Guidelines for cataloguing non-book resources in visual arts collections

Many Australian libraries have collections of materials relating to the visual arts. Significant collections can be found in gallery libraries, museum libraries, state libraries, academic libraries and local studies collections. These collections include many special resources not found in other library collections - they are often referred to as "guerilla" literature as the resources are not generally found in other libraries, and are hard to locate and track.

Records have been created by libraries for many years to enable users and potential users to identify and access material in their collection. These records can then be shared between libraries, reducing the amount of original cataloguing required by each individual library.

While there are long-standing conventions for describing or cataloguing resources in libraries (AACR2 and MARC 21) special resources, such as the guerilla or "grey" literature found in visual arts collections, do not fit neatly into these rules. Recognising this, Libraries Australia staff have been working with a number of arts libraries to investigate the issues and develop agreement on descriptive standards for contributing these resources to the Australian National Bibliographic Database (ANBD).


From discussions with the Visual Arts library community it appears there is a need for guidelines to cover art catalogues, posters/promotion material and material relating to artists and galleries at a collection level. More specifically, this includes art catalogues and collections of catalogues; collections of material relating to individual artists (including programs, invitations, posters, catalogues, press clippings and material which is distributed through events) and special non-book materials such as posters, publicity material relating to collections, artists and galleries, and items in unusual formats.

Making use of and contributing to the ANBD

The ANBD currently includes records for resources which are similar in many ways to those held in visual arts collections. Records for collections of ephemera, posters, catalogues and original materials have been shared through the ANBD for a number of years and can offer concrete examples of existing guidelines in action. Example records are attached to this paper for background information.

Records can be contributed online to the ANBD using both Libraries Australia Cataloguing Client and the Libraries Australia Web input form. Records can also be contributed in files via LA Record Import Service.

Please note that the ANBD accepts records in both MARC and NON-MARC formats.


1. Network standards

Minimum record standard

The ANBD has a minimum record standard which aims to support resource discovery and resource sharing. It also improves matchability when records are loaded. The minimum record standard is: AACR2 level one description [AACR2 Level 1 description consists of full title and statement of responsibility, Edition (if present), imprint, collation, Standard number (if present) and notes (as necessary)]; one name or uniform title if applicable; Leader codes indicating type of record, bibliographic level and encoding level; Fixed field codes indicating date and country of publication.

Certain elements of AACR2 level one description may not be applicable to some non-book print materials, for example standard numbers, statements of responsibility or imprint information. This is acceptable as long as the elements essential for matching, such as title, fixed field data and name entries (where applicable) are included and complete.

Some non-MARC systems are unable to supply required elements of the minimum standard, such as the Leader line and Fixed fields. In these cases the ANBD conversion programs create these from the non-MARC data supplied.

Information about the minimal record standard is available on the Libraries Australia website at:

Example of minimal level record

001     000021200330
005     19991123160729.0
008     991123s1999    iaua          000 0 eng d
020     ºa0787263214
040     ºaVDU ºbeng ºcVDU
100 1   ºaEversman, Sharon.
245 10  ºaMolecular and cellular biology : ºblaboratory observations   Biology 102 / ºcSharon Eversman, Carol Johnson.
250     ºa4th ed.
260     ºaDubuque, Iowa : ºbKendall/Hunt , ºcc1999.
300     ºa79 p. : ºbill. ; ºc28 cm.


Other network standards

The ANBD also has a descriptive cataloguing policy, as well as guidelines for particular types of material (eg. multi-part items, electronic resources) and Australian additions/variations to Library of Congress Subject Headings and subdivisions, and USMARC coded data. These can be found on the Libraries Australia website at:

2. International standards

The ANBD uses MARC21 but is able to accept non-MARC data which is converted to MARC21 before loading.

Collective vs. Individual records

For some types of "grey" literature, libraries may wish to make a collective entry for groups of items, rather than an individual record for single pieces. The ANBD supports both collective entry and individual records, and this decision is largely up to individual libraries. However, for collective entries, Libraries Australia recommends the use of a 505 tag (Contents note) or other notes to enhance access to the material through the ANBD, and give users a clear indication of what is in the collection being described. Examples of collective entries and individual records are included at the end of this document. Libraries Australia also encourages the inclusion of physical description information in the 300 tag, where practicable. Information about the size and scope of a collection is often useful to researchers in deciding the importance of the material to their research.

Physical format

Material held by visual arts libraries are in a wide variety of formats, some of which create issues in regard to description, storage and access. Tags 300-352 of the MARC21 standards generally record physical characteristics, and physical arrangement information and AACR2 and MARC21 contain guidelines on how to use these tags. Library of Congress Rule Interpretations is also a useful guide as it provides further interpretation of AACR2 and guidance on the application of the rules. Any aspects of the item relating to physical format which are considered important but which don't fit easily in the 300-352 tags can be record in a general note (500 tag).

If physical format affects the interlibrary loan status of an item it is important to indicate this in the library's holdings statement.


The ANBD encourages the use of the current version of AACR2 descriptive standards.

