LibraryThing and MARC

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What is MARC?

A MARC record is a MA chine-Readable Cataloging record:

  • "Machine-readable" means that one particular type of machine, a computer, can read and interpret the data in the cataloging record.
  • "Cataloging record" means a bibliographic record, or the information traditionally shown on a catalog card. The record includes (not necessarily in this order):
    • a description of the item
    • access points for personal or family names, and corporate bodies
    • subject headings, and
    • the classification or call number. (MARC records often contain much additional information.)1

Basically, MARC records are detailed records libraries and librarians use for their collections, which also allows them to easily share their bibliographic information, since it's all based on the same standard.

1Understanding MARC from the Library of Congress. More information on Wikipedia.

MARC in Add Books

Choosing a good source for adding books to your library is of utmost importance for many of our metadata-loving members. You get better quality information, which leads to better quality exports, imports, etc. Adding books from sources that use MARC records is one of the best ways to accomplish this. Here is where LibraryThing's OverCat database comes in: over 32 million high-quality cataloging records from over 700 library systems worldwide. These records have been obtained from public archives and from Z39.50 searches done by LibraryThing members, and can be selected as a search source in the Add Books page on LibraryThing1.

1LibraryThing parses MARC records behind-the-scenes when members add them to their libraries, but you can still export (or import! see below) your library in MARC format so you can use the rich data.

More on OverCat

Exporting MARC

You can export your books in MARC format on LibraryThing, which was recently improved in November 2014 (see http://blog.librarything.com/main/2014/11/cataloging-improvement-i-better-export/). Check it out!

HelpThing:MARC export

MARC fields used for exporting LibraryThing data

  • 001 bookid
  • 020 isbn
  • 090 Library of Congress Call Number
  • 092 Dewey Decimal Call Number
  • 099 Personal/Custom Call number
  • 520 summary
  • 590$a comment
  • 920$a tags
  • 921$a reviews
  • 922$a ratings
  • 923$a collections

Importing MARC

The ability to import your files from MARC format was recently added this June (2015): blog post announcing the feature.

To use MARC import, you’ll need to have your library data in a .marc file format. Depending on how large a file you’ve got, the import process may take a few minutes1. The good news is, you’ll receive a (profile) notification from LibraryThing once it’s ready. From there, you’ll be able to review your import options—just like you would with any other import—and select the collections, tags, etc. you’d like to apply to the items you’re importing.

MARC fields not mapped for importing LibraryThing data

  • 001 bookid
  • 920$a tags
  • 921$a reviews
  • 922$a ratings
  • 923$a collections

The ability to map to the above fields, for importing LT data via MARC, is not yet available. This section will be updated when that happens. To import custom data like tags, ratings, and reviews, check out our CSV Import.

1Make sure you aren't importing more than 20MB at a time! That's our size limit for MARC import files (for now).

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