ER: Choosing a Format
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Princeton University Cataloging Documentation

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Choosing a format

How to characterize records for electronic resources in terms of their primary form of material (the issue of "content versus carrier") has been widely discussed. AACR2 is oriented toward basing cataloging treatment on carrier.

Until 1997 the definition of computer file in USMARC (Leader/06 code "m") indicated that the record would be coded for carrier. However, as a result of a change approved by MARBI in June 1997 the USMARC Bibliographic Format has revised the definition of code "m" to allow for electronic resources to be coded for their most significant aspect.

That definition now reads:

Code m indicates that the content of the record is for the following classes of electronic resources: computer data, computer software (including programs, games, fonts), numeric data, computer-oriented multimedia, online systems or services. For these classes of materials, if there is a significant aspect that causes it to fall into another Leader/06 category, code for that significant aspect (e.g. vector data that is cartographic is not coded as numeric but as cartographic).

Other classes of electronic resources are coded for their most significant aspect (e.g. language material, graphic, cartographic material, sound, music, moving image). In case of doubt or if the most significant aspect cannot be determined, consider the item a computer file.

What does this mean for the cataloger of electronic resources?

It means that the content of the material is the most important factor when cataloging. An electronic resource that is primarily language material would be cataloged as a monograph or serial as appropriate. A score issued in electronic format would be cataloged as a score, not as a computer file. The electronic resources elements of these types of materials are brought out with the addition of a 007 field (please refer to: 007 Field: Physical Description Fixed Field: General Information and Policies).

The 007 field is mandatory in any record representing an item whose carrier is an electronic resource (whether a directly accessed electronic resource such as a CD-ROM or a remotely accessed electronic resource such as a World Wide Web document).

Effective immediately all catalogers of electronic resources should be basing their cataloging on the primary content of the material.


A copy of Homer's Iliad available via the Internet

Old practice Type: m
New practice Type: a

Journal of biochemistry on CD-ROM

Old practice Type: m
New practice Type: a

NOTE: It is hard to distinguish a pattern in our catalog, or in RLIN or OCLC, so this decision is better made based on this documentation.