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Downloading MARC Records From the Library of Congress

Guest Author - Paula Laurita

Adding catalog records can be time consuming and costly. The Library of Congress provides a free option from their online catalog.

A valuable resource for most librarians is an easy economical method of downloading MARC records in an automated library catalog system. The Library of Congress has developed a way to access and download records from items in the LOC collection. The steps seem complicated at first, but after a few times the process will be smooth and simple. You will need to be able to use the Internet to access the records.

Step 1: Create A Folder For Records
This folder is a temporary holding area for your records. You will download to this folder and then export from this folder into your library system. I have one folder, with one document, that I use over and over again.

  1. Open the My Computer icon by double-clicking on it.
  2. Open the C: drive icon.
  3. On the File menu click on new, and then select Folder.
  4. When the New Folder appears rename to MARC.

Step 2: You will need to locate the record you want from the Library of Congress.

  1. Go to the LOC Catalog.
  2. Click on Basic Search. (This is a good resource to begin your search. It will give you access to the most common types of resources. Guided Search is helpful if you are looking for specific items, but do not know the initial words of a title or a person's complete name. You can also combine or exclude search words or phrases in Guided Search.)
  3. Select the index you want to search by (Title, Author, LCCN-ISBN-ISSN).
  4. Enter your search word, ISBN, etc., and then click Search. (One of my favorite methods to search is to select the LCCN-ISBN-ISSN index and then swipe my barcode reader over the ISBN barcode. This takes me directly to the record 95% of the time.)

Step 3: The Search Results.
The search results will be no record found, a Titles List, a Headings List, or a Single-Record Display.

  • If your search yields a title list there will be a display of rows that will include the Name Heading, Title, Date, and other useful information. By clicking on the title you will see the single record display for the holding.
  • An author search may return a list of authors or a list of titles by an author. The list of authors will show the number of items in the catalog by each author.
  • A Single Record Display will present information for an item. You will see that there are different layers of information. There is a Brief Record, Subjects/Content, Full Record, and MARC Tags. The display mode does not matter when you save the record. If you look at the Full Record you will see subject headings and the Dewey Decimal number.

Step 4: Saving the MARC Record.

  1. Scroll down the page to the yellow Save, Print, or Email Records box. You will see Select Download Format. In the white box select the MARC format you need (I use the non-Unicode/MARC8). Click on the Press to Save or Print button. You will see a new screen with a long line of numbers and letters. Don't worry, this line will be translated by your library automation system as a catalog record.
  2. On the browser's File menu, select Save As.
  3. In the Save In box, select the C: drive. Find your MARC folder listed among the other folders. Double-click the MARC folder to open it.
  4. In the File Name box, type a simple name for the file (I call mine 'book'). You don't need to add an extension if using Internet Explorer. Netscape Navigator may require you type the extension ".mrc" or ".001".
  5. In the Save As Type box choose Text File for Internet Explorer. In Netscape Navigator choose All Files. Click Save.
  6. After saving import into your system according to your library automation system directions.
  7. Next time you save a record use the same document in your MARC file. When asked if you want to replace the document select "Yes."

Other Notes The Library of Congress has a short time out period. If you leave a search in the middle and come back five minutes later you will have to begin anew. A year ago I often had difficulties getting access because the system was busy with users. Since the Library of Congress has upgraded the system I have not had this problem.

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Content copyright © 2014 by Paula Laurita. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Paula Laurita. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Christine Sharbrough for details.

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