be
"subject" in nature.  The definition of two fields came several
years after the initial rejection of a proposal for a separate
field for physical characteristics.  Definition of field 755, which
was included in Proposal 220 (Dec. 4, 1979), was rejected because
the need for the data was questioned.  Lacking any controlled
vocabulary for describing publishing/physical aspects, the new
USMARC field could not be justified.  The proposal for a separate
USMARC field for physical characteristics data came up again in
June 1983 as part of a lengthy proposal (82-21) covering format
enhancements for visual materials.  This time, the community was
persuaded that physical characteristics involve an aspect different
enough from form/genre that it should not be recorded in field 655.

A number of thesauri have been written in the intervening years for
use in these two fields.  The Bibliographic Standards Committee of
the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), Rare Book
and Manuscript Section (RBMS), has published several of them.  The
Prints and Photographs Division (P&P) of the Library of Congress
(LC) has published one for historical graphic materials.  A full
list can be found in the section of the USMARC Code List for
Relators, Sources, Description Conventions, that defined codes for
subfield $2 in field 755.  Of the many thesauri that are commonly
used, only two of them, the Art & Architecture Thesaurus and LC's
Thesaurus for Graphic Materials II: Genre and Physical
Characteristics Terms, include terms that are designated for use in
both field 655 and field 755.  Other thesauri specify the use of
either field 655 or 755 for all terms (a few do not include USMARC
tagging instructions at all).

As a result of the Airlie House Conference on Subject Subdivisions,
held in 1991, ALA's Subject Analysis Committee has been
investigating the various ways form data are represented in catalog
records.  To that end it appointed the Subcommittee on the Nature
and Use of Form Data, which undertook the task of devising a
working definition of form and articulating recommendations to
promote the consistent treatment of form data in bibliographic
records.  Discussions at ALA conferences indicated that catalogers
did not agree on the relative scope of fields 655 and 755.  The
Subcommittee finally prepared a definion of form that includes both
intellectual content (field 655-type) and physical characteristics
(field 755-type) information.  The SAC definition does not
distinguish between the two.  Their definition reads:

    "Form data are those terms and phrases that designate specific
    kinds or genres of materials.  Materials designated with these
    terms or phrases may be determined by an examination of:

        *    their physical character (e.g., video cassettes,
             photographs, maps, broadsides),
        *    the particular type of data that they contain (e.g.,
             bibliographies, questionnaires, statistics),
        *    the arrangement of information within them (e.g.,
             diaries, outlines, indexes),
        *    the style, technique, purpose, or intended audience
             (e.g., drama, romances, cartoons, commercials, popular
             works), or
        *    a combination of the above (e.g., scores).

    "A single term may be modified by other terms, in which case
    the whole phrase is considered to be form data (e.g., aerial
    photographs, French dictionaries, conversation and phrase
    books, wind ensemble suites, telephone directories, vellum
    bound books, science fiction)."

At the 1994 ALA Annual Conference in Miami, the Subcommittee
expressed its preference that the distinction between intellectual
and physical form be removed from the USMARC bibliographic format.

The issue of form/genre versus physical characteristics has also
been discussed by other groups.  In meetings of the Working Group
on Form and Genre Vocabularies, which is working to reconcile the
various form/genre thesauri, members have been unable to define the
distinction between field 655 and field 755 in a satisfactory
manner.  In the absence of a logical distinction that holds up in
all cases, members of the group have reached the conclusion that
the best course is to eliminate field 755.  The RBMS Bibliographic
Standards Committee discussed the issue in Miami and also came to
the conclusion that field 755 should be eliminated and asked MARBI
to consider this idea.

Another group using field 655 and field 755 is the archival
community.  There have been indications in the past that archivists
generally consider the distinction between intellectual and
physical form a valid and significant one.  It is not clear that
this distinction has actually been embodied in practice or in
particular thesauri used by this community.

It should be noted that many automated systems do not index data in
fields 655 and 755 separately.  (For example, LC provides access to
field 755 data in the same index used for field 655 data.)  It is
anticipated that existing thesauri that specify use of field 755
could be changed to require the use of field 655 instead.


    a)  Make field 755 obsolete in favor of field 655.  The
        definition of field 655 would have to be modified slightly
        to cover physical characteristics.  Since field 655 already
        has the same subfields defined as field 755, no other
        changes would need to be made to the field.

    b)  Allow field 755 to remain in the USMARC Bibliographic
        format but change the field definition and scope for both
        field 755 and field 655 to make it clear when each is to be
        used.  The rationale for using one field over the other
        should be more than arbitrary or based on the instructions
        of various thesauri.  A solid logical, and easily
        understood basis for the differentiation between form,
        genre, and physical characteristics is needed.  The USMARC
        bibliographic format currently differentiates the three as

        *    Form - physical format categories
        *    Genre - style or technique of intellectual content
        *    Physical characteristics - media, production processes,
             and/or materials

        Given the lack of success of the SAC subcommittee in
        distinguishing between the two, this may not be possible.


    a)  Do any current uses of field 755 support retaining the
        field in the USMARC Bibliographic format?  For example:
        form, genre, and physical characteristics are central to
        the arrangement, description, and control of archival
        materials, but is a separate field for the third of these

    b)  Does the catalog user understand the difference between
        field 655 and field 755 data and expect to be able to seach
        on genre characteristics (e.g., diaries) and physical
        characteristics (e.g., daguerreotypes)?

    c)  If field 755 is made obsolete, is there a need to attempt
        conversion of field 755 to field 655?  (LC currently has
        23,149 occurrences of field 755 in its database of over 4
        million bibliographic records.  Most, 22,780 occurrences,
        of the fields are in visual materials records.)

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