Subjects and classification

The ANBD encourages the use of LCSH and Dewy Decimal Classification (DDC) or Library of Congress Classification (LCC). These international standards provide a framework for cataloguing by arts libraries. The ARLIS-l and ARLIS-UK listservs also review the LC weekly list of new and changed subject headings for art specific terms. Other subject and classification schemes, including institution specific thesauri, are also accepted, however these should be coded according to the MARC21 standard to make it clear to other libraries that such specialist thesauri have been used. Examples of art-specific thesauri are included at the end of this document.


Wherever possible, we encourage libraries to use an authoritative source for name headings, such as Library of Congress Name Authorities (LCNA) or the Union List of Artists' Names (ULAN). In the case of new names, libraries are encouraged to create new authorities.

Indigenous names: Mura, the AIATSIS online catalogue can be used as an authority source for Australian Indigeous artists names. In particular, AIATSIS have devised some rules for setting up personal names in the cases when the artist uses a "skin name" or kinship name as part of his/her name.


Whenever a title is present on the item being described, this should be transcribed as it appears on the item. However, with grey literature, it is often necessary to construct titles. Examples include untitled posters, or pictures, or collective entries for groups of material such as ephemera or posters. In these cases, supply a title which is as descriptive as possible of the material being described. Examples of records with cataloguer supplied titles are attached at the end of this document.


Notes can be very useful in catalogue records for "grey literature" as they give an opportunity to highlight elements of an item or collection that cannot be adequately covered in other areas of the description. We encourage libraries to make use of MARC21 notes tags where possible and applicable, to enhance their records. However, the number of notes and level of detail contained within them is up to individual libraries as it may be dependent on library policies and resources for cataloguing. Please note that institution specific information that cannot be shared between libraries should not be recorded in the ANBD and any information on access to the material at your library should be contained as part of your holdings statement.

Access restrictions

Material in library collections is generally made available to all researchers. However, material may be restricted by the library for various reasons, or the library may choose not to make their collections available for interlibrary loan. In this case, it is important that you holdings statements clearly state "Not for interlibrary loan" and that your entry in the Interlibrary Resource Sharing Directory (ILRS) also makes your lending policy clear.

Some resources, such as manuscript collections and indigenous material, may have restrictions on access. This information should be indicated in a 506 tag (Restrictions on access note).



(you need to be signed on to Libraries Australia with a signon that has cataloguing functionality for this link to work)


Guides for importing records from external databases.

Available online.

MARC 21 Standards.

Available on the web.

Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd ed. 2002 revision

Further information.

Library of Congress Rule Interpretations (LCRI)

2002 cumulation: 1988 base text with all updates through 2002 interfiled.

Provides Library of Congress interpretations of AACR2 rules.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Available online or by subscription via Classification Web.

Library of Congress Name Authorities

Available online.

Union List of Artist Names

Available online.

Mura, AIATSIS Collections Catalogue

Available online.

Graphic materials : guidelines for describing original items and historical collections / compiled by Elizabeth W. Betz (Washington D.C. : Library of Congress, 1982) With cumulated updates: 1982-1996

Available online.

Cataloger's Desktop

This is an online tool (available in both Web and CDROM versions) that incorporates all of the above standards (except LCSH), and many other tools libraries may find useful.

Art-specific thesauri and resources

Australian Pictorial Thesaurus

The Australian Pictorial Thesaurus (APT) is a collection of topic terms for indexing Australian images. The APT uses contemporary Australian terminology to describe objects, people, places and structures, activities and concepts depicted in an image. It ensures the common description of pictorial collections across Australian libraries, museums and archives.

Art and architecture thesaurus online (AAT)

The Art and architecture Thesaurus (AAT) is a structured vocabulary of more than 133,000 terms, descriptions, bibliographic citations, and other information relating to fine art, architecture, decorative arts, archival materials, and material culture.

The Getty thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN)

The TGN is a structured, world-coverage vocabulary of 1.3 million names, including vernacular and historical names, coordinates, and place types, and descriptive notes, focusing on places important for the study of art and architecture.

AVAD5 - Australian Visual Arts Databases 2003

Available via subscription, AVAD brings a unique collection of information about the Australian visual arts to curators, researchers, librarians, gallery staff and students. Titles include:

  • NATSIVAD - A biographical database of Australian indigenous visual artists
  • ARTEX - an index to Australian exhibition catalogues
  • OzBiogs - A compilation of NATSIVAD, ARTEX, AustArt (Australian Art Journals index) and addition biographies.


