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DATE: December 16, 2005


NAME: Addition of coded value to 008 for content alerts in the MARC 21 Bibliographic format

SOURCE: Revealweb Union Catalogue

SUMMARY: This paper discusses adding a coded value to the 008 in the Bibliographic formats to carry coded warnings to certain types of content in items for visually impaired users.

KEYWORDS: Field 008/32 (BD), Content Warning, Field 521 (BD)



12/16/05 - Made available to the MARC 21 community for discussion.

01/22/06 - Results of the MARC Advisory Committee discussion - The participants agreed to define data elements in the MARC 21 bibliographic format to carry content alerts. Preference is to define a variable field instead of a field 008 position to hold content alerts.

Discussion Paper 2006-DP02: Addition of coded value to 008 for content alerts


A recent initiative in the UK set out to provide a web-based union catalogue of materials available in accessible formats in the UK. Launched in 2003, the Revealweb Union Catalogue uses MARC 21 bibliographic and holdings formats. However, in order to provide the level of detail required for users, it proved necessary to extend the 008 coding in the bibliographic records.


In designing a union catalogue for visually impaired people, it has been necessary to bear in mind their specific user needs in terms of data held, data display and filtered searching. One practice used by agencies supplying audio versions of books is to indicate when there is a substantial amount of strong language, violence and/or sex scenes in a work. In situations where the user expects to be able to listen to a text without using headphones, and in a location where other people can also hear the text, users require guidance on content. If the content is inappropriate for the context, the user has the choice of waiting until they are alone before listening, or using headphones, or perhaps not requesting that item. The visually impaired user is usually choosing items from a tactile list, an audio list, or an accessible database; they cannot pick up the item and scan its contents to get this information. There is no intention to censor items, only to provide information; very few texts require this information and decisions to include such data and the rules to use in assigning it come from supplying agency reader services – cataloguers are not required to make an assessment.

The need for this information was initially met by including appropriate statements in field 520 (Summary Note). However, a need was identified for this information to be also used as a search filter; this required the use of 008 or other coded data area.

Note that Revealweb uses the Bibliographic and Holdings formats. A bibliographic format record is created for each standard print text used as a source of transcriptions. Holdings records are created for each accessible format using a particular print source text. The content warnings are needed in the bibliographic record as they relate to the text content and are not specific to a single accessible format (audio cassettes, CDs, and DAISY files can all carry audio content).

2.1 Values

The values that are currently used in the bibliographic records of The Revealweb Union Catalog are the following:

g = contains swear words
m = contains sex scenes
j = contains violence
k = unsuitable for family reading (includes combination of the above)
n = not applicable
| = no attempt to code

2.2 Placement in format

The field 008 is considered appropriate for this information as it applies to the content of the work, not to the physical media (as with 007). The Bibliographic 008 has been fully defined in the past but the 008/32 definition was made obsolete for all forms of material since 1990 so it is a possible place for this code.

Prior to 1990, five specifications had definitions for 008/32 as follows.

Definition of 008/32 from Books (1970), Music (1976), and Visual Material (1970) specifications to 1990:
	008/32 - Main entry in body of entry
		0 - Main entry not in body of entry
		1 - Main entry in body of entry

Definition of 008/32 from Manuscript (later called Mixed Material) (1973) specifications to 1983:
	008/32 - Processing status code
		a - Collection not in the library
		b - Completely processed
		c - Processes but without processed additions
		d - Requires reprocessing
		e - Totally unprocessed
		f - Under total cloture
		u - Unknown

Definition of 008/32 from Maps specifications (1970) to 1980:
	008/32 - Citation indicator
		a - Bibliographic cartographique internationale
		b - American Revolution
		h - Hummel purchases
		r - Railroad
		t - Treasure
		v - Vellum
		w - Warner purchase
		y - American Revolution and vellum
		z - Treasure and B.C.I.
		# - Not applicable

Definition of 008/32 from Serials specifications (1974) to 1990:
	008/32 - Cumulative Index Availability Code
		0 - Cumulative index not available
		1 - Cumulative index available

Since 1980 (for Maps), 1983 (for Mixed Materials) and 1990 (for Books, Serials, Music, and Visual Materials) the following values may occur in 008/32:
	008/32 - Undefined
		# - undefined
		| - No attempt to code

For all other specifications, 008/32 was always undefined and # and | were the possible values.

The alphabetic codes for the new definition of this byte do not overlap with the alphabetic and numeric ones previously defined.

2.3 Examples

A non-fiction work on the crimes of serial killers, with murders described in detail.

For a work of fiction that includes a combination of strong language, violence and sex scenes. For example: The indiscretions of Isabelle / Penny Birch writing as Cruella, which includes descriptions of flagellation as well as lesbian sex scenes.

2.4 Current Library of Congress coding

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS/BPH) at the Library of Congress also includes this type of information on its records for the participants in their talking book and Braille programs. Currently the Service uses the MARC 21 format and the Library's Voyager system for their catalog. Previously in a local system there were codes for this information in the database. These codes were converted to stock phrases and placed in repeating 521 (Target Audience Note) fields. A subfield $b is also included to indicate the organization that determined the information. The values are quite similar to those needed by the Revealweb Union Catalogue:

521 ## $aContains descriptions of sex.$bNLS/BPH
521 ## $aContains descriptions of violence.$bNLS/BPH
521 ## $aContains strong language.$bNLS/BPH

Where the conditions occur, the Service also includes as part of the field 520 (Summary Note) sentences that give the same information, often with an indication of degree, such as "Explicit descriptions of sex and strong language" or "Some strong language and some violence".


1) Is it desirable to reuse the 008/32 position? Note that the primary use is for textual and visual material and the previous definition for those types was for numeric codes.

2) Would a text string in the 521 (Target Audience Note) be useful or a repeatable subfield for the coded value in that or another field be more flexible, since multiple values could be coded?

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