Library of Congress Offers MARC Open-Access

Library of Congress announced that it has made 25 million records from its catalog available for the public to download for free. The collection can be found in the MARC Open-Access. The MARC Distribution List (which requires a subscription) will continue to exist. In other words, the free MARC Open-Access will not replace the MARC Distribution List.

MARC Records can be described as individual bibliographic cards in a traditional card catalog. Like a card in a catalog, they are portable and follow the international standards and Library of Congress cataloging policies. All records use the MARC formats, which are international standards for the representation and communication of bibliographic and related information in machine-readable form.

MARC Open-Access is also called MDSConnect. This open-access service includes nearly three million MARC records, as distributed in unabridged 2014 Retrospective file sets. The MDS record sets have been made available primarily for research and development usage. Records are available in three formats: UTF8, MARC8, and XML.

The new, free, service will operate in parallel with the Library of Congress’s fee-based MARC Distribution Service, which is used extensively by large commercial customers and libraries. All records use the MARC (Machine Readable Cataloging Records) format.

The data covers a wide range of Library items, including books, serials, computer files, manuscripts, maps, music, and visual materials. The free data sets cover more than 45 years, ranging from 1968, during the early years of MARC, to 2014. Each record provides standardized information about an item, including the title, author, publication date, subject headings, genre, related names, summary, and other notes.

According to Fortune, the records now released in MARC Open-Access were previously only available through a paid subscription. The records include books and serials, music and manuscripts, and maps and visual materials spanning from 1968 through 2014.

Open Culture points out that this move helps free up the Library of Congress’s digital assets, allowing social scientists, data analysis, developers, statisticians and everyone else to work with the date “to enhance learning an the formation of new knowledge.”

The record sets that are available through MARC Open-Access include:
* Books (All)
* Classification
* Computer Files
* Maps
* Music
* Name Authorities
* Serials
* Subject Authorities
* Visual Materials

All of the record sets are contained in zipped files and you may need to download several files. That is something to keep in mind, especially if your computer has a limited amount of storage space. When you explore the data in MARC Open-Access, you will be given the choice of selecting the file type.

Related Articles at

* The Library of Congress Shared Three Map Collections with DPLA

* Maps at the Library of Congress

* Stereoscopic Images at Library of Congress

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