Bibliographic Cataloging: Microfiche

In the past, GPO cataloged a variety of microfiche, including original microfiche (such as computer output microfiche, or COM), and microfiche issued by other agencies, such as ERIC, GAO, and NASA. As of December 2015, most of the microfiche cataloged by GPO are GPO produced reproduction microfiche. GPO currently distributes Congressionals, the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), and the Bound Congressional Record in fiche. Some depository libraries may receive the Federal register in microfiche directly from the Office of the Federal Register.

Microfiche have been cataloged different ways over the years; do not go back and re-describe existing microfiche records according to a different standard—leave them according to how they were treated at the time they were cataloged. Through approximately March of 2013, microfiche reproductions were cataloged according to Library of Congress Rule Interpretation (LCRI) 11, which based the description on the original manifestation (or work, as the LCRI put it). Although this practice was often referred to as AACR2 practice, it was actually based on a Library of Congress Rule Interpretation. Beginning in April 2013, microfiche reproductions began to be cataloged according to RDA, which based the description on the reproduction. In February 2015, LC-PCC PS 1.11, essentially re-instated the practice of LCRI 11, thereby reverting the practice to basing the description on the original print resource. This continues to be the current practice.

Current RDA Policies and MARC Fields (February 2015- )

As of February 2015, GPO follows LC-PCC PS 1.11. As under AACR2/LCRI, microfiche are treated as reproductions of the original print publications. Accordingly, the physical description field (300) reflects the print item. A reproduction note field (533) is added with information about the physical qualities of the microfiche, as it is considered a reproduction or copy of the original print version. In addition, current practice is to create a separate record for the microfiche format, with linking fields (776) to other available formats, such as print and online. Separate microfiche records were also created for much of the past, except as noted at the end of this article.

Alterations to the Paper Publication

Microfiche are created or manufactured by photographing individual publications. The original paper versions are first cut apart and then photographed using special cameras. Alterations to the original paper are often made after the microfiche is generated, which can lead to duplicate or incorrect records.

To minimize the impact of alterations, GPO does the following:

  • Cloning of records: If there is a reliable record in the OCLC database, GPO clones the record for the original to create a record for the microfiche version.
  • Use of original document: If the original paper document is available to the GPO cataloger, it may be used as a source of information for descriptive cataloging and all notes fields.

Information that is hand written or stamped on the original document is ignored or only recorded in the reproduction note field

  • Handwritten or stamped numbering added to the original pages by those preparing paper documents for microfilming, is disregarded in favor of the original page numbering.
  • If the pagination of the original paper document has been rendered illegible by the microfiche manufacturer, GPO normally records the pagination in the 300 field as: 1 volume. However, if a record for the print or EL version is available, take the pagination from that.
  • Handwritten or stamped on series statements are recorded in the series area of the reproduction note (533 subfield “f”).
  • Information in the eye-readable header and frames added by the publisher of the microfiche is recorded in reproduction notes (533 field), if needed. Additional notes are sometimes added to the body of the record. For example, a header title should be recorded in the 533 subfield “n” and additionally traced in a 246 field.

MARC Fields

Fixed field

‘b’(Form of Item)

007- Physical Description Fixed Field 

Most microfiche cataloged by GPO use the following codes:

007 _ _ h ǂb e ǂd b ǂe m ǂf b--- ǂg b ǂh b ǂi c ǂj a

These codes represent the following values for Microform:

ǂa h Microform

ǂb e Microfiche [Specific material designation]

ǂd b Negative

ǂe m 4 x 6 (11 x 15 cm.) [Dimensions]

ǂf b024 Normal (16-30x), or sometimes: ǂf b--- [RDA -Reduction ratio]

ǂg b Black-and-white [Color]

ǂh b Diazo [Emulsion on film] -[RDA 3.7.2 recording emulsion types]

ǂi c Service copy [Generation]

ǂj a Safety base, undetermined [Base of film]

074- Item Number 

For distributed microfiche, the item number is recorded followed by MF in parentheses. See Bibliographic Cataloging: 074 GPO Item Number for more information.

300- Physical Description

Describes the original manifestation

336- Content Type

336 _ _ text ǂb txt ǂ2 rdacontent

337- Media Type

337 _ _ microform ǂb h ǂ2 rdamedia

338- Carrier Type

338 _ _ microfiche ǂb he ǂ2 rdacarrier

500- General Notes

See GPO Sales Information in Bibliographic Cataloging: Overview

500 _ _ Shipping list no.: 2009-0442-M. [add if known]

776- Additional Physical Form Entry

See: Bibliographic Cataloging: General MARC Field Policies, section titled “76X to 78X- Format of Entries in Linking Entry Fields.”

Overview of Previous Microfiche Policies

Early RDA (April 2013-February 2015) 

Since GPO cataloged many microfiche documents under RDA before LC-PCC PS 1.11 was published, the following information is provided for interpreting these records. For current practices, please see the Current RDA Policies and MARC Fields (February 2015- ) section above.

GPO implemented the change to RDA cataloging in April 2013. Under RDA 1.11,” When describing a … reproduction, record the data relating to the … reproduction in the appropriate element.” The physical description field described the characteristics of the microfiche itself, as there was no reproduction note.

