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Virginia M. Iandiorio said:
>
> 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?

Any such discrepancy should be regarded as a severe error.  That said, our
software gives precedence to the length of field and would diagnose the
premature terminator as an invalid character.

>         2. Shouldn't a processing program look at both field
> definition indicators and report a discrepancy?

Definitely.

>         3. What was the original intent in allowing two -
> potentially conflicting - ways to define the length of a field?

We can't know what the writers of the original specification were thinking,
but one of the virtue of this record structure is its redundancy, which
makes it possible to detect errors.  This was vital in the days of delicate
and unreliable magnetic tapes and has regained its importance with the
advent of electronic transfers, which not infrequently do strange things to
the data being transmitted.


Gary L. Smith
Senior Consulting Systems Analyst
Database & Offline Products Development
OCLC
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