DATE: May 1, 1998

NAME: Define Field 856 in the USMARC Authorities Format

SOURCE: University of Georgia

SUMMARY: This paper proposes extending the 856 field to the Authorities format as a potential means of improving access to information about the entity covered by the authority record.

KEYWORDS: Field 856 (AD); Uniform resource locator (AD); Electronic Location and Access (AD)

RELATED: DP107 (January 1997)


5/1/98 - Forwarded to USMARC Advisory Group for discussion at the June 1998 MARBI meetings.

6/27/98 - Results of USMARC Advisory Group discussion - Approved.
Participants felt that some clarification needs to be given as to how subfield $3 might be used in the 856 field of an authority record because it is ambiguous. In addition, it is not clear how the second indicator should be used, so it was likely that it would be set to blank (no information provided) in authority records. It was agreed that policy making bodies such as NACO will need to issue guidelines as to the field's use. LC will be conservative in showing examples in the format so that only non-controversial uses will be given (e.g. a corporate body's Web site).

7/29/98 - Results of LC/NLC review - Agreed with the MARBI decisions.

PROPOSAL NO. 98-13: Define Field 856 in authorities records


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. The field is also defined in the Classification and Community Information formats to link to outside electronic resources.

Discussion Paper No. 107 introduced the idea of defining field 856 in the Authority Format to 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 may be too costly for most institutions to develop and input into the 678 field currently.

The discussion of the paper in January 1998 revealed that there were strong feelings on both sides of the issue. Some participants felt that defining field 856 in the authority record brought up questions about the authority record's function, and that there might be wider implications in large databases. Others saw it as allowing for a richer record and an enhancement to bibliographic control. The USMARC Advisory Group concluded that a proposal to define the field should be considered at the next meeting, and that it was appropriate that specific groups (e.g. PCC) make decisions on whether or how to apply it in different situations.


2.1 Field 856 in authority records

Authority records could 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 a file with biographical or historical information that might otherwise be carried in field 678 in the authority record. Such access might be more useful than the creation of a bibliographic record for an organization's home page. In treating the site as yet another work by (and about) the body, the more time-consuming-to-create bibliographic record may contain an empty title proper like "Welcome to the [name of organization]." In addition, the presentation on that Web page could change frequently, although its purpose remains the same. 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. However, it continues to provide access to information about the organization. The authority record might be a useful place to record such data.

2.2 Volatility of URLs

Concern has been expressed about the inclusion of URLs in authority records because of their volatility. However, despite the difficulty of keeping them current, their use has certainly increased in bibliographic records. If they were used in authority records, they could be subjected to the same link-maintenance software as are those in bibliographic records, including the use of persistent URLs (PURLS).

2.3 Parallel to field 053

Opening authority records to the 856 field will not increase the amount of time required by a cataloger to establish a heading. The use of the field may be similar to the use of field 053 (Classification number), in that it provides added information, but is not required when establishing the authority record. For instance, to establish a personal author, one is not required to search to see if that field is applicable. Typically it is another cataloger, aware of the relationship to the classification schedule, who might later add that field. Likewise with the 856: one would not be required to search for corporate web sites as part of establishing a corporate heading.

Mapping relationships is an appropriate role for authority records. Just as the 053 field in a personal name authority record provides users with the beginning portion of all the literary author's LC-based call numbers, the 856 fields on many corporate authority records will indicate the initial segment of all the hierarchically-based URLs associated with the body. The same principle governing inclusion of 053 fields in subject authority records, namely the existence of a one-to-one relationship, can govern the addition of URLs to authority records.

2.4 Use of URL in authority records

At least one library is already including URLs in its OPAC display of authority records (Charleston County Library, S.C. An author browse search on "Charleston (S.C.)" produces a web display featuring clickable headings that take a user to the bibliographic records totalled to the right of those headings. Sandwiched between the heading and the number of hits is the parenthesized word "about"; when clicked, the resulting public display of the authority record includes the URL for the body's web site, labelled "Electronic Access:" near the top of the screen.

2.5 Examples

Potentially the field could be used for different types of authority records. Subfield $3 may be used to bring out the portion of the entity to which the field applies.

100 1#  $aRussell, Bertrand,$d1872-1970 
856 4#  $3photograph $u

sh89-4553 100 0# $aLeonardo,$cda Vinci,$d1452-1519.$tMona Lisa 856 4# $3description$u /auth/vinci/joconde/ 856 4# $3image$u /vinci/joconde/joconde.jpg

n79-117971 110 2# $aLibrary of Congress.$bCopyright Office 856 4# $u

111 2# $aInternational Conference on the Principles and Future Development of AACR 856 4# $u

n98-8359 130 #0 $aAmistad (Motion picture) 856 4# $u

sh85-106496 150 ## $aPresidents' spouses$zUnited States 856 4# $u

2.6 Field definition

Although field 856 appears complex because of the number of subfields defined, the most common use in bibliographic records is with first indicator value 4 (recently defined as HTTP) or first indicator value 7, subfield $u with the URL, subfield $3 if applicable to bring out the subset/material the URL covers, and subfield $2 if using first indicator value 7.

The second indicator details the relationship of the field to the bibliographic item described. This indicator is not appropriate for authority records and should either be coded as 8 (Other) or blank. (Blank has been used in above examples.) This situation also exists in the definition of the field in both the Community Information and Classification formats; the indicator did not exist when the field was defined in these other formats.

If this proposal is approved, a mechanism would be available to include a link to an electronic resource if appropriate and desirable in an authority record. Specific groups that determine policy and content (e.g., PCC), would need to decide whether to use this technique in records under their purview and if so, provide guidelines with respect to such issues as the kind of sites to record, the number, and policies with respect to maintenance of the citations.


In the USMARC Authority Format:

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