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UNIMARC – a brief overview

IFLA – the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions is an international, independent, non-governmental and not-for-profit association with about 1,800 members in 160 countries, which makes it the largest group for international librarianship. One of the aims of IFLA is the promotion of standards for library and information services and UNIMARC, the Universal MARC Format, is one of the examples.

UNIMARC was developed under the umbrella of IFLA in 1977 as a solution to the problem of incompatibility between different national MARC formats. The main purpose was to create an international MARC format which could accommodate bibliographic records in all sorts of MARC formats. Those records could be converted into UNIMARC – which would act as a sort of backbone format – and from there into any other MARC format, if needed. UNIMARC was to be the format to facilitate the international exchange of bibliographic data in machine-readable form.

As many countries did not had a national MARC format and were on the verge of taking a decision, UNIMARC was adopted as their in-house format, during the ’80s and ’90s. At the end of the 20th century, 50 institutions were using UNIMARC, 22 as an exchange format and 10 as an internal one and 17 others indicated that they could handle UNIMARC. These institutions come from all over the world.

As with any other standard, UNIMARC has its maintenance procedures. Primarily it was just meant for bibliographic records but UNIMARC Authorities was published in 1991 and, more recently, UNIMARC formats for Classification and for Holdings are under discussion. Maintenance and development have been the task of the Permanent UNIMARC Committee (PUC) established in 1991 to assist the Universal Bibliographic Control and International MARC (UBCIM) Core Activity in all matters related to the format including publications, participation in conferences, etc. However, UBCIM was discontinued and a separate UNIMARC Core Activity succeeded the International MARC part of the former UBCIM. The Universal Bibliographic Control part merged with the former UDT (Universal Dataflow and Telecommunications) and updated with other bibliographic control activities, forms now ICABS (IFLA/CDNL Alliance for Bibliographic Standards).

Although an independent IFLA Core Activity, UNIMARC is also a member of the alliance thus contributing to an integrated vision of Bibliographic Control.

UNIMARC – a brief overview
Explaining how the format has developed so far
IFLA UNIMARC Core Activity
who is the responsible office for UNIMARC activities
Permanent UNIMARC Committee
who maintains and updates the format
UNIMARC Discussion List
What's New
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Homepage Contacts Website Map

IFLA UNIMARC Core Activity
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions
Updated the 2004-05-07 National Library of Portugal