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November/December 2005

Cataloging Rules

Sandra Q. Williams

My first column, “The Recent Evolution of Cataloging,” argued that school librarians must recognize that effective and efficient retrieval of information from automated catalogs depends on accurate cataloging data entry. This second column will focus on how to describe an item in a way that is unique to that resource.

The work of a cataloger can be divided into two parts: descriptive cataloging and subject cataloging.  Descriptive cataloging, the first step, involves analyzing an item to determine the appropriate elements that accurately represent the item (e.g. title, physical description, publisher) and provide the basis for access points. Subject cataloging assigns appropriate subject headings selected from the authorized lists, either Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) or Sears List of Subject Headings. In very large libraries different people specialize in aspects of the cataloging process.  However, in school library media centers the library media specialist (SLMS) must perform all the tasks involved in cataloging an item.  The Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, 2nd edition, 2002 revision (AACR2) (AACR2, 2002) is the current rulebook for descriptive cataloging.  Subject cataloging is done using a consistent list of subject headings, and in school libraries this is usually the print version of Sears List of Subject Headings. (Sears 2004) The final step is assigning a class number that determines the arrangement of items on the shelf. In school library media centers classification is most often based on the Abridged Dewey Decimal Classification and Relative Index. (Abridged Dewey 2003). The latest editions of these three resources belong in all school library media centers. The importance of using established cataloging standards cannot be overstated.

AACR2 is the rulebook recognized by the United States and many other countries as the final word in determining what to include in the cataloging record.  The first half of AACR2 consists of chapters applicable to any type of material that could conceivably be cataloged.  Chapter 1, a general chapter, covers the basic rules for description that apply to all formats. Chapters 2 – 12 are specific to individual formats.  For example, the rules for describing books and other printed items are in Chapter 2; the rules for video recordings are found in Chapter 7; and those for electronic resources (computer programs, Internet sites, etc.) are discussed in Chapter 9.  After determining the format of the item to be cataloged, the appropriate chapter in AACR2 should be consulted.

AACR2 divides the catalog record into 8 areas as follows:

 Area 1  Title and statement of responsibility  Kitten’s first full moon / Kevin Henkes.
 Area 2  Edition  1st ed.
 Area 3  Details specific to some formats   For a map, the detail is scale: e.g. 1:44,000For serials, a detail might be numbering beginning each year with no. 1.
 Area 4  Publication and distribution  [New York] : Greenwillow Books, c2004.
 Area 5  Physical description   1 v. (unpaged) : ill. ; 27 x 27 cm
 Area 6  Series  example: Schaum’s outline series
 Area 7  Notes  When Kitten mistakes the full moon for a bowl of milk, she ends up tired, wet, and hungry trying to reach it.
 Area 8  ISBN or other numbers    ISBN 0-06-058829-2

The description for Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes, the 2005 Caldecott Medal winner, would appear in paragraph form, or the form it might have taken on an old catalog card, as follows:

Henkes, Kevin.
Kitten’s first full moon  /  Kevin Henkes. – 1st ed. – [New York] : Greenwillow Books, c2004.
1 v. (unpaged) : ill. ; 27 x 27 cm.

When Kitten mistakes the full moon for a bowl of milk, she ends up tired, wet, and hungry trying to reach it.
ISBN 0-06-058829-2

If you have ever used or examined printed catalog cards, you will recognize that the 8 areas are in the same order as the information presented on those cards.   Further, as was true with the cards, it is not required that every area be completed for all bibliographic records.  For example, many items have no edition or series statement; not many formats require information in area 3, and not every format requires a note.  Deciding what to include and what to leave out is part of the cataloger’s challenge.  The first half of AACR2, chapters 1-12, represents the standards used to clarify what should be included.

The second half of AACR2, chapters 21-26, consists of rules for determining access points, or terms that are potentially searchable in an automated catalog, such as the main entry of the work and any added entries like illustrators, producers, graphic designers, or performers. Also included in these chapters are the rules for the form to be used for personal names, corporate bodies, geographic names and uniform titles, and when to make references from one form of name or title to another form.

A book might have an editor or compiler rather than an author. According to Chapter 21 of AACR2, editors and compilers should not be mistaken for authors.  For example, Sandford Lyne gathered together poems that were written by 100 young people. He then presented these works as a unified whole in the book Soft Hay Will Catch You: Poems By Young People. (Lyne 2004)  As the compiler, Lyne must not be cataloged as the author.  Despite the fact that an editor or compiler does a tremendous amount of work to ready a book for publication, they are never part of the main entry of a catalog record.  The title Soft Hay Will Catch You is given the main entry, and Sandford Lyne’s name appears as an added entry so that he will be searchable in the catalog.  By the same token, the title of most audiovisual materials will be the main entry, with the director, the producer, the writer, and some of the stars assigned to added entries.  Added entries for computer software will be a writer, a programmer, a graphic designer, and so on, but the main entry will usually be the title of the item, rather than a programmer or designer’s name.

