Sally McCallum discussed the relationship between and development of the Common Communications Format (CCF), USMARC and UNIMARC. She identified the shared technical characteristics of the three formats. All the formats use Information Interchange Format (ANSI Z39.2) and Format for Information Interchange (ISO 2709), two indicators per field and two character subfield codes. Technical differences between the formats are found in the structure of the directories, the leader, linking techniques, level of complexity in subfielding and use of ISBD. Other differences in the formats are found in subject support (e.g., the CCF format uses a simpler approach of subject descriptors in the 620 field) and in coverage of materials, formats and standards. CCF is used for text or copies of text while USMARC and UNIMARC are used for all forms of material. CCF only has a bibliographic format while USMARC has five formats and UNIMARC has both bibliographic and authority formats with a classification format in development. All three formats use ISBD but standards for rules of description, classification and subject analysis vary among the formats.

CCF was developed and is maintained by UNESCO, UNIMARC is maintained by an IFLA committee and USMARC is maintained by its user community. All three formats have worldwide user communities. CCF is widely used in developing countries and smaller libraries. USMARC is heavily used in the U.S., Canada, Norway and Latin America, and UNIMARC is used in Portugal, Italy, Croatia,, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and parts of other countries in Europe and Asia.

In conclusion McCallum emphasized that the three formats share a general similarity and that the differences are in the details. For more information on the CCF format see "The Common Communications Format (CCF)" in Future of Communications Formats. Ottawa, National Library of Canada, 1997 <>.


Brian Holt of the British Library addressed the differences between UKMARC and USMARC and the impact of harmonization efforts. He referred those seeking more details regarding the differences in formats and the progress of format harmonization to the web sites of the national libraries and IFLA. He noted that Wales, a bilingual country, is adopting USMARC and that Canada’s experiences with multilingual MARC records should benefit Wales. In addition he spoke about the British Library’s new system which uses the Canadian software AMICUS and the importance of UNIMARC as a switching language for conversion between formats. Holt emphasized the need for harmonization of MARC formats giving as an example the current situation in Latvia where presently three MARC formats are used .

For more information on MARC formats and format harmonization see the following web sites: UKMARC Web Page <> CAN/MARC <> USMARC <> and UNIMARC < >.


Richard Greene of OCLC spoke about the challenges confronting a bibliographic utility with international subscribers. At present more than 10% of the OCLC participating organizations are non-U.S. and one of the four major thrusts of OCLC's strategic plan is the internationalization of OCLC. OCLC's approach is to build on the existing infrastructures in other countries but often standards -- both the lack of standards as well as existing country or local standards -- become barriers. Greene discussed three approaches to removing these barriers. The first approach would be the adoption of USMARC and OCLC standards which can be a costly effort. But it is the approach of the university libraries of France which have recently decided to adopt USMARC and AACR2. The second approach to removing barriers would be to change the standards in the United States and other countries, moving the standards closer together with all sides sharing the burden. This also is a costly, time consuming approach which requires substantial lead time. The third approach is to welcome the differences, retain your own standards but be able to use records created under other standards. Under this approach the key issues are how to exchange data and who is responsible when data structures conflict.


Greene also mentioned non-tagging issues which present challenges to the international processing and sharing of bibliographic records. These issues include the different character sets use by UNIMARC and USMARC, the variety of cataloging rules and traditions used internationally, local adaptions resulting in records which are not quite USMARC or UNIMARC, and logistic challenges due to languages and geography. In conclusion, he stated the importance of the acceptance of imperfection as the current methods and technologies for converting and sharing international bibliographic records result in some ambiguity, some loss of specificity and some data degradation.

For additional information regarding conversion options see: UseMARCON < >, MARCMakr and MARCBreakr < >, OCLC UNIMARC Conversion Project < >.


The IFlA Section of Art Libraries has posted the 2nd revised and enlarged edition, 1996, of the Multilingual Glossary for Art Libraries in English with indexes in Dutch, French. German. Italian, Spanish and Swedish to IFLANET. It is available at

The PAC Core Programme has posted the IFLA Principles for the Care and Handling of Library Material, compiled and edited by Edward P. Adcock with the assistance of Marie-Thérèse Varlamoff and Virginie Kremp to IFLANET. They are available at VI/4/news/pchlm.pdf

Unimarc guideline No.5 - The UBCIM Core Programme has posted UNIMARC Guideline No. 5: Multilevel Description Encoding Options for UNIMARC to IFLANET. This Guideline ilustrates how an agency may encode multilevel description using the UNIMARC format. It is available (like the first four guidelines) free of charge from the UBCIM Office and is also posted at

Metadata handbook

Links to relevant standards


TEL test portal based on SRU

The European Library

Knowledge Management Discussion List

Cataloging Reference Sources

Creation and Organization of Bibliographic Records