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Date added 4 October 2006
Last edited 17 November 2009

Full Title

MAchine-Readable Cataloguing


MARC is a standard for the representation and communication of bibliographic information in computer-readable form. It is widely accepted as the standard format for the interchange of bibliographic records and is used by 69% of European library systems. There are several different versions being used in different countries, of which MARC 21 is one.

ISO 2709 defines the tape exchange format that MARC records conform to. ISO 2709 files start with a fixed length record label followed by variable length records containing a directory map, a record identifier, MARC reserved fields and MARC bibliographic fields. The ISO 4873 IS2 and IS3 codes are used as field and record terminators respectively.

MARC 21 consists of five specifications, namely: -

  • Format for Bibliographic Data
  • Format of Authority Data
  • Format of Classification Data
  • Format of Community Information
  • Format of Holdings Data

Within these formats, each MARC 21 record is composed of three elements: -

  1. Record structure, which provides the implementation of ISO 2709
  2. Content designation, which comprises a set of tags and codes that further characterise data elements
  3. Record content, which is based on standards outside the format itself such as cataloguing rules and classification

An XML Schema for the management of MARC21 records (MARCXML) was published in 2002. An alternative Metadata Object Description Schema (MODS) identifies a subset of MARC that can be expressed in XML using language-based rather than numeric tags.

Standards Developing Organisations

Network Development and MARC Standards Office
Standards, IMO, LAC
Bibliographic Development Department, BL


No information available.

Lifecycle Actions

Access, Use and Reuse
Create or Receive
Description and Representation Information

Standard Frameworks

Digital Archive Standards
Digital Repository Standards

Standard Types

Metadata Content Standards
Metadata Structure Standards

Current Version

Further Information

Alternative Current Versions

1994 - UKMARC [external]
Generally superseded by MARC 21.
1994 - UNIMARC [external]
Generally superseded by MARC 21.

Previous Versions

Canadian version of MARC superseded by MARC 21. Source documentation is no longer available.
Harmonised with CanMARC in 1997 to produce MARC 21. Source documentation no longer available.

Referenced Standards

ISO 2709:1996 Information and Documentation - Format for Information Exchange