Microfilm and microfiche: Difference between revisions

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[[Category: Collection]]
[[Category: Cataloging]]
[[Category:Staff policies and procedures]]
[[Category: Staff policies and procedures]]
[[Category: Research guides]]

Revision as of 14:03, 2 December 2016

The Folger collection includes both microfilm and microfiche holdings (as well as other types of reproductions, such as photostats).

What exactly are microfilm and microfiche? JISC Digital Media previously hosted a helpful guide on the distinction between the two (no longer hosted on their site, but still available thanks to the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine), while the Northeast Document Conservation Center discusses the merits of microforms as preservation formats.

Microfilm at the Folger

The Folger's Microfilm collection is roughly divided into two categories:

  • Films with call numbers that begin with "Film Fo."
  • Films with call numbers that begin with "Film Acc."

Film Fo.

These are microfilms of materials held in the Folger's collections, and which were produced in-house. They include many manuscripts and other materials that are on restricted access due to physical condition or uniqueness. The Reading Room staff may ask readers to first consult the microfilm of an item before requesting permission from a curator to bring up the item itself.

Film Acc.

These are microfilms of materials relating to the areas of study that the Folger supports, produced by outside companies. They may be materials which the Folger owns (such as the microfilms of our prompt book collection), or they may be related materials (such as the State Papers of Ireland, 1509-1782).

Finding Microfilm

There are three ways to find microfilm in the Folger's collection:

  • Search the Hand List of Microfilm and Selected Microfiche Sets (links to a searchable pdf document)
  • Search the Microfilms Database (Film Fo. items only)
  • Search Hamnet (In the Advanced Search, search for the word "film" in Call Number from the dropdown menu, and then use the other fields for the rest of your keywords. That will limit the results to only ones where there is a microfilm format.)

The microfilm reels and readers are located on Deck B. When you make your request, please have the call number and reel number, as well as the title of the microfilm that you are looking for. Staff will be happy to assist you in retrieving the material(s) and setting up the microfilm reader.

Cataloging microfilm and microfiche

Microfilm and microfiche are usually handled by modern catalogers.

For many years, microfilm records were spread across "four files in three different locations" at the Folger. For each microfilm, catalogers were required to type 3 cards: an Official Microfilm File Card, a Microfilm Shelf List Card, and a Photography Department Shelf List Card.

In 1991 (when the Folger was still contributing catalog records to RLIN), cataloging staff made the decision to create separate records for print books and their corresponding microfilm versions when contributing records to RLIN. This was done to follow the guidelines of the RLIN Cataloging Manual, and to ensure an efficient workflow (allowing catalogers to create minimal-level records for microfilms created from works not already cataloged, for instance). Catalogers also worried that trying to meld together print and microfilm version records could lead to "anomalies in catalog card production."

Several years later, however, when the Folger made the transition to an online ILS, catalogers ceased creating new bibliographic records for microfilms, and simply added a microfilm holding record to the bibliographic record for the original manuscript. This practice continued until about 2014, so examples of it are relatively common in the catalog. Currently, the Folger is beginning to create separate records for microform reproductions of items in our collection, to bring our practices back in line with the larger library community.


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  • Catalog microfilm as a separate bibliographic record, not an added holding. If there is not an existing record for the microfilm, it may be helpful to derive a new record from the print item record.
  • If the Folger holds the resource from which the microfilm was reproduced, add an "additional physical form available" note in MARC field 530
530  ‡a Also available on microfilm.
  • Assign a call number based on where the microfilm was created. (The capitalization of "Film" in the call number has varied over time, and may appear in all capitals, or with only an initial capital. When assigning new numbers, use an initial capital.)
  • If the microfilm was created at/by the Folger (usually from a collection item), the film is given a sequential "Film Fo." number:
 FILM Fo. 112.8a 
  • If the microfilm was created at/by an external institution or vendor, it is accessioned and given a sequential "Film Acc." number:
Film Acc. 539
  • Microfilm reel boxes are barcoded like other modern materials. Apply the barcode to the lower right of the front panel (microfilm boxes are stored in cabinets so that their spine titles face up).
  • If the microfilm is accompanied by a listing or guide, catalog the guide separately.
    • Assign it a standard Library of Congress classification number.
    • If we have acquired multiple copies of a guide, assign the first one to DeckB-Mic, the second to DeckA-Mss, the third to DeckB-Mod, and the fourth to RR-Ref. (If we have more than four copies of a guide, consult your supervisor - this is highly unusual!)
    • Add a note referring to the microfilm it accompanies.
500 ‡a Listing and guide to Folger Film Acc. 744. ‡5 DFo
    • Add a corresponding note to the microfilm record directing users to the guide:
500 ‡a Accompanied by a listing and guide, cataloged separately and shelved at DA804.1.L38 C76 2001. ‡5 DFo

Microfiche and slides

  • Microfiche holdings are given sequential numbers as they are acquired and accessioned (which does not happen often).
Microfiche 36
  • Catalog the microfiche following guidelines in AACR2/RDA. Assign it to DeckB-Mic.
852 8 ‡b DeckB-Mic ‡h Microfiche 86... 
  • Barcode the housing as you would other open stacks material (back cover, lower right).