Beginning Cataloguing: 10 Resources for a Quick Start

This month we have focused on launching the Beginning Cataloguing Online School on Our first masterclass takes place today, and our first course, Beginning Bibliographic Models, opens for registration on Monday.

Here are some free online resources that we recommend to people new to cataloguing who are looking to get up to speed on cataloguing today.

1. What is cataloguing? The American publisher has made the first chapter of Practical Cataloguing (Neal Schumann, 2012) available to download as a sample. It touches on Ranganathan’s Five Laws, Cutter’s Objects, Means and Reasons for Choice, the work of Seymour Lubetzky, The Paris Principles, ISBD, AACR and RDA.

2. What are our principles? The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) has produced three editions of its Statement of International Cataloguing Principles – the Paris Principles (ICP1961), ICP2009 and ICP2016. All are available from the ICP page on the IFLA website.

3. What catalogue data do we record? Although libraries have different computer systems, and use different cataloguing standards and data exchange formats, almost all are based on the International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD), published by IFLA from 1977 onwards, with a consolidated edition in 2011. In some countries, ISBD is the cataloguing standard, because it is light and agile. It only covers description – not access / entry points, and so many countries use it as a minimum statement of the data we should record. It forms a background to standards (such as the Anglo American Cataloguing Rules (AACR) and Resource Description and Access (RDA)). The ISBD Review Group is very active and you can access its reports and other publications from its IFLA webpage.

4. How do we share catalogue data? Libraries have different computer systems and many are part of consortia, such as OCLC, and / or contribute to shared catalogues, such as the Jisc Library Hub. Since the 1960s, the main data exchange format for libraries has been Machine-Readable Cataloguing (MARC). There are different flavours of MARC worldwide, and the one used in the Anglophone cataloguing community is MARC 21. This is maintained by the Library of Congress, which makes MARC available for free via its website.

5. How do we decide on the access / entry points? There is another international initiative to ensure consistency in how we enter the names of people and organizations – the Name Authority Cooperative Program (NACO). The Library of Congress makes a free version of its Name Authority File available on (remember to choose “Name Authority Headings” for your search), so everyone can be consistent in their entries. Your library may have a built-in Name Authority File (in which case you can choose names from it while you are cataloguing – your inhouse training should make that clear). The data in the Name Authority File is structured according to MARC 21 for Authority Data, which is also available for free from the Library of Congress.

6. How do we enter subjects? Different libraries use different subject headings. One of the most widely used is Library of Congress Subjects Headings. Many libraries access these using a paid-for service called Cataloger’s Desktop, but the Library of Congress also makes a free pdf version available and provides an interface to search for headings.

7. What about Classification? Not all libraries use classification schemes, and those that do don’t always use one of the international ones. However, the Dewey Decimal Classification Scheme claims to be “the world’s most widely-used library classification system” based on its spread globally, and I have no reason to doubt this assertion. It’s certainly the scheme with which non-librarians are most familiar, and in the UK and USA is used in a lot of public libraries. There is no free version of Dewey, but you can find DDC numbers in many Library of Congress and British Library catalogue records – it is entered in the MARC field 082 and so if you can’t see it in a general catalogue display, check the MARC display. OCLC, the owners of DDC, provide WorldCat, which includes DDC numbers, and also have developed OCLC Classify – a free service in which you can see how a resource has been classified by contributing libraries. As well as Dewey, this includes Library of Congress Classification – the general scheme used by many academic libraries. Like Library of Congress Subject Headings, LCC is available through the paid-for Cataloger’s Desktop, but, again the Library of Congress has made free pdfs available. It also provides a free training course on how to use the scheme.

8. Why do I keep hearing about “Bibliographic Models”? MARC has been around since the 1960s, and with the development of linked data it is apparent that it no longer quite works for some of the more sophisticated things we want to do. The Library of Congress is developing a new exchange format, BIBFRAME, to take over from it. Bibframe will be able to share data in a different way – at the field level rather than the record level. Karen Coyle made her book on bibliographic models available open access, and although some of it talks specifically about Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records, it includes chapters that set the scene and explain what bibliographic models are in general and how they are being used in the library community. In our course on Beginning Bibliographic Models (which opens for registration on Monday), we look in depth at chapters 2 and 5, but the whole book is free on Karen’s website.

9. What about RDA – can I access it for free? Sadly, the RDA Steering Committee hasn’t been able to make the RDA Toolkit available for free. It publishes a lot of free information about RDA, and you can always sign up for a free trial if you cannot afford to buy the product. One recent development is that the RBMS has announced that it will continue to publish Descriptive Cataloging for Rare Materials for free via its own website. (It had been preparing to publish the next edition only via the Toolkit). One of the reasons that we used to use AACR2 for modern books and DCRM for rare materials was that DCRM is more detailed. However, now that RDA is equally detailed, DCRM may become an attractive option for libraries who cannot afford the Toolkit and the time to set up application protocols for RDA. The suite of DCRM publications is available for free from the RBMS website. Our September course, Beginning Cataloguing Rare Books, will use DCRM(B) as its cataloguing standard.

10. What’s happening next? LOTS. As well as the development of Bibframe, the switchover to the new version of RDA and the ongoing review of the ISBD (links to which in relevant paragraphs above), IFLA continues to review its conceptual models (including the IFLA Library Reference Model (IFLA-LRM) about which you will have seen a lot in the Library press in recent years). The Bibliographic Conceptual Models Review Group publishes updates on its website. Another significant development is the publication of a draft code of ethics, which is available to download for free from the Cataloging Ethics Steering Committee website. There are lots of mailing lists to which you can subscribe to keep up-to-date – although some new cataloguers find the quantity of emails quite large. The UK’s main mailing list, LIS-UKBIBS, is relatively low in traffic, as cataloguers use it mainly to post links to new developments and opportunities rather than for discussion, so it’s a good place to keep up in a low-impact way. Cataloguing Twitter is also quite active – follow a few people on there and you will soon get a flavour for what is happening and who is talking about the things that interest you. You can always start with us (or at least the cool catalog(u)ing people we follow)!

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