Zephir, the HathiTrust bibliographic metadata management system, is managed by CDL’s Discovery & Delivery team. In this advice column, Barbara Cormack, the metadata analyst for Zephir, answers common questions for contributing records to Zephir. While these questions were written by fictitious authors, you are welcome to submit your questions to Zephir (email: zephir-help@ucop.edu).

Dear Zephir,

I was looking through the HathiTrust catalog and found some issues of a journal published in the 19th century that I wanted to view, but they were designated as "Limited View" and I couldn’t access the full text. Why not? They must be in the public domain by now.

– Metadata Maven in Monterey

Dear Maven,

That’s a great question, and there are a few different reasons this could be happening.  To answer you, I’m going to have to go into a bit of detail about cataloging: how bibliographic records (which describe the work) are coded. You can see some of the data elements I’ll be referring to by clicking on the “View HathiTrust MARC record” button associated with your record. 

Whether or not a volume is closed or open to full view in HathiTrust depends on its copyright status. This status in turn depends on numerous factors, but most often rests on certain metadata in the record supplied by the contributor. This metadata is used in the rights determination process to assign the codes which control a volume’s viewability. So let’s talk about this metadata.

There are several different types of metadata in a HathiTrust record that may affect whether it is open to full view or not: mostly publication date data, but the place of publication can also come into play.   The dates that are used in determining whether a record is open or closed to full view differ depending on whether the record is designated as a serial or monograph. Before we can discuss which dates are used we need to know the record type and bibliographic level of the record in question. 

The first field in the record’s MARC display is the Leader (“LDR”). It has a code at position 6, counting from 0, that indicates the record type (e.g., language material), and a code at position 7, that indicates the bibliographic level (e.g., Serial). The combinations of these two codes determine whether the work is a serial or a monograph. You can also look further down in the record for the format designation field (labeled “FMT”) to see if the record is a “BK” (book) or “SE” (serial). This is a code derived by Zephir using these Leader codes. 

If the record is a serial, we next want to examine the 974 field, towards the bottom of the record. The 974 field contains subfielded information about the individual volumes that have been digitized, one 974 field per volume. Is there a subfield z present in the 974? If yes, this subfield z should contain the  “enum/chron” (for “enumeration and chronology”) supplied by the contributor. If it contains a date, for example a year  (“1872”), that information is used for rights determination, but only if the record is marked as SE for serial. 

If the serial record has no date data in the 974$z, the system will try to use the dates found in the 008 field. This is a fixed-length field with dates in positions 7-10 (“Date1”) and 11-14 (“Date2”) - again, counting from position 0. (There is an additional code in the 008, at position 6, that indicates the type of date or publication status for this record, which can also impact the interpretation of the dates in the aforementioned 008 positions.) In the absence of a usable “enum/chron” for a serial record, the system will evaluate the 008’s Date 1 and Date 2 data to make a rights determination. For a monograph record, only the 008’s Date 1 and Date 2 data are used. Even if the monograph record’s 974$z has a usable date, it will not be used.

So where does all this get us, in terms of understanding why your volume isn’t open? Basically it can be summed up as follows:

  • If the record is coded as a serial, and there is usable enum/chron data in the 974$z, that date is used to determine if the volume is opened to full view or closed. 
  • If the record is coded as a serial, and there is not usable enum/chron data in the 974$z, then the dates in the 008 field will be used, with some variation depending on the type of date or publication status at 008/06.
  • If the record is coded as a monograph, only the date values and code in the 008 field are used to determine if the volume is opened to full view or closed. 

Determining dates and the resulting copyright codes in HathiTrust is a complicated process, and only part of it can be addressed here. But let’s continue looking at how a record  for a work published in the 1800’s might somehow be closed to full view. What else could be going on?

If the record is for a serial but is miscoded as a monograph, then regardless of whether the 974$z fields contain recognizable dates, those dates will not be used.  Also, the software is  not capable of evaluating the correctness of date data in the 008, or the accuracy of the record type and  bibliographic level codes in the Leader; it can only work with what is in the metadata.

If the record is coded as a serial but the 974 lacks a $z or the $z does not have a usable date,  then, as mentioned above, the date data in the 008 is used. However, if the dates in the 008 are inaccurate or incomplete, this could also lead to closed volumes. For example, if the  008 dates are  “18xx” or “uuuu”, the algorithms which assign the copyright codes will interpret this data conservatively and assign codes which prevent full view. 

Remember that other elements in the metadata may also affect the rights determination and therefore the view status  of a volume. These include the place and date of publication in the 26X MARC fields.  Works published in the U.S. may be treated differently from works published outside the U.S. Additional clues can be found in the 974$r (rights attribute code, for example, “pd” for public domain), the 974$y (year used in rights determination), 974$q (reason for copyright status, which can also indicate how the determination was made), and the 974$t (note about rights, for example “non-US bib date1 < 1899”). 

I hope this explanation offers you some ways to investigate why your volumes might be closed. There is additional information available on the HathiTrust website, here:


And here:  https://www.hathitrust.org/the-collection/preservation/rights-database/

You can report a problem to HathiTrust by going to their website, clicking on “GET HELP” in the upper right corner of the page, and choosing “Report a Problem”. You can also just send an email describing your issue to “support@hathitrust.org”. Finally, you might like to know that staff at UC libraries contribute their time to HathiTrust to repair record metadata, as well as performing publication date checks when access errors are reported.