Exhibition catalogue (two)

ANBD Number 000025283236
Cataloguing Source SAA eng
Personal Name Rankin, Don, 1947-
Title Don Rankin.
Publication Details Bowden, S. Aust. : Cube Contemporary Art, [2003]
Physical Description [8] p. : chiefly col. ill. ; 20 cm.
General Note Cover title.
General Note Catalogue of an exhibition held at Cube Contemporary Art, Bowden, S. Aust., August 27-September 27, 2003.
General Note Essay: Thomas Shapcott.
Subject (Personal) Rankin, Don, 1947- Exhibitions.
Personal Name (Added) Shapcott, Thomas W. (Thomas William), 1935-
Corporate Name (Added) Cube Contemporary Art.
Holdings Art Gallery of SA - Research Library 

SAA 709.24 R211 2 copies

ANBD Number 000009544604
Cataloging Source SSL eng SSL
Geographic Area Code u-at-sa
Dewey No. 770.99423 20
Dewey No. 779.099423 20
Corporate Name Adelaide Camera Club.
Title Exhibition : [catalogue] / Adelaide Camera Club.
Publication Details [Adelaide : The Club, 1922-1927]
Physical Description 6 v. ; 23 cm.
Serial Dates 1922-1927
General Note Cover title.
Subject (Topical) Photography South Australia Exhibitions.
Preceding Entry Adelaide Camera Club. Annual exhibition
Succeeding Entry Adelaide Camera Club. Catalogue, annual exhibition
Holdings Art Gallery of SA - Research Library 

SAA 770.99423 A228 1922, 1923 (2 copies), 1926, 1927

Holdings State Library of South Australia 

SSL held 1922-1927

Ephemera - Collection level

ANBD Number 000024780543
Cataloguing Source ANL eng
Title [Bush foods : ephemera material collected by the National Library of Australia].
Physical Description folders of miscellaneous pieces.
Summary Note The ephemera collection contains documents of everyday life generally covering publications of fewer than five pages. These may include: advertising material, area guides, booklets, brochures, samples of merchandise postcards, posters, programs, stickers and tickets.
Uncontrolled Subject Bush foods.
Series (Uniform Title) Australian ephemera collection (General)

Poster - Collection level

ANBD Number 000024430987
Cataloguing Source ANL eng
Geographic Area Code u-at---
Title [Posters from the Centenary of Federation 2001].
Publication Details 2000-2001.
Physical Description posters : col. ; 40 x 30 cm. - 85 x 120 cm.
General Note Title supplied by cataloguer.
Contents Note A general collection of posters relating to Centenary of Federation, 2001.
Subject (Topical) Centenary of Federation, Australia, 1901-2001 Posters.
Subject (Topical) Confederation of states Australia Centennial celebrations, etc. Posters.
Subject (Geographic) Australia Centennial celebrations etc. Posters.

Individual poster

ANBD Number 000021849296
Cataloguing Source ANL eng
Geographic Area Code u-at---
Personal Name Northfield, James, 1888-1973.
Title Mine tinkit, you come back for Pelaco, they fit [picture] / Northfield .
Publication Details [193-?]
Physical Description 1 poster : lithograph, col. ; sheet 71 x 48.3 cm.
General Note Condition: good.
General Note Inscriptions: "Northfield"-- printed l.l. corner.
Summary Note Advertising poster showing the Pelaco factory and an Aboriginal man wearing a Pelaco shirt, throwing a boomerang.
Subject (Corporate) Pelaco (Firm) Posters.
Subject (Topical) Shirts, Men's Australia Posters.
Holdings National Library of Aust.
ANL PIC Poster Z388 LOC drawer 41

Artist/gallery resources

Author : National Gallery of Australia. Research Library.
Title : Bernard Hall archive index / compiled by Ruth Mussen and Kay Smith.
Location : National Gallery of Australia
Call no. : National Gallery of Australia - Library - r/a N3925.2.A6 N37 2001
Imprint : [Canberra] : National Gallery of Australia Research Library, 2001.
Description : 1 v. (unpaged) ; 31 cm.
Contents : Contents: Numerical list of records -- Index by category -- Index by author/creator -- Index by cross reference.
Subject : Hall, Bernard, 1859-1935 Archives Indexes.
Subject : National Gallery of Australia. Research Library.
Added entry : Hall, Bernard, 1859-1935
Mussen, Ruth.
Smith, Kay.
System number : 001229756

Photograph - with cataloguer supplied title.

Title: Robin Lovejoy and John Hargreaves in a scene from the film My first wife, by Paul Cox, 1984 [picture]
Related Records:
# Author Full Title Date
1. none Robin Lovejoy collection [picture] 1947-1984.
Publisher: 1984.
Description: 1 photograph : col. ; 10.1 x 14.8 cm.
Series: Robin Lovejoy collection.
Notes: Title devised by cataloguer based on acquisition documentation information, see file 203/12/00170. Part of: Robin Lovejoy collection. Lovejoy played the father of John Hargreaves' character. Digital master available; National Library of Australia, Pictures collection;
Subjects: Lovejoy, Robin, 1925-1985 --Portraits. Hargreaves, John, 1946- 1996 --Portraits. My first wife (Motion picture)--Photographs. Actors--Australia--Photographs. Motion pictures--Australia--Photographs.
Occupation: Actors.
Terms of Use: Copyright restrictions may apply.
Bib ID: 3076429
Collect from: Manual Request only from Pictures Reading Room, 2nd Floor
Call Number: PIC/7970/153 LOC PIC Box/7970