Parallel Records in WorldCat FAQ

1. What is a Parallel Record in WorldCat?

 OCLC's database is founded on the master record; with some exceptions the master record policy means there are generally no intentionally duplicated records in WorldCat. Institution records (IRs) are not an exception since the database associates them with the OCLC master record.

One significant exception to the master record policy began when OCLC became more international and started to load bibliographic records from cataloging institutions that do not follow Anglo-American cataloging standards. These records may be from non-English speaking European countries, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Middle Eastern countries, and so on. Exceptionally, bibliographic records from these sources are not intended to be used as master records.

To simplify the distinction, OCLC refers to these as national language records, although some languages may be multinational (e.g. German language records, Spanish language records, Arabic language records). A record cataloged according to Anglo-American standards (which can be at minimal level) is generally referred to as an English language record. An English language record can be cataloging for a work in any language and the cataloging can be done by a non-Anglo-American agency, as long as the Anglo-American standards are followed.

If a non-English catalog record is found in WorldCat, American libraries (and also English, Canadian, and Australian libraries) should not attach their holdings to it. Staff should look for a separate English language bibliographic record . If there is no equivalent English language record, then the library is expected to make a new record and contribute it to WorldCat. There will now be an English language master record and a parallel non-English language record in WorldCat.

2. How do I recognize a non-English language bibliographic record?

Records that can function as master records and those that cannot are differentiated by the record's language of cataloging. A non-English language bibliographic record cannot be used as a master record.

a.  A non-English language bibliographic record will often include a 040 field with the language of the cataloging agency, e.g. 040 __ ‡a <agency code> ‡b <language of the agency> ‡c <agency code>

040 __ ‡a GWDNB ‡e rakwb ‡b ger ‡c GWDNB

040 __ ‡a PL# ‡b spa ‡c PL#

FYI: $e indicates the cataloging rules used by the cataloging agency; it may or may not be present on non-English language bibliographic records.

CAUTION: some national records may not have a 040 with ‡b. Note also that catalogers should not enter a 040 ‡b eng even though they are creating English-language bibliographic records. (However, if a member record has a 040 ‡b eng, catalogers should leave the ‡b eng as is.)

b.  If the record has a ‡h, the subfield will have a non-English term:

‡h [enregistrement vidéo] instead of ‡h [videorecording]

c.  Non-English language records will have descriptive elements that are not in English. For example, the physical description will not use English language terms for illustrations, color, or pages; notes that are not quotations will not be in English. 

Caution: Use only a. , b. and c. to determine the language of the cataloging record. For example, the language of cataloging for most records created by Canadian cataloging agencies is English, but these records may include subjects in French. The record is still considered to be an English language bibliographic record.

Example. A bibliographic record created by the Bibliotheque nationale will have notes in French; libraries should not attach their holdings to the record. On the other hand, a Casalini catalog record created for LC or the U.S. market will have notes in English; libraries should add their holdings to such a record.

 3. What about vendor acquisition records?

In its original policy, OCLC made vendor acquisition records an exception to the exception--catalogers were encouraged to upgrade these records & use them as master records. At ALA 2008, the announcement was made that non-English language vendor records should not be used as master records. The OCLC documentation still reflects the original policy but an August update is expected.

4. How does this affect cataloging in Orbis?

a. When searching in WorldCat for a record to export, if two records are found for the same edition, always select the record with English language descriptive elements (notes, physical description abbreviations).

b. If only one record is found, export it.

1. If the record has notes in English, upgrade it or accept it, whichever is appropriate. In any case, leave the 035 and 040 as is. You can add ‡d CtY (CtY-Div, etc.) if necessary.

2. If the record has descriptive elements that are not in English, DELETE the 035 and the 040.

3. If the record has descriptive elements in English but a 040 ‡b, delete the 040 ‡b but retain the 035 (these records were updated in error, but OCLC will use them as master records). When in doubt, follow procedure 2.

c. Most vendor records batchloaded into Orbis have 040 ‡b eng and these can be considered English language bibliographic records. They will not have a 035 (OCoLC)ocnXXXXXXXXX.If the Orbis vendor record is not overlaid with an OCLC record and is used as the basis for creating a catalog record, change the 040 field to 040 __ CtY[unit code] ‡c CtY[unit code]

5. How does this affect cataloging (directly) in Connexion?

a. When searching in WorldCat for a record to add YUS holdings, if two records are found for the same edition, select the record with English language notes.

b. If only a non-English language bibliographic record is found, create a separate record. Never use option 4b.2, which is only valid when cataloging in Orbis.

c. If a separate record is made, include a 936 field with the OCLC number of the parallel record preceded by PR:

936 __ PR 123456

6. Screenshot Examples

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OCLC Bibliographic Formats & Standards. 3. Special Cataloging Guidelines. 3.10. Parallel Records for Language of Cataloging.

 Originally created 7/24/08

TOC | Cataloging at Yale

Effective Date: 
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Last modified: 
Friday, January 9, 2015 - 12:20pm