Weekly Reading Response #2 – Elizabeth Frank

Beware the Ides of Marc!

Chowdhury was again more abstract than I would have liked, but the pamphet “What is a MARC Record and Why Is It Important” gave me the examples I needed to have a better understanding of certain of the concepts — the control fields, for example, and the meanings behind the uses of $a, $b, etc. Overall, in learning MARC, I find it easiest to apply non-book records to examples. For example, I envision how to catalogue a tape recording of an individual as part of an oral history project, or a podcast, or a graphic novel. In Part III, the breakdown of tags was clearer than what I read (and copied into my notebook) in the Chowdhury section. Here are the most frequently-used tags, advised the pamphlet, which then added

In the MARC record, 10% of the tags are used over and over, and the other 90% are seen only occasionally or rarely. After even a short exposure to the MARC 21 format, it is not usual to hear librarians speaking in MARCese.

Such an assertion lulled me into a false sense of well-being. The 5th section of the pamphlet, “Some General Rules,” was also quite helpful, until its very last paragraph, the second sentence of which reads: “Does the system allow for downloading, or writing the records back out to a disk . . .?”


This sent me dashing back to the syllabus, to see when this monograph was written. 2003. Its rather contentious follow-up, “MARC must die,” was written in 2002, one year prior and it assets: “[MARC] was developed in an age when memory, storage, and processing power were all rare and expensive commodities. Now they are ubiquitous and cheap.”

I sense some innovation ahead in future reading.


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