Since some authors use different names during their lifetime, the library media specialist must follow rules for the form of names, a process called “authority control.” The complex rules for determining the form personal names must take are covered in Chapter 22 of AACR2. For example, a woman might write a book under a maiden name and later write another book under a married name. Maia Wojciechowska, however, took the opposite approach. She first wrote under her married surname of Rodman, but after her divorce she went back to her maiden name, Wojciechowska. This was  the name she used when she wrote her Newbery-Award winning Shadow of a Bull. (Wojciechowska 1968)  Other authors might write some books under a pseudonym and some under their real name as, for example, Daniel Handler who writes under Handler and as Lemony Snicket.  Dr. Seuss, Theo LeSieg, and Rosetta Stone were all pseudonyms of Theodor Seuss Geisel, and each of these names is a legitimate heading according to the Library of Congress authorities file. Accessed at, the Library of Congress Authorities file can help you locate the authorized name forms to use.  A goal in cataloging is to make different names tie together so a person looking for works written by an author under one name will also be shown other works by the same person.   Chapter 26, References, gives a summary of the rules having to do with making cross references to and from the various names authors use. Some automated catalogs in school library media centers include a local authority file. The catalog would then provide cross-references between the writer’s real name and pseudonyms or variants of names through the use of “See” and “See also” references.

Sometimes authors choose to write under a name that takes a different form from their “official” name that appears on their passport or driver’s license. In this case, usually the Library of Congress selects the name the author chose to write under,  as in the case of ex-President Carter, who wrote under  “Jimmy Carter” rather than James Earl Carter. To follow this same pattern, if all the works by a certain author are under a pseudonym, that pseudonym would be designated as the main entry.  Thus, Edward Irving Wortis is listed as “Avi” in his Library of Congress authority record.

Other details that are covered in Chapter 22 are the rules for compound surnames, which can be complicated. Their treatment depends on the language the author is using for his or her writing. For example, Tomie De Paola is an American writer writing in English, so his last name includes the prefix “de.” The Library of Congress Authorities file lists his name as “De Paola, Tomie.” If he were writing in Dutch, however, his last name would begin with the part of the name following the prefix, or “Paola.” His name would then be listed as “Paola, Tomie de.” Married women who use their maiden name and their married name together, such as Emily Arnold McCully, would have their married name designated as their last name, or “McCully, Emily Arnold.” However, if Emily were writing in Czech, French, Hungarian, Italian, or Spanish, her authorized name would be “Arnold McCully, Emily.” Hyphenated surnames, on the other hand, are straightforward: consider the hyphen to be a “lock” that keeps the two names together in the order they are written. Following this rule, the illustrator Margaret Chodos-Irvine’s name would be written as “Chodos-Irvine, Margaret.”

AACR2 also includes appendices having to do with rules for capitalization, abbreviations, numerals, and identifying initial articles (a, an, and the) in more than 30 languages, a glossary, and an extensive index. Every SLMS should familiarize herself or himself with the most recent version of AACR2. Although the resource is expensive, the SLMS should be familiar with this resource or The Concise AACR2, Fourth edition by Michael Gorman. (Gorman, 2004).

Besides helping the media specialist determine what information to include for each area, AACR2 also gives the rules for punctuation within and between areas.  International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD) is an agreed-upon system that serves to standardize the punctuation used in the bibliographic record.  For example, a colon with a space on either side of it should be placed between the title of an item and its subtitle.  The colon is used in the same way between the place of publication and the name of the publisher, and again between the number of pages of a book and the illustration statement.  These standardized marks make it possible for users to “read” bibliographic records in any language, at least so far as knowing where the subtitle begins, or identifying the name of the publisher, or locating the illustration statement.  Conveniently, these prescribed marks of punctuation precede a new subfield code in the MARC format, which will be the topic of the next column. 

Automated catalogs have made many aspects of a school library media specialist’s job easier. However, the catalog is only useful if the information it contains is accurate and complete.  Accuracy in describing resources for the catalog can be almost guaranteed if the SLMS follows the rules given in AACR2. In an automated system, it is easy to see that cataloging rules really do rule.


Access point:  Personal names, corporate body names, titles, subject headings, etc., that can be searched or “accessed” in the catalog.

Added entry:  Any access point that was not chosen as the main entry. These are usually the illustrators of books or joint authors, performers, etc.

Authority control:  The process of maintaining consistency in the forms of headings in a catalog through reference to an authority file.

