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DATE: May 22, 2014

NAME: Broaden Usage of Field 088 in the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format

SOURCE: Alaska Resources Library and Information Services (ARLIS)

SUMMARY: This paper proposes broadening the usage of field 088 (Report Number) in bibliographic records to include series numbers (in particular for series in technical report and government publications) by deleting the sentence "Not used to record a number associated with a series statement" in field 088's field definition and scope.

KEYWORDS: Field 088 (BD); Report Number (BD); Series statements (BD)


05/22/14 – Made available to the MARC community for discussion.

06/28/14 – Results of MARC Advisory Committee discussion: The Committee favored the option of broadening the scope of field 088 by deleting the sentence: "Not used to record a number associated with a series statement." Implementing new fields 087 or 089 was felt to be unnecessary. A question arose about whether all report numbers in the format should now go in 088. A clarifying sentence in the field definition and scope may be added in the proposal for the Committee's approval. The paper will return as a proposal at Midwinter 2015.

Discussion Paper No. 2014-DP07: Broaden Usage of Field 088


Catalogers need a tag specifically designated to indicate a report number as such in a report number field regardless of whether the same numerical figure within the report number is identical to a numerical figure in a series field in the same bibliographic record.  When that report number does not belong to standardized numbers of a defined type (such as 027 and 028), then 088 should be used as the "catch-all" field for other report number types.

Field 088 is currently defined in the Bibliographic format as follows:

The use of the series fields is to record the series statement that appears on the items.  The use of the report number field is to record report numbers by which the document is identified, whether printed on the item, from another source, or assigned by an agency.  As the fields have different purposes that can be used in separate machine processes or display, the data needs to be recorded in the suitable field regardless of repetition of the number.

ARLIS thus proposes: In the MARC Bibliographic format, edit the usage of field 088 as follows:

Delete:  "Not used to record a number associated with a series statement."

Optional:   Substitute the following statement for that deleted sentence:  "May be used to record a report number or alphanumeric number that can be cited without the series title, as typically used in technical or government reports."


This paper will discuss a special cataloging project at Alaska Resources Library and Informations Services (ARLIS) as an example.  ARLIS houses a large collection of technical reports, and it is a multi-agency library sponsored by federal and state government bodies, a trustee council, a university, and contractors.  ARLIS is the official custodian of thousands of documents for programs known as Susitna Hydroelectric Project and Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project. ARLIS received a contract to complete the cataloging and digitization of these documents and to make them accessible in print and online.  These documents are known by report numbers, such as APA 1, SUS 544, SuWa 207, and RTS 26.  Each number type is assigned by a different agency and that is how the documents are identified and organized.  To see the scope of the documentation involved in these cataloging projects, consult the indexes and bibliographies at this website:

ARLIS uses field 088 as a mechanism to produce lists by report number.  To see the current version of our online index, visit this website:

A user can sort that online index by either title or report number dynamically in real time as bibliographic records are added.  The use of 088 is perfect for these purposes. Accordingly, the use of field 088 and the series fields should be independent of one another and without regard of usage of the other.

All 088 fields are indexed to create this report.  Separate 088 fields are necessary for this.  The series number fields in 4XX and 8XX fields would not work.  For example, a statement such as '$v 69-71' would not provide keyword searching by '70' and no entry could be created under '70' if we chose to.).  Furthermore, the alpha-prefixes (APA, RTS, SUS, SuWa) are not part of the series statement, which are necessary to identify the report number uniquely.  For some series, similar prefixes could be part of the series.  Although these designations are unique to this particular collection, it is not unusual to have an alpha-numeric designation to indicate region, etc. as in, for example, U.S. Forest Service General Technical Reports, PNW-GTR-271 and RM-GTR-251 (which designate Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain regions, respectively).

The current definition of field 088 specifies that a report number may not be present in both this field and in a series field.   This stipulation is not always practical and is without warrant. There does not seem to be any inherent reason why 088 and 4XX/8XX fields cannot co-exist in the same record when the numbering is identical, particularly since these fields still retain separate purposes.  In this example, the numeric figure "435" appears in each field, but in the report number field it appears as "APA 435" and in the series statements it appears as "no. 435".

088 ##   APA 435
490 1#   Document ; no. 435
510 3#   Assigned APA Document no. 435 in the Susitna Hydroelectric Project document index.
830 #0   Document (Susitna Hydroelectric Project) ; no. 435.
    (OCLC requested that we enter our index note in field 510.)

The original intent of the current rule may have been to avoid catalogers from entering every series number in an 088 field; however, forbidding such numbers in all cases can cause inconsistency and difficulty in searching.  Reports assigned APA numbers in the 4000 range do not belong to the "Document" series and thus do not have a series field with that number.  Thus:

Allowed by current rule: 088 APA4001
Not allowed by current rule: 088 APA 435

Another inconsistency arises because the RTS and SUS numbers are not series, whereas, in the Susitna example, APA and SuWa numbers are.  A report might have one or more each of APA, RTS, and SUS numbers and those numbers ought to be indexed consistently.  The way field 088 is used should be independent of the source of the number.  To avoid inconsistent treatment of report numbers, the report number should be allowed whether or not a series is assigned to the report.  A library ought to be able to maintain an equal level of bibliographic control over all report numbers by entering them in records uniformly.

