The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 11, Number 7
Oct 1987

Preservation Elements in MARC Format

In the old days before computers, the Library of Congress sold copies of its catalog cards to other libraries, who bought one set of cards for each book that needed it. This saved then the trouble of cataloging their own books from scratch. LC still sells its catalog cards, but nowadays they do their cataloging on computer, using the MARC format, and will also send out the entire computer tape to libraries and library networks, who download into their own computer the catalog records they are interested in. MARC tapes are in widespread use around the country, and new uses continue to be found for then in libraries.

One of those new uses is to keep track of preservation measures used for individual books (microfilming, deacidification, and so on), both when they are queued for treatment and when the treatment is given. This is a task that would be impossibly complex by manual methods in all but the smallest libraries. It is easy with a computer, but the problem as that no one had ever set up a field for this purpose in the MARC format.

In response to the needs of preservation administrators for a way of keeping track of individual books, the LC Network Development and MARC Standards Office called leading preservation administrators together a year or two ago to decide how to structure the information they wanted in a field designated for the purpose, Field 583. (Field 007 was already in use for physical information, but was not appropriate for any preservation information but that on microfilming.)

Field 583 is now ready for use, either for purely local records or on a shared basis in a network. That is, it is ready except for the controlled vocabulary or standard for description, which will be needed in two or three of the subfields: a, and perhaps i and 1. A standard for description cannot be drawn from existing thesauruses, because there are none. There is no standard or widely accepted thesaurus of preservation terms, although there are many information centers, large and small, whose work it would greatly facilitate. But that is another matter.

The following update of the 583 field was recently received from the Network Development and MARC Format Office, dated 7/17/87. It is presented here in a somewhat simplified form for the convenience of readers who, like the Editor, are not sophisticated about computers. For more information, write Mary Lou Miller at the above office, Library of Congress, Washington, X 20540.


a Action k Action agent
b Action identification 1 Status
c Time of action n Extent
d Action interval o Type of unit
e Contingency for action x Note (Nonpublic)
f Authorization z Note (Public)
h Jurisdiction 3 Materials specified
i Method of action 5 Institution to which the field applies
j Site of action



This copy-specific field is used to record processing and reference actions, such as a brief statement about solicitation to acquire material, whether the solicitation is active or inactive, and the date of the last item of correspondence.

This field is also used for information about preservation actions relating to an item, such as review of condition, queuing for preservation, and completion of preservation.

A new 583 field should be created for each action; the 583 fields created for previous actions which still exist in the record may be retained or deleted according to the policy of the creating agency. Any information in a deleted 583 field which is desirable to retain in the record may be placed in a note subfield (x or z) of the renaming 583 field.

It is recommended that standardized terminology appropriate for the type of activity be used in this field where possible, especially in subfield a. Use of such standardized terms will aid retrieval and thus increase the usefulness of shared data. Some lists of standardized terms have been developed for particular fields of activity such as archival and manuscripts control, and preservation. Sources within the field of activity should be consulted for the latest versions of such lists.

[Selected Subfield Descriptions]

Subfield a: Action. "Action" refers to any action taken with respect to the described materials, for example, accession, appraise, authenticate, classify, copy, describe, exhibit, lend, organize, microfilm, preserve, reference, schedule, solicit, survey, or transfer. For preservation activities, this subfield contains a description of the action, for example, condition reviewed, queued for preservation, preservation interim treatment, preservation completed.

Subfield i: Method of action. "Method of action" is the means or technique by which an action was performed, for example, by mail, in person, by phone for reference services, or scrap, incinerate, shred for disposition. For preservation activities, these techniques may be, for example, reformatted on microfilm, mass deacidified, encapsulated, protective housing.

Subfield 1: Status. "Status" is the condition or state of the described materials, sometimes but not always resulting from an action, for example, physical condition, insurance value, or description status. For preservation activities, this subfield contains information about the condition of the item, when the action is "condition reviewed." This subfield may also contain information about the status of the item that caused preservation to be rejected, when the action is "preservation rejected," or information about the disposition of the original item, when the action is "reformatted."

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