The major changes from AACR2 were: (a) the 300 field described the physical details of the microfiche itself, and, (b) the addition of fields 336 (content), 337 (media) and 338 (carrier) to describe the nature of the microfiche. Early RDA example:

300 2 microfiches (v, 184 pages) : ǂb negative, illustrations ; ǂc 11 x 15 cm

336 text ǂb txt ǂ2 rdacontent

337 microform ǂb h ǂ2 rdamedia

338 microfiche ǂb he ǂ2 rdacarrier

Under AACR2/LCRI, microfiche records were essentially the same as print records with a 533 field added to describe the qualities of the microfiche format. AACR2/LCRI example:

300 v, 184 p. ǂb ill.

533 Microfiche. ǂb [Washington, D.C. : ǂc National Aeronautics and Space Administration], ǂd 1986. ǂe 2 microfiches.

AACR2/LCRI (through March 2013) 

Since GPO cataloged thousands of microfiche documents under AACR2/LCRI, the following information is provided for interpreting these records. For current practices, please see the Current RDA Policies and MARC Fields (February 2015- ) section above.

GPO previously cataloged original microfiche as well as reproduction microfiche. These are defined as follows:

Original microfiche: includes computer output microfiche (COM), and microfiche incorporating collections of two or more other documents that were issued originally in paper.
Microfiche reproductions (or reproduction microfiche): are manufactured by photographing individual paper documents.

When original microfiche were cataloged, the internal sources and the eye-readable header were used as sources of information for the cataloging record, according to AACR2 chapter 11.

Microfiche reproductions were cataloged according to LCRI chapter 11. Descriptive information on the original print document was recorded in the title and statement of responsibility area, edition area, publication, distribution, etc. area, physical description area, series area, and notes area of records. Only the microfiche frames of the original paper document were used to obtain information on the descriptive and physical characteristics described in the fixed fields, bibliographic description, physical description, and notes other than the reproduction note. Information about the publishing of microfiche reproductions, i.e., the place of publication, publisher, distributor, date of publication; number of microfiche; size of the microfiche, if required; series titles and series numbering added by the publisher of the microfiche; and notes pertaining only to microfiche reproductions were recorded in reproduction notes (533 field). The only allowable sources of information for the reproduction note were the eye-readable headers, frames added by the producer of microfiche, and accompanying materials.

Prior to adopting a separate records policy, GPO treated dual distribution of microfiche titles as follows.

  • Publications distributed to some depository libraries in print and to others in microfiche were represented by a single record describing the print version and providing distribution information for both versions.
  • If the microfiche version of a publication was processed after the online version had been cataloged, information about the distribution of the microfiche version was noted in the record for the online version.
  • Sometimes microfiche were created inadvertently or purposely for documents that were supposed to be distributed in paper or as an electronic resource. Distribution notes and item numbers for the microfiche were added to existing records for the paper or electronic resource in OCLC, but were not produced for the Monthly Catalog.

From the early 1990’s to 1998, paper publications were sent to contractors to create microfiche for distribution to the depository libraries. Cataloging staff did not receive the microfiches. Instead they received the cut up paper documents from the contractors. Since the microfiche was not in hand, they had to create records from these paper ‘cut-ups’ for the microfiche. Accordingly, they created print records but added the microfiche information, such as item numbers and distribution notes, to these records.


074 83-B (microfiche)

500 Distributed to depository libraries in microfiche.

In the CGP, this record has the following additional note:

590 [Item 83-B (microfiche); sw/jk/eds/eb]

Current Procedures for Re-Cataloging Microfiche That Were Previously Described in a Record Utilizing the Single Record Approach

The separate record approach is now applied to records described in the situations above. Consult and follow the Procedures under the topic: Separate Record Policy, in: Bibliographic Cataloging: Overview. In all cases, when a record is needed for the microfiche, essentially “split” a record that uses the single record approach into separate records for each format. The result will be two or more records, each describing one format only. Specifically, when re-cataloging such microfiche:

1. Create a microfiche version record in OCLC for the publication:

a. If there is a record in OCLC, adapt the OCLC MF record and export it to the CGP.

b. If there is no record in OCLC, and the MF is in hand, create a new record at the PCC level. Clone the record for the original print manifestation, should one exist. Follow LC-PCC PS 1.11. If cloning, follow the section: “Cloning from existing records for the original print resource” in LC-PCC PS 1.11.

c. If there is no record in OCLC, and the MF is not in hand, but it is certain that the item was distributed in MF (using ACSIS, note or item number on card or in print record (see example above), etc.), then create a new record. Clone the record for the original print manifestation, should one exist. Follow LC-PCC PS 1.11. If cloning, follow the section: “Cloning from existing records for the original print resource” in LC-PCC PS 1.11.

2. For print version records created during the ‘cut-up” period (from the early 1990’s to mid-1998), do the following:

a. Delete holdings in OCLC

b. For the record in both OCLC and the CGP:

i. delete the 074 field for the microfiche -- (MF) or (microfiche)

ii. Add the following 500 note: Print format not distributed to depository libraries [or Format not distributed to depository libraries]. Distributed to depository libraries in microfiche.

iii. add a 776 field for the MF version

3. Catalog the electronic version if available.

A variation of the above combined print/microfiche format records, are combined microfiche/online format records. Occasionally, microfiche records will be found in OCLC that did not make it into the CGP. Many of these are microfiche records that include data for the online format. Create and export two records to the CGP – one for the microfiche version and one for the online version. See the example in the Procedures under the topic: Separate Record Policy, in: Bibliographic Cataloging: Overview.