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IFLA Universal Bibliographic Control and International MARC Core Programme (UBCIM)

UNIMARC Manual : Bibliographic Format 1994

Record Label


This area of the record contains general information which may be needed in processing the record, constituted according to the provisions of ISO 2709.


The record label occurs at the beginning of every record. It is mandatory and not repeatable.

Tag, Indicators, and Subfields

The record label has no tag, indicators, or subfield identifiers.

Fixed Length Data Elements

These data elements are identified by character position within the label. The label as a whole is always 24 characters in length. Conventionally the character positions are numbered 0 to 23.

Name of Data Element

Number of Characters

Character Positions

Record length
Record status
Implementation codes
Indicator length
Subfield identifier length
Base address of data
Additional record definition
Directory map



Notes on Field Contents

The Record Label (also known as leader) is found at the beginning of each UNIMARC record and contains data for processing the record. Character positions 9, 10, 11, 20-23 contain specific fixed values at this time and may be generated programmatically by the computer. Character positions 0-4 and 12-16 contain numerical data indicating the number of characters in certain areas of the record; these can be calculated by the computer when the record is formatted. Values for the character positions 5, 6-8, 17-19 may be translated from data in the source record by conversion program or, where UNIMARC is being used as the source format, assigned manually.

0-4 Record length
Five decimal digits, right justified, with zero fill where necessary, representing the number of characters in the entire record, including the label itself, the directory, and the variable fields. This data element is normally calculated automatically when the total record is assembled for exchange.

5 Record status
A single character, denoting the processing status of the record.

6-9 Implementation codes
Implementation codes are so called because the codes in character positions 6 to 9 are not defined in the standard format ISO 2709 but are dependent on the individual implementation of the standard. One such implementation is UNIMARC, and the use of these codes in UNIMARC is defined as follows.

6 Type of record
Needed by certain agencies. The domestic format assigns different functions to the same fields, subfields etc. depending on the type of record. Some are the equivalent of General Material Designations; but this is not always the case.

The code should be in accordance with the actual type of material being catalogued rather than with its secondary physical format. Hence there is no code for microforms: a microform containing printed text would be coded as "language materials; printed".

However, ISBD (ER), page 2, gives two options for cataloguing electronic resources which share the characteristics of another form: one is to catalogue the item as an electronic resource and add details of the additional characteristics; the other is to catalogue the item following the rules of the other relevant ISBD and add the electronic resource details. In the case of a digitised map, the first option would lead to a catalogue record with a character position 6 of '1'; the record would describe the item as an electronic resource with additional coded fields and notes giving the cartographic details. The second option would lead to a catalogue record with a character position 6 of 'e'; the record would describe the item as a map with additional coded fields and notes giving those details applicable to the electronic resource. The latter corresponds to the recommended treatment of microforms given above.

7 Bibliographic level
Four possible values are defined:

The bibliographic level of a record relates to the main part of the record, or the primary bibliographic entity described in that record, the title for which appears in the 200 field.

Some cataloguing codes may not make a clear distinction between a multipart item (multivolume monograph) and a monographic series. In such cases an agency should use whichever of the values is more appropriate in the majority of cases. Where such a distinction is made, but cannot be determined in a particular instance, the item should be coded as a serial.

8 Hierarchical level code
This code indicates the hierarchical relationship (if any) between the record and other records in the file. The following codes are used:

Organisations never creating records related hierarchically should always enter #. Organisations making links between records which are related hierarchically should enter the appropriate code 0, 1 or 2. In this context, code 0 indicates that, although the system does use hierarchical linking, the particular record is not related to others in the file. Codes 1 and 2 should be used only if records at other levels actually exist; records linked in this way must all be present in the same file.

If character position 5 contains o then 2 should be entered in character position 8.

See also the information given in the section on 46- Levels.

9 Undefined
Contains a blank.

10 Indicator length
One numeric digit giving the length of the indicators. This is invariably 2 in UNIMARC.

11 Subfield identifier length
One numeric digit giving the length of the subfield identifier; e.g. '$a'. This is invariably 2 in UNIMARC.

12-16 Base address of data
Five numeric digits, right justified with leading zeros, indicating the starting character position of the first data field relative to the beginning of the record. Since the first character of the record is numbered 0 (zero), the number entered as the base address of data will be equal to the total number of characters in the label and directory including the field separator that terminates the directory. In the directory, the starting character position for each field is given relative to the first character of the first data field which will be field 001, rather than the beginning of the record. The base address thus gives the base from which the position of each field is calculated. This number will generally be supplied automatically by the computer when the UNIMARC record is finally assembled.

17-19 Additional record definition
Three character positions containing codes giving further details necessary for processing the record:

17 Encoding level
A one-character code indicating in general the degree of completeness of the machine record, and whether or not the item was examined when the record was created.

18 Descriptive cataloguing form
A one-character code indicating the form of the descriptive cataloguing used in the record. It indicates whether the descriptive fields 200-225 have been constructed according to the provisions of the International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD). The code values are as follows:

An agency that catalogues its books in accordance with ISBD(M) but its serials only partially in accordance with ISBD(S) may enter code '#' in all records of books and 'i' in all records of serials, even though many of the serial records might by chance conform to ISBD(S) completely.

19 Undefined
Contains a blank.

20-23 Directory map
This provides details of the length and structure of the directory entry for each of the UNIMARC fields. The four positions are as follows:

20 Length of 'Length of field'
One decimal digit giving the number of characters in the 'length of field' part of each directory entry. The value in UNIMARC is 4. This allows a maximum field length of 9,999 characters.

21 Length of 'Starting character position'
One decimal digit giving the number of characters in the 'starting character position' of each directory entry. The value in UNIMARC is 5. This allows a maximum record length of approximately 100,000 characters.

22 Length of implementationdefined portion
A decimal digit giving the number of characters in the implementationdefined portion of each directory entry. As a UNIMARC directory entry does not contain such a portion, the value in UNIMARC is 0.

23 Undefined
Contains a blank.

Related fields

The data elements found in the record label are not found elsewhere in UNIMARC. Although some of the values of the implementation codes 'type of record' and 'bibliographic level' appear to overlap with other coded data, in fact the codes in the record label refer to attributes of the record and not directly to attributes of the bibliographic item itself.