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USEMARCON Plus - The Universal MARC Record Convertor

USEMARCON Background

The latest version of USEMARCON (Version 3.17) offers librarians the ability to carry out fast on the fly conversion of MARC formats.

USEMARCON is a software application that allows users to convert bibliographic records from one MAchine-Readable Cataloguing (MARC) format to another. Approximately fifty variant MARC formats are currently in use throughout the world. The differences between the MARC formats present a barrier to the easy exchange of records. This is a fundamental problem for libraries, and necessitates the costly re-cataloguing of material for which records are already available, but in a MARC format other than their own.

In 1995, a project funded by the European Union was set up to address this issue. The project was successfully completed in 1997 with the development of the USEMARCON (User Controlled Generic MARC Converter) software.

USEMARCON facilitates the conversion of catalogue records from one MARC format to another e.g. from UKMARC to UNIMARC. The software was designed as a toolbox-style application, allowing users with detailed knowledge of the source and target MARC formats to develop rules governing the behaviour of the conversion. Rules files may be supplemented by additional tables for more accurate conversion of MARC-specific character sets or coded information. The tables and rules files are simple ASCII text files and can be created using any standard text editor such as MS Windows Notepad.

(The original application was developed for the Project consortium by Jouve S.I. and is still available for downloading, together with the original technical and user manuals, from the British Library's FTP site. The material on this site relates to the original project and is therefore not valid for the latest software. The application was developed for the MS Windows 3.1x, MS Windows 95 and Sun Solaris 2.4 operating systems using the XVT C++ toolkit. Any modification of the source code for this version requires the use of the XVT C++ toolkit appropriate to the target platform in addition to a C++ compiler for that platform.)

USEMARCON Plus v3.17

The original version of the software was further developed and adapted by Ere Maijala, of the National Library of Finland. Testing at the National Library of Finland and the British Library was followed by the further releases. The main improvements made to USEMARCON were to make it more suitable for integration in other software, mainly on-the-fly conversions in Z39.50 clients and multi-threaded Z39.50 servers.

Version 3.17 improvements include:

  • Fixed less than (<) and greater than (>) operators.
  • Fixed MARC-8 conversion from EACC set to UTF-8.

Version 3.17 should be compatible with the old rules (apart from obvious bugs in the functionality). The download packages are larger than before due to utf8proc and PCRE libraries that are distributed in the package to keep it self-contained.

A full changes log covering all releases is also available (PDF format 35KB).

Downloading the Software

The British Library and the National Library of Finland are making the new Usemarcon software and related documentation available free of charge to users and application developers in order to promote usage of USEMARCON. Potential users are, however, asked to complete a freeware licence to cover the use of the software. The British Library will not be maintaining the software though it may be able to provide priced consultancy services for the development of specific conversion rules.

The software is available to download from the National Library of Finland in a variety of forms. For assistance or comments, please email

Potential users may also wish to consult the Guide to USEMARCON (PDF format 270KB). This is a general introductory guide to the process of creating and editing the system files, rules files and tables which are required to run a conversion. For details on how to run conversions using the latest versions of the software, please consult the manual (PDF format 194KB) and the relevant documentation which is provided as part of the software downloads.

USEMARCON Plus v3.17

The package includes source code and program compiled for Windows (it should run under at least all 32 bit Windows versions). The source code can be compiled with no changes in different Linux distributions or SUN Solaris, and it should be possible to compile it in other systems that support Autoconf/Automake with minor or no changes.

USEMARCON Plus v3.17 Licence Agreement and Download

For further information please contact:

The British Library
Collection Metadata
Boston Spa, Wetherby
West Yorkshire LS23 7BQ
United Kingdom