1. Purpose

This cataloguing policy provides a public statement of the Library’s current policies concerning the cataloguing of its collections of Australian and overseas resources.

This policy is monitored and reviewed by the Serials Collection Management & Standards Branch and the Library’s Collection Development and Management Committee on a regular basis to ensure that it reflects changes in Library policy and strategic planning and takes account of developments in resource description.

In-house guidelines assist staff in the practical application of this policy.            

2. Overview   

The National Library of Australia is the custodian of the nation’s largest and most significant collection of Australian publications, digital resources and documentary heritage materials.  The Library’s strategic Directions for 2009-2011 statement emphasises the intention to provide ‘rapid and easy access’ to our collections and other resources, and to overcome access barriers.  One of the cornerstones of the Library’s efforts to fulfil this objective is the provision of resource descriptions for items in our collections, which are made available through a wide range of resource discovery mechanisms.  The principal method of describing resources continues to be the creation of catalogue records that are then made accessible through the Library’s catalogue, the Australian National Bibliographic Database (ANBD) via the Libraries Australia service, and Trove.

Information about the growth of the Library’s collections over time, the extent of the Library’s holdings by type of material, and the current state of control of the collections is detailed in statistics that are publicly available on the Library’s website.

2.1. Purpose of cataloguing

Catalogue records enable users to find and access resources relevant to their needs.  They contain a description of a resource that allows it to be identified and distinguished from other similar resources.  Catalogue records also contain information that enables users to search for resources through a range of access points, including author and other people or organisations associated with the creation of the work, and through title, series, subjects and classifications.  For physical items, the catalogue record is used to indicate the location of an item in the Library’s collection and provides an inventory function.

2.2. What we catalogue

Catalogue records of varying levels of detail are provided for the majority of printed publications, original materials and electronic resources in the Library’s collections.

  • Print publications include monographs, serials, newspapers, broadsides, posters, ephemera, music scores, sheet music, atlases and sheet maps.
  • Electronic resources include physical format electronic publications such as CD-ROMs and DVDs as well as online resources such as static and changing document-type resources, databases and web sites.  The Library also purchases bibliographic records for titles in a number of full-text databases and serial aggregator services.
  • Original materials are unpublished materials that relate directly or indirectly to Australia or the Australian people and include collections of personal papers, paintings and photographs, oral history and folklore recordings.

The Library does not catalogue freely available online resources, except those for which we accept on-going access responsibility.

The Library may also use additional ways of describing and making accessible resources in the Library’s collections when appropriate.  For instance, Finding Aids that provide information on the arrangement, context and content of collections of personal papers are accessible on the Library’s website.  Timed summaries and transcripts are created to facilitate access to the content of oral history and folkloric recordings and are also accessible on the Library’s website, access conditions permitting.  Lists of items in collections may be indexed and made searchable in Trove.  These finding aids, timed summaries, transcripts and lists provide more detailed information than could normally be stored in a catalogue record.

2.3. Standards

The National Library recognises the importance of adhering to common cataloguing standards in order to promote the international sharing of cataloguing data and the provision of consistent access for library users.  The Library is committed to using the latest version of all the standards that it has adopted and takes an active interest in the development, interpretation and implementation of these standards.

Cataloguing standards used by the Library include Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR), Library of Congress Rule Interpretations (LCRI), Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), the Australian extension to LCSH, Dewey Decimal Classification[1], MARC21, CONSER cataloguing and editing manuals, and Libraries Australia cataloguing standards.  Additional standards are used in cataloguing unpublished, non-book and foreign language materials.  A number of thesauri are used to enhance subject access where appropriate.  A more detailed list of resource description standards and thesauri used by the Library is provided in the Appendix.

Consistent access for users is also provided using authority control to establish a single preferred form for personal, corporate and meeting names, uniform and series titles, and subject and geographic headings.  In establishing headings, we refer to the authority files on the ANBD, the Library of Congress Subject Authorities and Library of Congress Name Authorities.  Authority work is undertaken in accordance with the Library’s Authority Control Policy.

