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Cataloging and Metadata Management: Using Medical Subject Headings (MeSH®) in Cataloging

Module 4—Descriptors: Selecting the Main Concept(s)


MARC Coding

  • MeSH topical descriptors are recorded in MARC 650 $a; qualifiers are recorded in MARC 650 $x (Cf. Module 5—Qualifiers)

  • All MARC 650 fields have a second indicator “2” to show that they come from the MeSH thesaurus

  • Primary subject headings are coded with a MARC 650 first indicator of “1”, secondary subjects are assigned the first indicator of “2.”

MARC Coding – Example 1

  • A work on fire prevention in hospitals is coded as follows (both headings are primary)
    • 650 12 $a Fires $x prevention & control
    • 650 12 $a Hospitals

MARC Coding – Example 2

  • A work on acupuncture for chronic low back pain (first heading is primary)
    • 650 12 $a Low Back Pain $x therapy
    • 650 22 $a Acupuncture Therapy
    • 650 22 $a Chronic Disease $x therapy


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