MARC Format – An Endangered Species?

MARC Format – An Endangered Species?

There's been talk in certain librarian circles for several years now about the failings of MARC format. MARC was designed when catalog cards were the norm, and considering today's technology, seems quite unnecessarily complex and inflexible. Online library catalogs, typically based on the MARC format, suffer in comparison to's full-featured system for displaying all kinds of information about books including pictures, reviews, reader ratings and even the full-text of the item. The gap widens each time Amazon introduces a new feature to its bookstore.

Roy Tennant has called for the death of MARC in his column for Library Journal. And I have to agree about the insufficiencies of MARC.

I have, however, always been a proponent of MARC in law firm libraries because it is, after all, a standard that is followed by a wide variety of library systems, and I do believe in standards. After all, if your records are in MARC format, changing from one cataloging system to another is typically a snap. So I was interested in this quote from “Know How to Integrate Services to Make Libraries Easier to Use”, Computer in Libraries, March 2004:

“For many years, articles in various publications have been predicting the end of MARC. It's important to remember that the value of a standard is measured by its acceptance in the marketplace, not by its technical merits otherwise… we'd be using the Dvorak keyboard layout rather than the standard QWERTY arrangement……MARC may eventually be replaced by something better, but this won't happen anytime soon.”

I don't know whether to be depressed or comforted at the thought of MARC being around for years to come.  [LawLibTech]

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