DATE: May 5, 1995

NAME: Making field 755 obsolete 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 proposal suggests making field 755 (Added Entry-- Physical Characteristics) obsolete and modifying the definition of field 655 (Index Term--Genre/Form) to accommodate terms related to physical characteristics.

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

RELATED: DP82 (Feb. 1995)


5/5/1995 - Forwarded to the USMARC Advisory Group for discussion at the June 1995 MARBI meetings.

6/25/95 - Results of USMARC Advisory Group Discussion - Approved.

7/26/95 - Results of final LC review - Agreed with MARBI decisions.

PROPOSAL NO. 95-10: Making field 755 obsolete


This proposal suggests making field 755 (Added Entry--Physical
Characteristics) obsolete in favor of field 655 (Index Term--
Genre/Form) which already accommodates similar data.  It is the
result of reaction to Discussion Paper No. 82 (Merging Field 755
with Field 655 in the USMARC Bibliographic Format) which led to
broad support for doing away with field 755.  Making a distinction
between the terms which are recorded in field 755 and field 655 has
been difficult since field 755 was defined.  After efforts by
several groups to draft mutually exclusive definitions of the terms
for these USMARC data elements, it was generally agreed that it is
not possible to define them in a way that would hold true in all
circumstances, thus, obsolescence of field 755 is proposed.


Field 655 and field 755 were added to the _USMARC Format for
Bibliographic Data_ to accommodate form/genre data and physical
(object) characteristics, respectively.  Field 655 was approved
with strong consensus in 1979 as an access point for both 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).  The definition of field 755 was
eventually approved in 1982 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.  Early on,
systems administrators had difficulty rationalizing the indexing of
field 755 terms with the information in other added entry (i.e.,
7XX) fields.  In most systems field 755 terms are indexed with
subject (i.e., 6XX) terms, or sometimes not at all.

In the 13 years since field 755 was defined, its use has caused
problems for both librarians and catalog users.  For librarians,
the problem is deciding whether a specific term should go in field
755 or field 655.  Although, by some definitions, a clear
distinction between genre/form and physical characteristics seems
possible, in practice the distinctions can break down.  Several
writings by experts in the bibliographic control of rare books and
special materials have expanded on this problem.  The most workable
solution to rationalizing the use of field 655 and 755 for terms
used in rare book and special materials cataloging was the
designation of which field to use by thesauri themselves.  Using
the source of a term to determine which USMARC data element to use
is highly arbitrary, however, and of no help to library patrons.

For non-librarians, the resulting unpredictability of where (i.e.,
in what kind of field) certain terms might be found requires
multiple searches, unless the indexing of these two field is
combined.  In many systems the indexing of field 655 and 755 is
combined because of the problems outlined above.  Of all the
thesauri written for use in these two fields, only two restrict the
use of their terms to field 755.  Many contain terms that can be
used in either field.

As a result of the Airlie House Conference on Subject Subdivisions,
held in 1991, ALA's Subject Analysis Committee investigated the
various ways form data are represented in catalog records.  Its
Subcommittee on the Nature and Use of Form Data, which undertook
the task of devising working definitions and articulating
recommendations to promote the consistent treatment of form data in
bibliographic records, suggested at the 1994 ALA Annual Conference
in Miami that the distinction between intellectual and physical
form be removed from the USMARC bibliographic format.

The issue of form/genre versus physical characteristics was also
discussed by other groups.  In meetings of the Working Group on
Form and Genre Vocabularies, which worked to reconcile the various
form/genre thesauri, members were 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 also reached the conclusion that the best
course is to eliminate field 755.  The RBMS Bibliographic Standards
Committee discussed the issue in Miami in June 1994 and also came
to the conclusion that field 755 should be eliminated, as did MARBI
during its discussions in February 1995.

The use of field 655 for terms currently recorded in field 755 will
not require any substantive changes to field 655.  The subfields
defined in field 655 already match those defined for field 755. 
Only slight changes to the definition, and possibly to the name of
field 655, are needed.  Examples of terms relating to physical
characteristics would also be added to the field 655 GUIDELINES FOR


The following is presented for consideration:

    --  Make field 755 obsolete in the USMARC Format for
        Bibliographic Data.

    --  Modify the definition of field 655 to accommodate physical

    --  Add "Physical Characteristics" to the name of field 655. 
        (The new name for field 655 would be: Index Term--
        Genre/Form/Physical Characteristics".)

    --  Change sections of the _USMARC Code List for Relators,
        Sources, Description Conventions_ containing codes
        designated for use in field 755 to identify use in field
        655 instead.



655   Index Term--Genre/Form</Physical Characteristics>  (R)


First     Type of heading
 #     Basic
 0     Faceted

Second   Source of term
 7     Source specified in subfield $2

Subfield Codes
 $a    Genre/form</physical characteristic> data
        or focus term  (NR)
 $b    Non-focus term  (R)
 $c    Facet/hierarchy designation  (R)
 $v    Form subdivision  (R)
 $x    General subdivision  (R)
 $y    Chronological subdivision  (R)
 $z    Geographic subdivision  (R)
 $2    Source of term  (NR)
 $3    Materials specified  (NR)
 $6    Linkage  (NR)



     This field contains terms indicating the genre, [and/or]
form<, and/or physical characteristics> of the materials being
described.  Genre terms for textual materials designate specific
kinds of materials distinguished by the style or technique of their
intellectual contents; for example, biographies, catechisms,
essays, hymns, or reviews.  Form terms designate historically and
functionally specific kinds of materials as distinguished by an
examination of their physical character, subject of their
intellectual content, or the order of information within them; for
example, daybooks, diaries, directories, journals, memoranda,
questionnaires, syllabi, or time sheets.  <Terms indicating
physical characteristics are generally tangible aspects of an item;
for example, medium, production process, and/or material used.>  In
the context of graphic materials, genre headings denote categories
of material distinguished by vantage point, intended purpose,
characteristics of the creator, publication status, or method of

     The field may contain terms constructed from a faceted
vocabulary.  For each term found in the field, an identification is
given as to the facet/hierarchy in the thesaurus from which the
term came.  In addition, identification is given as to which term
is the focus term of the expression.

     Standard published lists are used for the genre, [and] form<,
and physical characteristics> terms.  The <term> list is identified
in subfield $2 (Source of term).

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