Working with MARC

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MARC stands for Machine Readable Cataloging, and many folks in the code4lib community find themselves working with MARC records at some point. This page is meant to be a round-up of the tools for working with MARC. If you want a general introduction to the standard, the Wikipedia article is a good place to start. MARC data is usually expressed either in ISO 2709 ("binary") form or MARCXML form.

Reference information

Desktop tools

  • Showmarc: is a DOS program that will show all the MARC fields used and how many times each is used.
  • MARC Record Translation Program (MARC RTP) is a command line utility that shows fields and subfields used in a collection of MARC records and then converts, and selectively imports, into databases built with general-purpose applications.
  • The FRBR Display Tool takes a file of MARC records and creats XML and HTML files arranged using the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records principles.
  • MarcXGen is a Marc URL extractor and HTML generator. Useful for link checking MARC records.
  • MARCMaker and MARCBreaker are DOS programs by the Library of Congress for converting MARC records to a text format and back.
  • USEMARCON is a multi-platform rule-based MARC record manipulation program. It is a command-line utility but there is also a GUI for it.

Getting Marc Indexed for Search Engines

MARC in Solr

MARC in Zebra

MARC Programming Libraries

Project Language Links Notes
javamarc Java Fork of MARC4J
MARC/Perl Perl Umbrella project; see also CPAN
pymarc Python
File_MARC PHP PEAR package; sanctioned fork of PHP-MARC
PHP-MARC PHP Abandoned(?); served as basis for File_MARC
ruby-marc Ruby
enhanced-marc Ruby Convenience methods for ruby-marc
marc21 Scheme
marcerl Erlang svn:// Very alpha code
Scala-MARC Scala
MARC Library (SobekCM) C# Implemented in .NET 4.0 with LINQ and streams with Z39.50 support
CSharp MARC C# Based upon File_MARC Pear packaged for PHP, but restyled for use in .NET
MARC.NET C# basic start, not thoroughly 'real world' tested
marc_record.js JavaScript (dead link) Part of MARC Editor Lite (dead link)
marcjs JavaScript (node)
USEMARCON C++ A rule-based MARC record conversion library
clj-marc Clojure Basic MARC21 and Aleph500 sequential export parser

A feed of commit messages and release announcements from many of the projects listed above can be found at

Utilities and Frameworks

Project Language Links Notes
MarcXimiL Python Bibliographic Similarity Analysis Framework
Catmandu Perl An ETL-framework to extract, transform and load MARC (and other formats) from/to various databases, indexes

Getting Sample Data

One common question is where to get sample MARC records for testing or playing around with. If you work at a library, chances are good that you can get some records out of your ILS (go ask your systems librarian if you don't know how to do this yourself). If you don't work in a library, you can get MARC bibliographic records from the Internet Archive.

You can also get MARCXML data for titles in HathiTrust through OAI-PMH.

There is a nascent movement within the code4lib community to establish a test set of problematic MARC records, especially records that are representative of the kinds of weirdness that is encountered in real libraries. It is hoped that this could eventually become a test corpus against which to run various MARC processing implementations. For more information, watch Simon Spero's excellent talk from Code4LibCon 2010.

MARC records for authority data are more common. The Getty Vocabularies makes both the The Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) and The Union List of Artist Names (ULAN) freely available. The Guidelines On Subject Access To Individual Works Of Fiction, Drama, Etc. records are available from Northwestern University. The Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) are available in many formats, one of them being MARC.

Reporting on How MARC Has Been Used

MARC Usage in WorldCat - A site that reports on how MARC has been used within the 300 million record WorldCat database