Home | Code and Term Lists | Canadian MARC Organization Codes

Canadian MARC Organization Codes

Please note: The Library and Archives Canada library symbol directory (MARC organization codes) does not provide search capabilities on codes for countries that have their own assignment agency.

[Canadian MARC Organization Codes] »» Library and Archives Canada

[MARC Code List for Organizations ] »» Library of Congress

[United Kingdom Organization Codes ] »» British Library

[German Organization Codes ] »» Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin

[Directory of OCLC Libraries ] »» OCLC Libraries

The Canadian ILL Symbols Directory is used simultaneously as the list of MARC organization codes for Canadian organizations. The directory contains short alphabetic codes used to represent names of libraries and other kinds of organizations that need to be identified in the bibliographic environment. This code list is an essential reference tool for those dealing with MARC records, for systems reporting library holdings and for many interlibrary loan systems.

There are a number of data elements in the MARC formats that call for institutional identifiers, the chief ones being those that identify the organization assigning the record control number, the agency responsible for creating or modifying a record, and the agency holding a copy of the item. In particular, it is a key to codes for holding institutions represented in the Canadian Union Catalogue.

The MARC Code List for Organizations in the United States grew out of the need for standard institutional codes to serve various bibliographic projects in the early 20th century. The first of these came into existence in the early part of the last century, when Charles Evans wanted to report that a certain library held one of the titles listed in his American Bibliography (published 1903-1959). As bibliographies appeared one after another, it became incumbent upon each editor to include an explanation of the codes used to identify libraries and other institutions. Over the years, when one library wished to refer to other libraries, it adopted abbreviations used by respected reference works or it invented new abbreviations of its own.

The development of the U.S. list is explained on the Library of Congress’ website. A Canadian scheme was developed in the 1950s forming the foundation of the current directory. This scheme converted any codes for Canadian institutions previously in existence in the U.S. directory.

The assignment of codes and symbols to Canadian organizations was managed by the Interlibrary Loan Division of the National Library of Canada, and later by the team responsible for the national union catalogue.

The advent of cooperative cataloguing projects, which allow institutions to share machine-readable bibliographic information, has put even more emphasis on the importance of a single system of organization codes. In addition interlibrary loan systems use organization codes extensively. An International Standard for organization codes (ISO 15511--International standard identifier for libraries and related organizations (ISIL)) embraces many of the features of the codes in this MARC list. ISO 15511 encompasses the codes from the Canadian directory the U.S. list and the OCLC list.

The following general principles are used for code assignment.

Character set
Codes are composed of basic Latin alphabetic characters and the dash ( - ). Parentheses occur in some obsolete codes but are avoided in newly assigned codes. Dashes are counted in determining the maximum length of a code, but are ignored in sorting and in determining uniqueness.
Codes generally consist of a combination of upper and lowercase alphabetic characters, although they may consist of all upper or all lowercase letters. The use of upper and lowercase letters helps to improve the readability of the codes. Case is ignored in sorting and in determining uniqueness.
Codes are variable in length but should not exceed eight characters. The dash ( - ) that is used in some codes is included in the character count. Beginning in 1989, codes found to contain more than eight characters were either shortened or made obsolete in favor of a newly-assigned (shorter) code conform to a new policy agreed upon by various MARC users.

Codes for organizations outside of Canada have a structure similar to Canadian symbols with the addition of a country code prefix. The country code taken from ISO 3166-1 is used as the initial subunit. The second subunit represents the local jurisdiction, usually a city or town. The third subunit represents the organization and may be absent in some cases. Canadian symbols start with a letter or letters representing the province or territory, followed by a letter or letters representing the city or town. The symbol is generally completed with letter or letters representing the organization.

The organization codes in this list are designed to be used wherever the recording of the full name of an organization is not possible or desirable. There is no restriction on their use outside the MARC or bibliographic environment. Because the codes are unique regardless of capitalization and hyphenation, they can be recorded as all lower case letters or all upper case letters, with or without hyphens. Codes used in international MARC record exchange will ideally include the country code from ISO 3166-1 as the first subunit, followed by a hyphen. The MARC 21 formats prescribe the use of codes from this list in a number of data elements (for example, field 040 (Cataloguing Source)). It is recommended that the capitalization and hyphenation shown in this list be followed, as much as possible, to facilitate the legibility and intelligibility of these codes.

Although use of obsolete codes is permitted in the MARC records, their use in newly-created records is discouraged, as obsolete codes are often non-unique or in some way less desirable than the valid codes for organizations. References from obsolete codes to the valid MARC organization codes are included in this list.

MARC 21 en version française sur le site de Bibliothèque et Archives Canada