Michigan State University

MARC holdings fields

I. Coded (as opposed to "textual"+) MARC holdings fields always travel in PAIRS:

853 with 863 (basic holdings)
854 with 864 (supplements)
855 with 865 (indexes)

The 853 (and other 85x) field DEFINES the CAPTIONS (v., no., year, season, month, etc.) on the piece, and gives information about a title’s publication PATTERN, such as frequency, how many numbers in a volume, when the volume numbering increments, variations from a norm (such as combined issues), etc.

The 863 (and other 86x) field tells what volumes (or nos., years, editions) that we hold—our HOLDINGS (ENUMERATION AND CHRONOLOGY).

II. Each field has indicators.

A. 853/854 have:

1st indicator – "compress or expand" - indicates to an automated system, how the holdings will be displayed (as an itemized list of every piece you hold, or as a statement-range of the first and last pieces held):
  • 0 - Cannot compress or expand
  • 1 - Can compress but not expand
  • 2 - Can compress or expand**
  • 3 – Unknown
    ** (We generally use "2".)

2nd indicator – "caption evaluation" - tells how complete our reporting of levels of captions is:

  • 0 - Captions verified; all levels present
  • 1 - Captions verified; all levels may not be present
  • 2 - Captions unverified; all levels present
  • 3 - Captions unverified; all levels may not be present

B. 855 has blank indicators.

C. 863/864 have:

1st indicator is "encoding level" – the level of reporting holdings from the ANSI/NISO Z39.44 or Z39.71 standards:
  • (blank) No information provided
  • 3 - Holdings level 3 [863/864] **
    Indicates that the field contains summary enumeration and chronology information (that is, only at the first level of enumeration and chronology) for a basic bibliographic unit (field 863) or supplementary material (field 864).
  • 4 - Holdings level 4 **
    Indicates that the field contains detailed enumeration and chronology information (that is, the first and all subsequent levels of enumeration and chronology).
  • 5 - Holdings level 4 with piece designation (item record)
    Indicates that the field contains detailed enumeration and chronology information and an identifying number for the physical piece in subfield $p (Piece designation).

** (We will generally use "3" or "4".)

2nd indicator is "form of holdings". It also dictates how the holdings display:
  • (blank) No information provided
  • 0 - Compressed [863/864] **
    For open-ended holdings (e.g., 1999-) and holdings in range (e.g., 1990-2000).
  • 1 - Uncompressed **
    Every single piece is listed, e.g., v.1:no.1 (Jan. 1991), v.1:no.2 (Feb. 1991),…
  • 2 - Compressed, use textual display [863/864]
    Display should be generated from the linked Textual Holdings field (866).
  • 3 - Uncompressed, use textual display
    Display should be generated from the linked Textual Holdings field (866).
  • 4 - Item(s) not published [863/864]
    Parts described in the field are unpublished.
    ** (We will generally use "0" or "1".)

D. 865 uses some but not all of the indicators listed above.

III. Each field has subfields.

A.|8 is always the first subfield, called LINK AND SEQUENCE. Its purpose is to match 853 with 863, and to put multiple 863’s in display order, using numbers.

853 20 |8 1
863 41 |8 1.1
863 41 |8 1.2

B. The other 853 subfields:

1. |a thru |h – "Enumeration captions":

  • |a  primary bibliographic unit (such as v., ed., Bd. )
  • |b – |f  secondary and lower bibliographic units (no., pt., etc.)
  • |g–|h are used for alternative numbering schemes

If a piece has no caption, an asterisk is used, within parentheses:

|a (*)

If a piece has an ordinal number (1st, 2nd edition), it is coded like this:

|a +ed.

If a piece only has years, or years and months, but no numbering on it, subfields a–h are used, not subfields i–l.

|a(year)|b(month)

Parentheses are used whenever you do not want what is within them to display in the OPAC. So we use them around year and month, so our holdings looks like:  

LIB. HAS: 2000
not: LIB. HAS: year2000.

