How does one view MARC files in a human readable way?
What characteristics should I look for in a tool that would facilitate the interpretation of MARC records?
Having to look up every field in the MARC specification is rather awkward.
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I haven't personally seen an ILS-agnostic application that provides useful crossreferences to MARC specifications within the user interface. Some cataloging applications (e.g. those that are part of an ILS, or OCLC Connexion) do, but that presumes that you'll be using that system to do your cataloging. For example, see the Koha documentation on their cataloging module.
Honestly, your best option is to use something like MarcEdit and have the specs open in a browser if you're not doing cataloging.