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Limited and selective cataloguing.

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Limited and selective cataloguing.

Library is a house of a huge number of knowledge resources with various editions, physical forms, and formats. To be able to manage a large collection of knowledge resources, the library management staff relies on catalogs and catalogers. Cataloging is the backbone of managing the knowledge resources in

Let us know more about the catalog structure, types, and more.

What is a Library Catalog?

A library catalog is a register or a collection of records of all knowledge resources found in a library or a group of libraries, located at different places.

A catalog can be compared with the index of a book. When one can find required information by looking into the index without having to read every page of the book, the catalog provides quick information on where the required book or music CD is located in the library. The, the largest union catalog in the world is managed at Dublin in Ohio. As of January 2016, the catalog has over 360,000,000 records and more than 2 billion library holdings.

What is Cataloging in Public Library?

Cataloging is the process of creating metadata that represents the information resources, such as books, movies, sound recordings, articles, documents, and maps. This is done according to the rules defined for cataloging. These codes are −

  • A.A. Code or Joint Code (UK and USA rules together)
  • American Library Association (ALA) Code
  • Classified Catalog Code defined (by Dr. S. R. Ranganathan)
  • British Museum Code
  • The Vatican Code (for printed books)

A cataloger can produce metadata for the knowledge element to describe it. The metadata includes the Name of the creator or the author, the title, and the subject.

Purpose of Cataloging

Here are some fundamental purposes of cataloging −

  • To manage the library works collection efficiently
  • To locate and retrieve the required knowledge resources easily
  • To save efforts and time of the staff and the user
  • To assist the users with alternative knowledge resources

Types of Catalogs

Here is a list of some important types of catalogs −

  • Author catalogue
  • Name catalogue
  • Dictionary catalogue
  • Classified catalogue
  • Union Catalog

Structure of a Library Catalog

The structure of a catalog is composed of short description of various areas. A catalog can contain the following fields such as −

  • Author/Creator
  • Main Field: Exact Title of the work
  • Subfield: Parallel Title, Brief Description
  • Statement of Responsibility
  • Subject of Work
  • Publication Date
  • Edition/Multiple copies of the same edition
  • Material: Physical form of work such as hardbound, electronic.
  • Description: Number of Pages, Number of CDs in a suit.
  • Media Type: Print/Electronic/Audio/Video/AV
  • Illustrations
  • Series Area
  • Notes Area

The cataloger has the choice of entries against each knowledge resource depending upon what cataloging policies that particular public library is following. The more detailed the catalog structure is, the more access points it provides to retrieve the required knowledge resource.

Types of Library Cataloging

Let us now understand the different types of library cataloging. The following are the basic types −

Centralized and Cooperative Cataloging

Charles Coffin Jewett proposed the idea of such catalog in 1850. He suggested the Smithsonian Institution to start accumulating simplified chunks of its cataloging. Also he suggested other contributing libraries to start compiling the list of knowledge resources and preparing the printed catalogs. He came up with the idea of joint catalogs of two or more libraries by cooperative compilation, and possibly later building a union catalog of all libraries in the country.

Cooperative Cataloging

Selective Cataloging

In this cataloging style, selective entries for all knowledge resources are cataloged instead of all the entries. Also, the number of added entries are reduced in this cataloging. For example, no entries are created for illustrations except for only famous artists, subject entries for other languages or less-spoken languages is reduced. This method is used for reducing the catalog size and the preparation time.

Selective cataloging comes with its own set of negative aspects; the reader may fail to know if there is some knowledge resource of his interest is available in the library.

Simplified Cataloging

Western libraries also opt this cataloging method to reduce efforts in catalog creation and maintenance as well as reducing the cost of preparing one. In this type of cataloging, the entire knowledge collection is cataloged with simplification of entries in terms of length, relevance, and complexity. For example, the author name is abbreviated, any repeat entry in subtitle is omitted, and the type of illustration is omitted. Also, the detail such as page number is omitted of which the user hardly takes the notice.

Physical Forms of Library Catalogs

It is also called the outer form of the catalog, which is adapted for the users’ preference. There are two most common physical forms of catalogs −

Book Form

It is the printed book-like form. It is the oldest type of commonly used in American libraries. It is expensive if produce by hand. It does not permit to reflect the changes in the library collection easily. The libraries using book form need to keep multiple copies of the catalog to provide access to more users. However, more automation techniques such as inexpensive printing helped this form to gain more popularity.

Card Form

It is the most common form found worldwide. This form used a standard 7.5 x 12.5 cm card to make each entry. These cards are then entered with Author, Subject, Title, and Call Number information. The cards are kept in small drawers. This form is very flexible to add or remove any entry in the collection. On the negative side, the entries are done manually and there are chan

Card Form

Sheaf Form

It is the same as the book form. The entries are typed on loose sheets of paper, sized 7×4 inches. Multiple leaves are then punched, and bound into handy books. Each catalog contains about 500 and 600 sheets. They are arranged on the shelves alphabetically. It is difficult to insert as well as to withdraw an entry than the Card catalogue. It is also portable and more compact than Card catalog. It is not suitable for display purposes.

Computer Output Microfilm (COM) Form

In this catalog form, the archives are created on microfilm, which is recorded in a superior quality as compared to its printed version. They are most efficient when it comes to storage capacity and handling. They cannot be modified until the new microfilms are produced. They are easy to be sent to other libraries or information centers.

Online Catalog

It is the most recent form of catalog where the bibliographic records are stored in the computer memory. They are printed on the display or screen on request from the users. It is the most flexible to addition, deletion, and modification of entries at any time. The results are instantly available to the users. As compared to other three catalog forms, this one is expensive to create.

The users can access it and retrieve information easily from a location that is remote to a library. Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) is an online database a library or a group of libraries manage.

What are CCF and MARC?

Common Communication Format (CCF) is a format intended for indexing and exchanging bibliographic records. CCF adheres to ISO 2709, which specifies a standard format which can hold any bibliographic information. Each CCF record is composed of four parts, such as −

  • Record Label (24 Characters)
  • Directory (Variable Length)
  • Data fields (Variable Length)
  • Record Separator (1 Character)

Machine Readable Cataloging (MARC) are standards or a set of digital formats for the description of items catalogued by libraries. A MARC record consists three elements −

  • Leader (24 characters)
  • Directory (Variable Length)
  • Variable Fields (Variable Length)

It is possible to map CCF to MARC.

Subject Heading Lists and Thesaurus

Subject headings are the terms or phrases (also called the Controlled Vocabulary), which are used to classify the knowledge resources. They identify and bring together the information under some commonality. Simply, they are some standard word assigned to various subjects. They are assigned to a piece of knowledge resource based on the concept or the idea it is containing rather than just a word appearing in it.

Using the most appropriate or relevant subject heading saves time to retrieve an intended piece of knowledge resource. Most libraries use Library of Congress Subject Heading (LCSH).


It is a collection of words with synonyms and related concepts. It helps the cataloger to express the record with more detail thereby improving the search of exact knowledge resource from the vast collection of library.