The Library also proposes subject headings to the Library of Congress for Australian concepts and Indigenous names and languages.       

2.4. National and international cooperation

The National Library supports cooperative cataloguing within the Australian and international library communities, including exchanging catalogue records with other libraries and library systems.

The Library contributes its catalogue records and holdings information to the ANBD, including pre-publication catalogue records created for forthcoming titles from Australian publishers who use the Library’s Cataloguing-in-Publication (CiP) service.  These records are then made available for re-use by other libraries.  The Library also contributes its catalogue records and holdings to the OCLC WorldCat database.

The Library contributes to the standard international identification of publications throughout the world by operating the Australian International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) and International Standard Music Number (ISMN) agencies.  These agencies assign ISSNs to new serial titles published in Australia and ISMNs to new music titles published in Australia, respectively.  Catalogue records are also created for the new titles and added to the relevant international ISSN or ISMN database as well as to the Library’s catalogue and the ANBD.

The Library also participates in national and international cataloguing-related bodies such as:

  • Australian Committee on Cataloguing (ACOC), which establishes the Australian viewpoint on cataloguing rules and issue
  • Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA (JSC) and Committee of Principals, which are responsible for the maintenance and publication of RDA: Resource Description and Access
  • International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and Conference of Directors of National Libraries (CDNL) Alliance for Digital Strategies (ICADS)

2.5. Contribution to resource discovery           

The Library’s commitment to cooperative cataloguing and exchanging catalogue records is rooted in the philosophy that resources should be catalogued and described only once.  Once created, the Library exploits the data contained in its catalogue records to enable users to find, access and navigate the national collection through a range of resource discovery mechanisms.  The Library’s cataloguing data is accessible not only through the Library’s own catalogue but also through federated resource discovery services such as Libraries Australia,  Trove and OCLC WorldCat, and search engines such as Google.  Descriptive metadata sourced from the Library’s catalogue is also used in the management and web delivery of the Library’s digital collections.

2.6. Sources of bibliographic data          

Most cataloguing is done in-house.  Staff create original records, or copy existing records and edit the result, or re-use records from the ANBD and other trusted national bibliographic agencies.  Through z39.50 functionality in the Library Management System, catalogues such as the Library of Congress Catalogue, Te Puna National Bibliographic Database, OCLC WorldCat database and Singapore National Union Catalogue are searched routinely for records to use.  CiP records created by overseas national agencies, partial records created by the Library of Congress (or one of its regional offices) and other copy records are used where appropriate and upgraded as necessary.

The Library also utilises data from other sources of descriptive information such as citation lists and indexes in the creation of catalogue records.  Information from these sources may be automatically added to catalogue records or used to generate a new catalogue record.

Some foreign language material is catalogued externally under contract, if copy records cannot be found and if the Library does not have the expertise to catalogue in that particular language.

Wherever possible, the Library purchases bibliographic data to provide access to individual titles within databases, serial aggregator services and large microform sets.  It is accepted that the cataloguing level of these records may vary.  If catalogue records cannot be obtained from third parties, one catalogue record is created for the whole database, service or set but individual catalogue records are not created for the individual titles within.

The Library will investigate and adopt, where appropriate, alternative methods of providing bibliographic description, such as harvesting and re-using existing data from external sources or purchasing catalogue records from suppliers when acquiring material.

3. Cataloguing treatment

3.1. Individual and collection records

The Library’s current policy is to create individual catalogue records for most items in its collections.  However, in the past a broader level of bibliographic control may have been applied to some parts of the collection.  This policy documents current practices only.

Although the Library’s policy is to provide individual resource descriptions for most items, some items are deemed not to need individual records.  For example, some monographs in series are catalogued at the series level only, in preference to individual records, if the parts have similar titles and content.

