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It's a format first developed in the 1960s for the U. Library of Congress in order to facilitate the exchange of bibliographic records among libraries.
MARC stands for MAchine Readable Cataloging records.
In much of Europe, UNIMARC is the variant most often seen.
All of these records are formatted the same, with a structure of which tells what tags are in the record, and where they are located.
The MAchine Readable Cataloging format was designed by the Library of Congress in the late 1960s in order to allow libraries to convert their card catalogs into a digital format.
The advantages of having computerized card catalogs were soon realized, and now MARC is being used by all sorts of libraries around the world to provide computerized access to their collections.