Report of the Format Merge Group to the Public Services
Council February 28, 2002

The Format Merge Group (Rhonda Marker, convener, Judy Gardner, Tom Frusciano, Natalie Borisovets, Bob Warwick) was constituted and charged at the January 2002 Public Services Council to consider the implications of merging all formats of the same title onto a single record. The group was to report at the February 28, 2002 Public Services Council meeting.


For purposes of discussing the issues and recommendations, the group adopted the nomenclature of the International Federation of Library Associations’ report Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR). Bibliographic relationships are defined in terms of the “work,” the “expression,” and the “manifestation.”

Work: A work is the intellectual content of a bibliographic entity, such as the story of Romeo and Juliet.

Expression: “An expression is the specific intellectual or artistic form that a work takes each time it is ‘realized.’” So the expression of the work “Romeo and Juliet” might be the written drama. Another expression would be a staged production. A third might be a translation of the play into German. All of these would be expressions of the same work. [You might want to think of these as editions].

Manifestation: A manifestation is “the physical embodiment of an expression of a work.” So a manifestation of the work “Romeo and Juliet” would be the printed volume in which it appears. Another manifestation of the written drama could be a facsimile reproduction of the printed volume. Two manifestations of the staged production would be a master videotaped copy of the live production and a circulating videotaped copy of the live production. [You might want to think of these as formats].


The Format Merge Group recommends that all manifestations of a work be cataloged on a single record. In most cases, this would mean that the print, microform, and online manifestations would all be on a single record. Multiple Physical Description fields (300) should be used in these records as much as possible. The physical description should be as fulsome and descriptive as possible.

It is the Group’s recommendation that this practice apply to both serials and monographs, including dissertations which might appear as a print manuscript, a microform reproduction of the print, and a photocopy reproduction made from the microform.

This will be a large project and will need to be done in stages. The Group recommends that the EBSCO titles be merged first. Two compelling reasons for beginning with these records are that with the February EBSCO load we will be adding the URL only to the print record, and this aggregation is our core undergraduate online journal collection. The next group of titles that should be merged is the netLibrary subscription.

The Group recommends that someone be designated to monitor the work of MARBI following on Discussion Paper 2002-DP04: Addition of Imprint and Physical Description fields to the MARC 21 Holdings Format This paper proposes a universal bibliographic description of an item with holdings records that contain copy-specific publication and physical description information. The possible use of the MARC Holdings record to post information about individual manifestations is tantalizing, but for the time being individual item records are needed for purposes of circulation, search limits by Library, and other current functions within Unicorn. This situation might change if Unicorn enhancements that we have requested are implemented by Sirsi.


Some elements on records for a reproduction would be lost, and some elements unique to specific formats would not be included in a “universal” bibliographic record. These include:

Some unique descriptive elements such as ISSN and details about the format help identify specific reproductions and formats. This is a concern for interlibrary loan. Our patrons use this information to identify what we already own, and the ILL office uses this information to match requests from other institutions to our holdings.

The Group anticipates that there will be a transition period in which not all existing records are “merged.” For this period of time, IRIS will contain both “merged” and separate records for various manifestations of the same work and expression. The end result after the transition period will be a cleaner display in IRIS.

The “How-To”

The Group recommends that as many records as possible be merged through automated means. However, there will be significant manual work, especially for those titles which have order records and serials control records attached.

For More Information

PSC members are referred to the MARBI Discussion Paper, 2002-DP04: Addition of Imprint and Physical Description fields to the MARC 21 Holdings Format which proposes a universal bibliographic description of an item with holdings records that contain copy-specific publication and physical description information.


There are two examples in Test IRIS (remove spaces-web crawler blocker) of how these records might appear. Check the records for Newsweek, and Some like it hot.

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