2. |i thru |m – "Chronology captions":

  • |i primary bibliographic unit (year)
  • |j – |l secondary and lower bibliographic units (month, day, etc.)
  • |m is used for alternative chronology schemes

3.|u and |v follow enumeration subfields:

  • |u gives the "number of units per higher level" and it follows the caption subfield to which it applies:
  • |v tells whether numbering of a secondary level increments, or is repeated:
c = numbering continues or increments
r = numberiing repeats

For example:

853 20 |8 1 |a v. |b no. |u 4 |v r
This means there are 4 nos. in each volume, and that the numbering repeats with each new volume. (v. 1, no. 1-4, v. 2, no. 1-4)

853 20 |8 1 |a v. |b no. |u 3 |v c
This means there are 3 nos. in each volume, and that the numbering continues to increment. (v. 1, no. 1-3, v. 2, no. 4-6)

4. Next come the chronology subfields, |i thru |l :

853 20 |8 1 |a v. |b no. |u 4 |v r |i (year) |j (month) |k (day)
853 20 |8 1 |a v. |b no. |u 4 |v r |i (year) |j (season)

5. After chronology subfields are:

  • Subfield |w = "frequency" – uses the same codes as bib record fixed field "freq" or gives a number (of issues per year).
  • Subfield |x = "calendar change" – tells when the highest level of caption increments (when what is in subfield |a changes). It is generally coded numerically for months (01-12) or seasons (21-24).
For example:
853 20 |8 1 |a v. |b no. |u 4 |v r |i (year) |j (month) |w q |x 01
This means that the publication is quarterly, and the volume number changes every January.
  • Subfield |y  is "regularity pattern" and is used generally if a publication varies from the normal frequency with omitted numbers, or combined numbers:
It starts with "p" (published) or "o" (omitted), then a letter code "m" (month) "s" (season), etc. that is followed by numbers, representing months, seasons, etc.

For example:
853 20 |81 |a v. |b no. |u 10 |v r |i (year) |j (month)|w m |x 01 |y pm01,02/03,04,05,06,07,08,09/10,11,12
This means the publication is monthly, but with combined issues for the months of Feb./Mar. and Sept./Oct. (so it has 10 issues per volume).

6. Subfields of 863 for enumeration and chronology captions will always match the subfields that have been defined in 853.

7. Subfields |u |v |w |x and |y have the specific meanings outlined above ONLY in field 853.

For example:
853 20 |8 1 |a v. |b no. |u 12 |v r |i (year) |j (month) |w m |x 01
863 40 |8 1.1 |a 2 |b 1-8 |i 2000 |j 01-08
This means we hold v. 2, no. 1-8, which are Jan.-Aug. 2000. It displays in the OPAC as: v.2:no.1 (Jan. 2000)-v.2:no.8 (Aug. 2000)

8. Whenever there is a break in the holdings, a new 863 field is created. Subfield |w gives the reason for the break.

  • |w g  (This means there is a gap in our holdings.)
  • |w n  (This means a non-gap break - usually when the numbering changes, or a volume was never published.)
For example:
853 20 |8 1 |a v. |b no. |u 12 |v r |i (year) |j (month) |w m |x 01
863 40 |8 1.1 |a 2 |b 1-8 |i 2000 |j 01-08|wg
863 40 |8 1.2 |a 3 |b 1-12 |i 2001 |j 01-12
This means we hold, v. 2, no. 1-8, then v. 3, no. 1-12. (We are missing v. 2, no. 9-12.)

It displays in the OPAC as:
v.2: no.1 (Jan. 2000)-v.2:no.8 (Aug. 2000)
v.3: no.1 (Jan. 2001)-v.3:no.12 (Dec. 2001)


Textual MARC holdings fields (i.e. 866, 867, 868) take free text. This document focuses on the coded fields in MARC21 Format for Holdings Data (MFHD).

This document was written by Anne Scholberg.