Virginia M. Iandiorio writes:
> I have recently encountered a USMARC record in which the directory entry
> for a field specified a length of 20 characters. But the field, in
> addition to the field terminator in the 20th position, also had a
> spurious(?) field terminator within the first 19 characters. (It is clear
> from a human interpretation of the data that, in this case, the field
> length was correct and the intervening field terminator erroneous.)
> My questions:
> 1. Is there a rule or best practice tenet that declares which of the field
> length or field terminator takes precedence in interpreting a USMARC record?
The documentation says nothing. So it can safely be assumed that the spurious
terminator should not be interpreted as such - the part following it may
just be the important part.
> 2. Shouldn't a processing program look at both field definition indicators
> and report a discrepancy?
Report to whom? Depends on how things are organized, but in principle, yes,
since it is a fault.
> 3. What was the original intent in allowing two - potentially conflicting
> - ways to define the length of a field?
This was, to the best of my knowledge, done in the early days because the
assembly language they were using had a command "Skip to the end-of-field
mark" which allowed programmers to advance to the next field much easier
and faster than by using the directory. It is thus an archaism, but so
is the punctuation preceding subfield codes in the descriptive fields.
(It allowed programmers to replace the subfield codes by spaces and be done)
Universitaetsbibliothek, Postf. 3329,
D-38023 Braunschweig, Germany
Tel. +49 531 391-5026 , -5011 , FAX -5836
e-mail [log in to unmask]