Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Proliferating Guidelines: A History and Analysis of the Cataloging of Electronic Resources

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Proliferating Guidelines: A History and Analysis of the Cataloging of Electronic Resources

Article excerpt

Cataloging rules for computer-based materials were first introduced in the 1970s, and since then have undergone almost continuous modification and revision. This article focuses on analysis and comparison of the various codes and guidelines for practice issued for what are now called electronic resources. Creation of new cataloging rules has been spurred by introduction of new physical carriers, the preeminence of materials accessed remotely versus those with physical carriers, the need for guidance in cataloging specific instances of computer-based materials, and the evolution of the theoretical concerns underlying the cataloging codes. Based on this history of constant change, it is easy to predict many more changes in the cataloging standards' for computer-based materials in the future. However, continuous changes in the cataloging rules may have produced as much confusion as clarity for working catalogers. Caution should be exercised in the creation of new rules and standards for cataloging electronic resources, as it is possible that older rules and standards may, in fact, be readily adapted to new types of electronic resources.

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Libraries have collected computer-based materials since the late 1960s. Since then the types and capabilities of computer hardware computer media publication standards (or lack thereof), and the types of materials and information available in machine-readable format have continuously changed. Computer-based materials have come to libraries in a variety of physical carriers, or have become available remotely with no physical carrier at all. Since electronic data can be republished at almost no cost, multiple versions, many with only minor changes from the previous version, are the rule rather than the exception. Computer-based materials usually have short useful lives, and it may not be possible to tell if some new carrier type, content, or mode of access will be a substantial development, a transit point to some other form, or an evolutionary dead end. Because of the short history of electronic resources and their continuously morphing forms, there has not been a reliable body of cultural knowledge to draw on to create a definitive set of cataloging rules for these materials. This article focuses not on the process of the creation of new rules but on analysis and comparison of the various codes.

Creation of new cataloging rules has been spurred by introduction of new carrier units, the predominance of items with physical carriers versus items accessed remotely, the need for rules of application for specific instances, and evolution of the theoretical concerns underlying the cataloging codes.

Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2d Edition (1978)

Work on the development of cataloging rules for computer-based materials began in 1970. At that time, the American Library Association Resources and Technical Services Division Cataloging and Classification Section Descriptive Cataloging Committee formed a subcommittee to study computer materials and to attempt to formulate cataloging rules for them. Within a few years, a number of interested groups were collaborating on attempts to codify bibliographic access for these materials (Dodd 1977, 49-50). In 1978, the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2d ed. (AACR2 1978) was published. It was the first international cataloging code to introduce rules for the cataloging of computer media (Dodd and Sandberg-Fox 1985, 1). (Examples are presented in the appendixes to this article. See appendix A.)

The general material designation for these materials was machine-readable data files (MRDF), and they were defined as follows:

   A body of information coded by methods that
   require the use of a machine (typically a computer)
   for processing. Examples are files stored on magnetic
   tape, punched cards (with or without a magnetic
   tape strip), aperture cards, punched paper
   tapes, disk packs, mark sensed cards, and optical
   character recognition font documents. … 
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