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Cataloging and Classification

Cataloging is the identification and description of materials, and the assigning of access points such as subject headings.

Classification is assigning an organizational structure and assigning symbols, such as Dewey Decimal numbers, to organize materials.

Modern cataloging really began in the British Library in 1841 with Anthony Panizzi’s “91 Rules” for cataloging. Panizzi believed that anyone searching for a particular work in the library should be able to find it through the catalog. So the catalog became more than a simple listing of items owned. It became a finding aid for searchers.

The best known modern cataloging methods came from Charles Cutter who worked at the Boston Athenaeum. In 1876 he produced rules for cataloging in Rules for a Dictionary Catalog. The 4th edition of this work in 1904 is still referred to as the basis for modern catalog practices.

Cutter believed that catalogs should be a finding tool for books AND provide an organized arrangement for materials on the shelf. He thought the catalog should:

What does the cataloging department in a library provide?

What makes up a catalog?

What makes up a good catalog?

Cataloging standards

There are three major cataloging standards in use today in most libraries. They are:

MARC: MAchine-Readable Cataloging records which are used for almost every electronic library catalog. Developed in the 1960’s, MARC standardizes the position and field for each part of the bibliographic record.

AACR II R: Anglo-American Cataloging Rules 2nd Edition Revised in 1988. This work gives instructions on how to describe materials in a catalog. It undergoes continuing revision and expansion.

LCSH: Library of Congress Subject Headings are the standard list of authorities for describing subjects with standard terms and phrases.

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This page was updated on October 25, 2003.