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Series cataloguing standards change

Applying Machine Readable Cataloguing (MARC) coding for series in catalogue records has always been complex. When following the MARC 21 international standard, cataloguers have to make various decisions about series, with each decision resulting in a different MARC coding solution. These are some of the questions facing cataloguers:

  • Are users likely to search for resources by this series title?
  • Is the series statement that appears on the resource in the same form as other works in this series?
  • Is the series title statement so generic that it needs to be distinguished from other similar series titles?
  • Are all the works in this series written by the same author?

In 2002 SCIS decided to trial a simple approach, using only one of the many possible MARC fields to describe and provide access to series titles: the 440 field, which was defined in the MARC 21 standard as both series statement and series added entry. This approach worked well until the 440 field was made obsolete. The Library of Congress, the Library and Archives Canada and the British Library serve as the maintenance agency for the MARC 21 formats and changes are adopted only after extensive consultation and open meetings. The decision to make 440 obsolete is explained in MARC Proposal No. 2008–07 ‘Making field 440 (Series Statement/Added Entry--Title) obsolete in the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format’,
The intention of the proposal is to resolve the long-standing problem of field 440 being both a descriptive field and a controlled access point. Separating the two functions will result in a more reliable description and easier maintenance through authority control over time. ... Simplified decisionmaking would also assist in training new staff and enhance series work-flows in libraries.


The MARC formats now prescribe that all title series statements are entered in the 490 field and all series title added entries in the 830 field. The 490 field is part of the description of the resource; it contains the series statement as it appears on the item. Field 830 is the controlled series access point or added entry. In some cases the data in the two fields may be identical.

In 2009 SCIS announced its intention to stop using 440 and use both the 490 and 830 tags as prescribed in the international standard. This change came into effect in late 2010.

SCIS does not have any plans to retrospectively change the coding of the many thousands of series titles already in the SCIS database. It is a principle of MARC that obsolete data fields are allowed to remain in records, although they should not be used in current cataloguing. Thus school library systems should continue to allow for searching and displaying series titles entered in 440, as well as in 490 and 830.

Leonie Bourke

Manager, SCIS
Education Services Australia