Cataloguing at the collection level may be used to describe materials that are significant because they belong to a collection and which share unifying aspects such as author or issuing body, subject, language or genre.  This includes collections of folkloric field recordings and oral history projects.  Collections of archival material and personal papers are routinely catalogued at the collection level rather than the item level.  Collection records are also used to provide access to groups of material such as ephemera that are too numerous to describe individually or that have little research value individually.  Occasionally, a collection record is used as an interim level of control until items can be individually catalogued.

Collection records contain a broad description of the collection, appropriate access points and subject access.  They usually also contain a short abstract or note about the group of items.  For some types of material including pictures and oral history recordings, collection records may be supplemented with individual catalogue records for some or all items within the collection.

3.2. Multiple versus single record approach

The National Library of Australia is committed to the concept of separate bibliographic records for each manifestation of a resource.  For instance, the Library creates or obtains separate catalogue records for printed serial resources that have ceased and been continued by an online version that is archived by the Library in PANDORA, Australia's Web Archive, titles in serial databases and aggregator services regardless of whether the Library also receives the print version, and microform copies of print resources.

Separate catalogue records are also created for digital surrogates produced by the Library of 'mainstream' published monographs and serials, including newspapers.  A link to the online resource is also provided in the catalogue record for the original resource.

For pragmatic reasons, the Library does not create a separate catalogue record for digital surrogates of unique, unpublished materials; rare or scarce published materials, including ephemera; and published music and maps.

The Library also does not create a separate catalogue record for the online version of resources for which we do not accept on-going access responsibility—instead, a link to the online resource is provided in the record for the print resource.  This approach is used mainly for online versions of overseas serials that are received free as part of a print subscription and government publications that are received in print.

The Library’s use of multiple and single records will be reviewed periodically to ensure that the best possible access is given to these resources.

3.3 Language and script of cataloguing                     

The Library includes vernacular script data in catalogue records to support resource discovery of our extensive non-Roman collections.  The language of cataloguing however is still English.

3.4. Data enrichment             

The Library is actively pursuing viable strategies to enrich catalogue records and enhance user access to information.  For instance, links are provided in the catalogue to items that are known to be also in the collections of another institution and to have been digitised by them.  Links are also provided to websites that are known to interpret items from the Library’s collections, such as online exhibitions.

Information is provided, where possible, about conditions and restrictions on the availability and use of resources in the Library’s collections.

3.5. Institution specific data                       

Institution specific data (ISD) is used for local information that is added to the Library’s catalogue and generally refers to specific aspects of the Library’s copy of a resource.  It is also used to provide more specific subject access to certain types of material in addition to Library of Congress subject headings, and to provide relationship linking for some items within formed collections.  Most of this information is not loaded to the ANBD.  The Library’s use of ISD will be reviewed periodically to ensure that as much data as possible is shared through the ANBD.

4. Levels of cataloguing      

Three levels of cataloguing—high, medium and brief—are used by the Library.  The cataloguing level determines the amount of detail and description provided in the catalogue record.

The level of cataloguing to be applied is determined by a combination of factors such as the extent of Australian content or association, the type or nature of the resource, and the Library’s collecting priorities as set out in the Collection Development Policy.  The provision of sufficient description and access points to allow users to find, identify, select and obtain the resource they need is also considered when selecting a level of cataloguing to apply.

The levels of cataloguing specified in this document apply to both original and copy cataloguing activities.  Original catalogue records are created to the appropriate level if a suitable existing or copy record is not found.  For copy cataloguing, all copy records that are of a higher level than required will be accepted without adjustment.  If copy records are at a lower level than required, they will be upgraded to the level specified.

In-house guidelines assist staff in the practical application of these levels.

4.1. High level cataloguing             

High-level catalogue records include full descriptive data, and all descriptive and subject access points and notes deemed necessary to identify the item, to differentiate it from other items, and to cover all the characteristics of the item that might be useful for resource discovery purposes.  Library of Congress subject headings are assigned based on an analysis of the work being catalogued and in accordance with the principles set out in the Library of Congress’ Subject Headings Manual.  Full classification numbers and data in coded form are usually included.

