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An introduction to the MARC record editing software MarcEdit


This functionality is designed to allow users to query databases using the z39.50 protocol and save the records in MARC form or browse them in a MARC notepad format (similar to the Mnemonic .mrk format), make changes to the record and download it. This section will outline how to conduct a search on one of the databases that comes pre-configured in MarcEdit, save (and edit) the record, add another database to the list of places one can query using this protocol, and set up MarcEdit to search the Voyager catalog at UIUC. 

Searching a Database and Saving a Record

There is a specific workflow for setting up MarcEdit to query the Illinois catalog using Z39.50, which can be found here: Searching University of Illinois’ Catalog using Z39.50. This workflow will also document how to save a record from a search with or without modifying it.  

  1. To access the z39.50 functionality, select Add-ins►MarcEdit z39.50/SRU Client from the main menu screen, as below: 


  1. This should open the dialog box shown below:


  1. The default screen will be the search screen. Under the “Query Database” heading you can see that by default, MarcEdit will query the Library of Congress. In order to set the database you would like to query, click “Select Databases” under options. This dialog box should appear:

  1.  Select the database you would like to query. The three databases that are already configured in MarcEdit are the Library of Congress, Oregon State INNOPAC, and the OCLC Cataloging Service. Once you have selected it, click Select Resource. Note: at the time of writing, OCLC did not allow Z39.50 search without specific permissions.
  2. You are now ready to perform a search. MarcEdit allows you to search using a variety of search terms. The full list can be seen in the screenshot below:

Note: MarcEdit offers these options for all databases by default, but it does not ensure that the database supports all these search types. The Raw search option requires a more specialized query form, so it will be covered in a separate workflow: Custom (Raw) Searches

  1. Once you have entered your search term and selected your search type, you are ready to query the database. Click the green arrow to perform the search. The results of the search will be found in the results section of the dialog box. The results of the search outlined above can be seen below:

There were only three results for this particular search, but it is possible that a broader search would return more results. In this case, MarcEdit will download the first 20 records while displaying the total amount as below:

The status box designates how many records were found in the search. To add more records, click the “Get Next 20” link in the lower left corner of the screen. This will add 20 more records to your results page. 

  1. To browse a record, highlight and double click it in the Results section. To select more than one record, highlight all the records you would like to see, right click, and select Display Selected Records
  2. This will open the notepad format, as seen below:


From this format you can make changes to the record before saving it without having to download the form and open it in the Mnemonic format. The filepath at the top designates the name and location of the record should you choose to download it. By selecting “Append” you can add the records onto an existing file or print it by selecting the print icon.


  1.  The MARC record can now be found in the directory specified in the above step. 

Batch Querying a Database

In addition to querying a database one search term at a time, MarcEdit also allows you to use a text file with search terms to query a database. This workflow will provide instructions for how to set up a text file, performing a search using this file, and accessing the results. This will describe how to perform an ISBN/ISSN search and a Title/Author search.

  1. To create a search document for use with the batch query function, it must be in the form of a text file with each query term on its own line.
  2. If you plan on searching by ISBN/ISSN, then be sure that each term is on its own line. For title/author search, MarcEdit will search for both, though your document should not have the title and author in the same line. Examples of both types of documents can be found below:

This is an example of an ISBN query document. MarcEdit will search for each term individually assuming that ISBN/ISSN is selected.
An example of a Title/Author Search file can be found below:

The method that the query is performed allows for both authors and titles to be included into the search terms interchangeably, as long as each term is on its own line.

  1. Once you have your set of queries, navigate to the batch searching screen. From the main menu, select Add-insà MarcEdit z39.50/SRU Client then click the “Batch Process” option from the menu on the left side of the dialog box. The following dialog box should open:

  1. For the source file, select the text file with your queries. Then, select a destination file name. The file must be saved as a MARC file, as this is the format that will be returned from the database, though it is simple to open the file in the Mnemonic (.mrk) format once the query is finished.
  2. Next select the type of search you would like to perform, ensuring that your test file is corresponds to the search type. For the purpose of demonstration I will perform an author/title search using the file shown in the screenshot above.
  3. Then select the database you would like to query. Any database you have configured will be available. You can also modify an existing database by clicking the “Modify” button. While the Retrieve Unicode button will tell MarcEdit to expect Unicode data if it is available, though it may affect your ability to harvest records if that option is selected and the server does not support Unicode. 
  4. Once you have set up the search the screen should look like this:

  1. Click the green arrow to begin performing the search. A dialog box which outlines the progress of the query will appear. When it is finished, you will see the following report screen:


This designates which searches were unsuccessful, and which returned multiple results. This report screen comes from a query of ISBNs, not authors, so there were no terms which produced multiple results. In most title/author searches there were multiple results.

  1. The MARC records from this search can be found in the directory specified in step 4. If you attempt to open it, the MARCBreaker function should open so you can convert it to the MARC Mnemonic (.mrk) format and edit with the MarcEditor. 

Custom (Raw) Searches

Below are the steps for using a Custom z39.50 query in MarcEdit. Essentially this requires users to manually specify the attributes of their query using a syntax particular to z39.50. Since it would be impossible to anticipate what type of searches users would like to perform, let alone the options available in z39.50, this workflow will document how to implement a custom search for a local BibID (stored in the 001 field) here at UIUC. Following the workflow I will link to some resources for users interested in formulating their own queries according to the protocol. 


  1. To access the z39.50 functionality, select Add-ins►MarcEdit z39.50/SRU Client from the main menu screen. 
  2. The default screen will be the search screen. Under the “Query Database” heading you can see that by default, MarcEdit will query the Library of Congress. In order to set the database you would like to query, click “Select Databases” under options. For information on how to add a database for querying, see Adding/Configuring Databases
  3. Once you have selected a databases (see above workflow for detailed instructions on selecting a database), select "Raw (adv.)" from the dropdown menu of search options, as below: 
  4. This enables users to enter a z39.50 query directly. Though there is a record shown in this image, the results page will be blank before searching. To search for  BibID in the 001 field, copy the search syntax directly into the search bar: @attr 1=12 @attr 2=1 @attr 4=1 @attr 5=100 
  5. Once the syntax is in the search bar, add the BibID you would like to search for in quotation marks following the search syntax such that the final query for the BibID 7977172 would look like this: @attr 1=12 @attr 2=1 @attr 4=1 @attr 5=100  "7977172" (shown below) 
  6. This screenshot also shows the results of this query. The same query syntax can be used to search for BibIDs in batch form provided the set of BibIDs is in a text file in the format shown below: 
  7. The process is the same for a batch ISBN/ISSN or Title/Author batch search as shown in the workflow above, but the BibID query syntax should be entered into the Custom search bar as shown below:The key difference here is that when searching for one item the term must be entered in quotes whereas in batches MarcEdit will populate the search term from each line automatically, so you don't want to enter any search term into the Custom search bar, just the query syntax. 
  8. Select the database and ensure you have specified a destination file then click the green arrow to perform the search. While this gives one the sense of how MarcEdit incorporates raw searches, users should consult some of the sources below in order to form other types of queries. Though formulating the query correctly can be time consuming, the searches are incredibly fast once properly formed. Note: during the testing process, MarcEdit will create the output file before it is populated with records, which presents problems in testing since each file name must be unique to each test. For example, if the output file was specified to "batch1" and the query was shown to be invalid, the user must create another output file for a subsequent test. 

Here some links providing background and resources for z39.50 queries which were helpful to the author in creating this guide:

  • Z39.50 standard maintenane page at the Library of Congress: Link
  • Friendly introduction to the protocol: Link
  • NISO standard for the protocol: Link