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The MARC Record

In 1965, in a meeting sponsored by the Library of Congress and attended by leading experts in library automation, Ritvars Bregzis had discussed the need to create and adapt a standard format and code for processing bibliographic records by computer. As part of his work on the ONULP, he had previously devised such a scheme.

According to Robert Blackburn, “[t]hat was the meeting at which preliminary groundwork was laid for establishing a standard machine-readable format and for what has become the international distribution of bibliographic data in machine form,” or the MARC record (machine-readable cataloging record).

In 1966, the University of Toronto Library and its Cataloging Department was one of the first institutions in North America to participate in the MARC Pilot Project. The first computer, SDS Sigma 7, was installed in 1968. The offline retrospective conversion of the library catalogue, using a key-punch machine, began the same year and was converted six years later into a reactive catalogue database, operated on an IBM 360/50 machine. The first online interaction took place in 1967, via an IBM 2260 terminal, which was equipped with a keyboard for input and a video screen for output. In 1975, UTL cataloguers began to create full MARC records for newly acquired titles.

MARC remains the international standard for creating and sharing bibliographic records to the present day, with some iterations and additions to the original schema over the years.

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The MARC Record