The Library provides high-level cataloguing to most Australian publications and original materials, and Asian vernacular resources.  High-level cataloguing will generally not be provided for novels, school readers, comic books, popular instructional and recreational publications, and publications of a consumable nature such as colouring books.

4.2. Medium level cataloguing                  

Medium-level catalogue records contain the set of descriptive cataloguing data defined for AACR2 second level of description.  They also contain one or two subject headings and limited notes and coded data. Classification numbers are usually included.

Medium-level cataloguing is provided for Australian resources that, due to their nature, require less detailed description and fewer access points to enable users to find and access them, such as novels and recreational publications.  All overseas materials, except Asian vernacular materials, are catalogued at medium level.

4.3. Brief level cataloguing            

Brief-level catalogue records contain a brief description and one or two access points such as ISBN and author name.  No subject headings are assigned.  A shortened classification number may be included.

Brief level cataloguing is provided for Australian publications of a transitory or consumable nature such as cut-out books and scrapbooks.  This level of cataloguing may also be used for overseas materials acquired earlier that fall outside the current Collection Development Policy.

Appendix – Cataloguing standards             

ALA-LC Romanization Tables : transliteration schemes for non-Roman scripts / approved by the Library of Congress and the American Library Association. Washington : Library of Congress, 1997-

Anglo-American cataloging rules / prepared under the direction of the Joint Steering Committee for Revision of AACR... 2nd ed., 2002 revision. Chicago : American Library Association, 2002-

Cartographic materials: a manual of interpretation for AACR2 / prepared by the Anglo-American Cataloguing Committee for Cartographic Materials. 2nd ed. Chicago : American Library Association, 2003-  (The Library has a list of policy decisions on the options and alternatives for rules and parts of rules in Cartographic materials)

A classification scheme for Chinese and Japanese books / by A. K’ai-Ming Ch’iu. Preliminary lithoprint ed. Washington, D.C. : Committees on Far Eastern Studies, American Council of Learned Societies, 1943.

CONSER cataloging manual. 2002 edition. Washington, D.C. : Library of Congress, 2002-

Dewey decimal classification and relative index / devised by Melvil Dewey. 23rd ed. Dublin, Ohio : OCLC, 2011.

Describing archives : a content standard. Chicago : Society of American Archivists, 2004.

Graphic materials: rules for describing original items and historical collections / compiled by Elisabeth W. Betz. Washington, D.C. : Library of Congress, 1982.

ISSN manual. Cataloguing part. Paris : ISSN International Centre, 2009.

Libraries Australia cataloguing standards

Library of Congress classification. Class G. Geography, maps, anthropology, recreation / Cataloging Policy and Support Office, Library Services, Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. : Library of Congress, 2007.

Library of Congress name authorities

Library of Congress rule interpretations. Washington, D.C. : Library of Congress, 1989-

Library of Congress subject headings.

Manual of archival description / Margaret Procter and Michael Cook. Aldershot : Gower, 2000.

Map cataloging manual / Library of Congress, Geography & Map Division. Washington, D.C. : Library of Congress, 1991.

MARC 21 formats for bibliographic, holdings and authority data

National Library of Australia occupations thesaurus.

Powerhouse Museum Object name thesaurus

Oral history cataloging manual / compiled by Marion Matters. Chicago : Society of American Archivists, c1995.

PANDORA Archive cataloguing manual

Rules for archival description / prepared under the direction of the Planning Committee on Descriptive Standards, a committee of the Bureau of Canadian Archivists, representing l’Association des archivistes du Québec, the Association of Canadian Archivists. Ottawa : The Bureau, 1990-

Subject headings manual. Washington, D.C. : Library of Congress, 2008-

Thesaurus for graphic materials / compiled and edited by Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. : Library of Congress, [1995?]-



[1] The Library includes a Dewey Decimal Classification number in the majority of catalogue records. However, the Library may not use this number for shelving purposes.