A Guide to Cataloging Terms for First-Year LIS Students.

Hello readers! In this post I’ll link LISSA followers to resources on the “backbone” of all libraries: cataloging. If you’re driven mad by MARC, enraged by RDA, frustrated with FRBR, or annoyed by overabundant acronyms always appearing, read on. To start with, above all, cataloging is about metadata. It always has been. Even before computers and the World Wide Web were around. What is metadata? Metadata describes data. For example, consider the following: “TITLE: Curious George takes a job.” The words “Curious George takes a job” is a piece of data. The word “TITLE” describes what the piece of data is, i.e. what it indicates or means. Metadata (in the ex., “TITLE”) describes what it is that the data (in ex., “Curious George takes a job”) describes. Confused? Use the links below!

The following links are presented in alphabetical order by topic. Each link is accompanied by a brief definition of the topic.

FRBR – Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records – This set of requirements outlines 21st-century-ready expectations for catalog records and how to conceptualize an item for cataloging purposes. FRBR is a starting point in the creation of a bibliographic record, from which you can then determine the basic elements, or pieces of descriptive information, to put in the catalog record of an item. See Barbara Tillet’s (of the Library of Congress) excellent pamphlet, “What Is FRBR?”, available free as a PDF here: http://www.loc.gov/cds/downloads/FRBR.PDF

IFLA – International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions – The international group responsible for formulating FRBR, IFLA calls itself “the global voice of the library and information profession.” Primarily IFLA is concerned with standardization and internationalization of cataloging and bibliographic practices. See http://www.ifla.org/

LCSH – Library of Congress Subject Headings – The LC Subject Headings is a standard set of vocabulary terms (a controlled vocabulary), created by LC and adopted internationally, which allow all works relating to a single topic to be categorized under a common term indicating that topic.  Thus, for example, all books about birds are categorized under “Birds”, rather than one book on birds being searchable only under “Fowl”, another under “Winged vertebrates”, and yet a third under the Latin “Aves.” LCSH eliminates the need to search under multiple terms to find all books on birds included in a catalog. See: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/awhhtml/awgc1/lc_subject.html

MARC21 – Machine-Readable Cataloging Record for the 21st century – MARC21 does the job of coding catalog record fields (“fields”=Title, Statement of Responsibility, Publication Info, Edition, etc.) so that the fields are readable by computers. For MARC basics, see http://www.loc.gov/marc/umb/um01to06.html. For more detailed info, see these two sites:http://www.loc.gov/marc/bibliographic/concise/bdintro.html and http://www.loc.gov/marc/umb/um07to10.html

OCLC – Online Computer Library Center – A cooperative formed in 1967 with the mission of connecting libraries the world over in order to promote sharing of resources and increase the availability of information among libraries and related institutions. OCLC has achieved this goal primarily through the website WorldCat.org, an online “super-catalog” which links the individual catalogs of a vast number of the world’s libraries. See http://www.oclc.org/en-US/about.html

RDA – Resource Description and Access – A set of cataloging rules first published in 2010 and adopted by the Library of Congress in March 2013. RDA replaces AACR2, the cataloging rules used by LC from about 1978 to 2013. RDA requires a great deal more information to be included in a catalog record than AACR2 required. Thus, RDA-compliant catalog records are significantly lengthier than AACR2-compliant records. Interestingly, RDA is not compatible with MARC21, which means, strictly speaking, RDA-compliant records cannot adequately be stored in computer catalogs. This is perhaps the biggest challenge facing the world of Library and Information Science at the moment! See these two resources: http://www.rda-jsc.org/rda.html#faq and http://www.oclc.org/rda/about.en.html

That’s it for this post! Thanks for reading.


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