Celebrating National Libraries Day – Behind the Scenes at Nuffield College Library: Cataloguing

Our first post to celebrate National Libraries Day focused on how we acquire new material for the library’s collection. This post will continue that process, exploring how we make the material available on the library catalogue, SOLO, for library users to see.

It is important for library users to be able to search for the material the library holds and to make this possible, librarians put information about the material into a bibliographic record, which is also known as cataloguing. You can see an example of a bibliographic record from the staff side below (click image to enlarge):

Cataloguing MARC record II

Cataloguers have some strict rules to follow when they create a bibliographic record. First are the MARC21 rules, or Machine Readable Cataloguing. These standards are for the representation of bibliographic detail in a digital form. MARC21 provides designated fields in the form of numeric codes to which the cataloguer adds the information about the material. There are fields for the title, author, publication information, and so on.

Secondly, cataloguers use RDA, or Resource Description and Access. These standards provide guidelines on how to formulate data for resources description and access. In simpler terms, they instruct how to enter the bibliographic information into the record. For example, a book’s pagination would be entered as 300 pages, as opposed to 300 p. (to shorten) or three hundred pages.

Lastly, cataloguers use Library of Congress Subject Headings. These subject headings describe what the material is about. We can see in the above image, in the 650 field, that this book is about computer crimes. It is up to the cataloguer to decide what the material is about. They then use the large list of Library of Congress Subject Headings to enter the appropriate description into the bibliographic record.

These three sets of rules are used worldwide by librarians with the aim of ensuring consistency. The guidelines change depending on the format of the material. A journal’s bibliographic record will be different from a book’s, as will a CD or DVD.

Below you can see the bibliographic record of the image above in SOLO, as the library user would see it.

Cataloguing SOLO record

All of the necessary information about the book is there but with a more user friendly appearance.

Cataloguing is an essential part of librarianship but a role that people are generally unaware of. Without a cataloguer, library users would not be able to search for the material they need for their studies and research.


About Nuffield College Library

We are a social sciences library serving Nuffield College and the University of Oxford
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