This problem is not unique to a collection at ARLIS.  As another example, many libraries are treating the series number associated with the series "Research reporting series. 3, Ecological research" as a report number.  See this example:

OCLC:   29190435    [no LCCN]
088 ##   EPA/600/3-82/044
490 1#   Research reporting series. 3, Ecological research ; $v EPA-600/3-82/044
500 ##   EPA-600/3-82-044.
830 #0   Research reporting series. ǂn 3, ǂp Ecological research ; $v EPA-600/3-82/044.

The text "EPA-600/3-82-044" is the series number, but its complex form indicates it is also intended as a report number.  Regardless of MARC format rules, some libraries want to treat is as such.


None of the existing MARC fields for report numbers are acceptable for the generic category of report numbering.  There are specific types of technical report numbers explained as follows, but field 088 is the only field available when the numbering does not belong to any of the following types listed:   Field 024 seems to be for special internationally used numbers (although a cataloger could supposedly use field 024 with first indicator 8 "Unspecified type of standard number or code" for generic report numbers).  Field 027 is for technical reports using only the STRN or ISRN systems.  (In the special Susitna Hydroelectric Project example, this type of numbering does not apply.)  Field 028, publisher number, is also not appropriate, and it is primarily for music and AV materials.  Field 029 is for system control numbers that seem specific for bibliographic record numbers.  Field 086 is for specific government documentation numbering.

The only other alternative would be to implement a new field, say 087 or 089, which would be used for generic or general report numbers.  Perhaps it could be defined as: "Used for report numbers that do not belong to any of the other defined types.  The cataloging agency may use this field for general report numbers assigned to the item regardless of identical numbers found in that report number and elsewhere in the description, such as a series statement."

Use of the quoted note in field 500 is also not suitable as an alternative.  The report numbers do not always appear on the items suitable for quoting.  They are often taken from the bibliographies, microfiche headers, other sources, or assigned by ARLIS and appearing on title pages that resemble technical data sheets.  Production of reports by number and catalog sorts cannot be performed on quoted notes.  An ILS system might index quoted notes as general keywords, but hardly as systematic search strings.  By comparison, an advantage of field 088 is that an ILS system can index this field for specific report number search strings.

Entering these fields "locally-only" as an alternative is also not suitable.  The report number is intended to apply to the document by the agencies responsible for the publication of the reports as a consistent numbering system.  One OCLC representative at the OCLC Quality Control Section suggested that ARLIS could keep 088, but then move the series to OCLC's locally-defined 89X series fields.  That is also unacceptable, as the series "Document (Susitna Hydroelectric Project)" is an officially established series heading and is considered part of the inherent description of the documents.  This series is printed on many documents and it, too, is intended to apply to the collection by the agency that issued most of the collection and is often funding the cataloging.


4.1. Example

OCLC:    8966373   [no LCCN]
088 ##    EPA-600/3-82-033
490  1#   United States. Environmental Protection Agency. Ecological research series
500  ##  "EPA-600/3-82-033."
830 #0   Research reporting series. ǂn 3, ǂp Ecological research ; ǂv EPA-600/3-82-033.

4.2. Example

OCLC:   800137041   [no LCCN]
088 ##   APA 3009
088 ##   APA 3010
088 ##   APA 3011
490 1#   Document ; ǂv no. 3009-3011
830 0#   Document (Susitna Hydroelectric Project) ; ǂv no. 3009-3011.


BF generally treats series as related entities.  These entities need to be identified with at least a title and the series number.  The proposal is for recording the series number without a series title, however.  This series number, which is not associated with a series title, can be treated as a bf:reportNumber.   The bf:reportNumber uses the Subclass, which points to a Class bf:Identifier where the bf:identifierValue and other information (e.g., bf:assigner, bf:qualifier, bf:scheme, bf:status) may be recorded if needed. 

<> a bf:Instance;
                                    bf:identifierValue “APA  435”.


6.1. What was the original purpose behind the prohibition on entering a series number in field 088?   Is that concern still shared today?   If it was to prevent redundant data in records, should that be considered a concern when 088 and 4XX/8XX fields are utilized for different purposes?

6.2. Would a different, newly-defined field, such as 087 or 089, be preferable for recording report numbers that also appear in series statements?

6.3. Is there concern for maintaining the integrity of field 088 as a recording area for non-series numbers only?   If using the same field (088) is agreed, but that integrity is desired, would it be practical to define an indicator for field 088 that identifies two types of report numbers--those report numbers that definitely are not series numbers and those report numbers that also appear in series fields?

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