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DATE: May 26, 2022

NAME: Defining a New Subfield in Field 490 to Record an Unparsed Statement in the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format

SOURCE: Network Development and MARC Standards Office (NDMSO), Library of Congress

SUMMARY: This paper proposes adding a new non-repeatable subfield to Field 490 (Series Statement) in the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format to record an unparsed series statement.

KEYWORDS: Field 490 (BD); Series Statement (BD); Unparsed Statement (BD); General Statement (BD)


05/26/22 – Made available to the MARC community for discussion.

06/29/22 – Results of MARC Advisory Committee discussion: The paper, along with 2022-DP10, met with little support from MAC members. Most felt they were a step backwards and did not see why the recently approved field 881 for manifestation statements could not be used for this purpose. For a broader discussion encompassing both papers, see the Results for 2022-DP10. For DP11, a distinguishing question between the two papers was the deployment of clarifying text. The point was raised that "clarifying text" would just be another mechanism of parsing the data, the elimination of which seemed to be the point of the papers. The response was that the canceled or incorrect ISSN are distinctly coded in the existing $y and $z; and that some clarifying text in $s could be used to capture the fact that an ISSN is canceled/incorrect so that it is clear in an unsubfielded statement; i.e. as in an OPAC display. The concern was raised about roundtripping data, with the need for examples of how this currently and would occur. Input from other communities was also requested. The paper may return as a follow-up discussion paper, along with DP10.

Discussion Paper No. 2022-DP11: Defining a New Subfield in Field 490 to Record an Unparsed Statement


Field 490 is currently defined in the MARC Bibliographic format as follows:

Current practice has catalogers often record series statements in multiple parts or subfields, such as one for the series title itself ($a), one for volume or numbering ($v), one for ISSN ($x), etc. 


Cataloging rules, specifically RDA, often indicate that it is important to record a structured series statement.  It has been MARC practice to split these statements into parts, which employ ISBD punctuation to connect them and are later combined in displays. While this is a perfectly fine practice, it is more than is necessary per current cataloging rules and, as such, unnecessarily complicated.  Adding a subfield to 490 for the complete, unparsed statement would provide MARC users with a less complex and simpler alternative for recording this information, and arguably one more in keeping with cataloging instructions.

The current proposal would not force any user to choose between using multiple, distinct subfields versus a single subfield, though it would be logical to use one or the other (versus entering the same information twice).

It is often argued that the parsing of this information in the 490 is for search purposes. In those cases, users of this field may wish to continue to parse the 490 statement into parts, but it is also worth pointing out that the variation in how information is currently entered, uncontrolled, in 490 has rendered it of limited value beyond a keyword search.  The current proposal in no way eliminates the possibility of a keyword search.  Moreover, it is worth a reminder, in those cases where clear, targeted searching is desired, there are other ways to record the same or similar information in controlled ways in a given MARC record.  For example: the 830 may contain an access point entry for the series, complete with redundant ISSNs.

The new field 881 (Manifestation Statements), specifically subfield $l (Manifestation series statement) of the 881, was briefly considered but quickly ruled out. Information entered into field 881 is expected to be "recorded as an unstructured description" (emphasis added), whereas the information recorded in 490 is structured, despite the individual pieces of information being recorded as found on the item.


In field 490 (Series Statment) of the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format, add and define the following new subfield: 

$s - General statement (NR)
Full, unparsed statement.  This may be used in addition to other subfields or instead.


Example 1:

490  0# $sPapers and documents of the I.C.I. Series C, Bibliographies ; no. 3 =Travaux et documents de l'I.C.I. Série C, Bibliographies ; no 3

Example 2:

490  1# $sDepartment of the Army pamphlet ; 27-50
830  #0 $aDA pam ;$v27-50.

Example 3:

490 1# $sMémoire du BRGM, 0071-8246 ; no 123

Example 4:
Two versions of the same record:

490 1# $sThe Annual publication of the College Theology Society, 0276-2064 ; v. 29 (1983) $x0276-2064

490 1# $sThe Annual publication of the College Theology Society, 0276-2064 ; v. 29 (1983)

Example 5:
Two versions of the same record:

490 1# $sSSGM discussion paper ; 2017/4$y1328-7854

490 1# $sSSGM discussion paper, 1328-7854 ; 2017/4

Example 6:
Two versions of the same record:

490 1# $sPraeger paperbacks ; pps 1$z2691-1841

490 1# $sPraeger paperbacks, 2691-1841 ; pps 1


BIBFRAME would be able to accommodate the information entered in the $s by employing a simple literal property.   It already has a property “seriesStatement” which is for transcribed series statements like those in a MARC 490. 


6.1. Do you agree agree there is an acceptable case for a user to employ a single subfield for series information should a user opt to?

6.2. Does the proposed solution meet the needs discussed?

6.3. Are there any potential consequences that this paper does not address?

6.4. Would it be worth revisiting the definition and intended use of Field 881?

6.5. Would adding clarifying text to the statements, such as "ISSN: " before an ISSN or "(canceled)" after a canceled ISSN, be helpful?

6.6. Are there any alternative format solutions to what is being proposed?

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