DATE: December 5, 1997

NAME: Defining Field 856 in the USMARC Authorities Format

SOURCE: University of Georgia

SUMMARY: This paper discusses extending the 856 field to the Authorities format as a potential means of improving access to the web pages of organizations.

KEYWORDS: Field 856 [Authority]; Uniform resource locator [Authority]; Electronic Location and Access [Authority

RELATED: 96-6 (Jan. 1996)


12/5/97 - Forwarded to USMARC Advisory Group for discussion at the 1998 Midwinter MARBI meetings.

1/11/98 - Results of USMARC Advisory Group discussion - There were strong feelings expressed on either side of the issue of defining field 856 in authorities. Some participants felt it made for a richer record and prevented the authority record from having information that could just be linked to. Others felt that basic decisions as to the function of authority records need to be made before adding a field such as this. Some were concerned about the implications for doing authority maintenance in a large database considering the volatility of a URL. There was some feeling that MARBI should define the field and thus allow it to be used and that specific groups (e.g. PCC) could make decisions on whether or how to apply it to different situations.

DISCUSSION PAPER NO. 107: Defining Field 856 


Provisions within the bibliographic format enable institutions to
provide controlled access to the electronic resources available
on the Internet, similar to what they provide for other
materials.  Field 856 in bibliographic records allows for a link
to an electronic resource.  It facilitates the same bibliographic
control and subject access for electronic resources as has been
provided for other more traditional library materials.

Defining field 856 in the Authority Format would give
institutions an option to provide access to substantive web sites
for organizations and other supplementary information through a
link within an authority record.  This would be a useful
augmentation of the authority record, providing historical and
biographical information that is too costly for most institutions
to develop and input into the 678 field currently.  


After the introduction of field 856 into the bibliographic and
holdings formats, proposals were later approved to add it to the
USMARC Classification Format (to link the classification number
to visual aids meant to be used as a guide to the classification
numbers) and to the Community Information Format.  The latter,
Proposal No. 96-6 (Definition of Existing Bibliographic Data
Elements in the Community Information Format), established a
procedure for adopting existing data elements across formats. 
That procedure involves using the USMARC list to announce intent
to adopt and allows for a six-week discussion period.  If the
field is adopted as is, no proposal is needed and it is
incorporated into the next update.  The timing of this request to
adopt field 856 into the Authority Format has provided an
opportunity to discuss the issue at a MARBI meeting, rather than
having the discussion electronically.

Authority records would use field 856 to provide supplementary
information about the entity for which the record was created,
particularly corporate entities.  It might link to an
organization's Web site or point to other biographical or
historical information that might otherwise be carried in field
678 in the authority record.  Such access might be more efficient
and useful than the creation of a bibliographic record for an
organization's home page.  A bibliographic record for such sites
would require constant updating.  For example the Library of
Congress Home Page has had several different title page titles
over its short life and the expectation is that it will likely
continue to be revised at least once a year.  The URL has been
constant, however.  The authority record might be a more
desirable and useful place to record such data.  

Inclusion of URLs in note fields of authority records has been
discouraged in the NACO program due to the likelihood of their
becoming outdated, although contributors can cite information
from Web pages.  However, if reliably found in 856 fields,
authority record URLs could be subjected to the same
link-maintenance software as are those in bibliographic records. 


LDR  00624cz###2200181n##4500
001  n  79117971  
003  DLC 
008  791025n|#acannaab|##########|a#ana#|||   
010  $an  79117971  
040  $aDLC$cDLC 
110  20$aLibrary of Congress.$bCopyright Office. 
410  20$aLibrary of Congress.$bRegister of Copyrights 
410  10$aUnited States.$bRegister of Copyrights 
410  20$aLibrary of Congress.$bOffice of the Register of
410  10$aUnited States.$bOffice of the Register of Copyrights 
410  10$wnna$aUnited States.$bCopyright Office. 
667  ##$aUnused subdivision: Research Unit 
856  4#$uhttp://lcweb.loc.gov/copyright


1.  While the need is probably less urgent, are there any reasons
not to allow adding URLs for web pages to personal name authority
records for authors, editors, et al.?

2.  Would there be any problem with carrying over to the
Authorities Format the repeatability and the full complement of
subfield codes defined for use in the Bibliographic Format?

3.  Is there any need for guidelines to determine when the link
belongs in the authority record and when in the bibliographic

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