Descriptive cataloging:  The process of listing certain information about a resource so that it can be uniquely identified. The information that is described includes details such as the title of the item, the publisher, the date, how many pages, how many computer disks, etc.

Main entry:  The major access point that is chosen to identify the resource. If cataloging a book with one author, that person’s name will be the main entry. All other access points (joint authors, illustrators, etc.,) will be added entries.

Subject cataloging:  The process of assigning subject headings and a classification number to a resource.



Gorman, Michael, The Concise AACR2, 4th ed. (Chicago: American Library Association, 2004).

Henkes, Kevin, Kitten’s First Full Moon (New York: Greenwillow Books, 2004).

Joint Steering Committee for Revision of AACR, Anglo-American Cataloging Rules.  2nd ed., 2002 revision: 2004 Update. (Chicago: American Library Association, 2002). Available for purchase at the ALA Online Store.

Lyne, Sandford, compiler., Soft Hay Will Catch You: Poems By Young People  (New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004).

Miller, Joseph, ed., Sears List of Subject Headings, 18th ed. (New York: H.W. Wilson, 2004). Available for order from the publisher.

Mitchell, Joan S. et al., eds. Abridged Dewey Decimal Classification and Relative Index: Devised by Melvil Dewey, 14th ed.  (Albany, N.Y.: Forest Press, 2003). Available for order through OCLC. [Note: some school library media centers may choose to use the 22nd edition of the Dewey Decimal Classification System, published in 2003.]

Wojciechowska, Maia, Shadow of a Bull   (New York: Atheneum, 1968).


Other Resources to Help With Descriptive Cataloging:  

Bowman, J.H., Essential Cataloguing . London: Facet Publishing, 2003.

Intner, Sheila S., and Jean Weihs. Standard Cataloging for School and Public Libraries . Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 2001.

Kaplan, Allison G. and Ann Marlow Riedling. Catalog It! A Guide to Cataloging School Library Materials . Worthington, OH: Linworth, 2002.

Maxwell, Robert L., with Margaret F. Maxwell. Maxwell’s Handbook for AACR2R . Chicago, IL: ALA, 1997.

McCroskey, Marilyn. Cataloging Nonbook Materials with AACR2R and MARC: A Guide for the School Library Media Specialist . 2nd ed. Chicago, IL: AASL, 1999.

Mortimer, Mary. Learn Descriptive Cataloging . Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2000.

Taylor, Arlene G. Wynar’s Introduction to Cataloging and Classification .  Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 2000.

Weber, Mary Beth. Cataloging Nonprint and Internet Resources . How-To-Do-It Manuals for Librarians, no. 113. NY: Neal-Schuman, 2002.


Knowledge Quest on the Web
Cataloging Rules

The following are useful sites for the school library media specialists (SLMS) at either the local building level or at the district level.  They focus on the cataloging rules in AACR2 and on sites helpful with authority work.

•   Cataloging Rules

Cataloger’s Desktop on the Web
This subscription service from the Library of Congress offers a web site where catalogers can access the latest version of AACR2 , link to the LC Rule Interpretation site for more information on a certain rule, go to a MARC format site, or link to one for the list of subject heading terms authorized by the Library of Congress. The cost is currently $575 for a single user or you can register for a 30-day free trial.  Because of the expense, an SLMS at a small school may wish to contact the local public library to gain access to this resource on an item-by-item basis. This arrangement could represent an opportunity for some cooperation or collaboration between public and school libraries.  [Accessed 26 August 2005].

Cataloging Internet Resources: A Manual and Practical Guide
This online publication from OCLC focuses on Internet resources and gives both AACR2 rules and MARC format standards for cataloging websites. [Accessed 26 August 2005].

Guide to Cataloging DVDs Using AACR2r Chapters 7 and 9
This resource was created by the DVD Cataloging Task Force, Cataloging Policy Committee, Online Audiovisual Catalogers, Inc.  The Task Force includes people highly regarded in the world of audiovisual cataloging. Chapter 7 deals with cataloging DVD videos and chapter 9 has information for cataloging DVD-ROMs (such as encyclopedias or other reference materials on DVD).  Last updated Oct. 2002. [Accessed 26 August 2005].

Introduction to Technical Services and Cataloging
Sponsored by Idaho State Library, this website, part of the Alternative Basic Library Education (ABLE) Program, is “designed to help library staff members who have no formal education in library science to acquire the basic knowledge and skills needed to operate or work in a library.” This module,, Course 5, Introduction to Technical Services and Cataloging, takes approximately one and one-half hours to complete.  The instruction was written by Catherine Poppino, M.L.S. and supported by funds from the federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), administered by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS). [Accessed 26 August 2005].

The Joint Steering Committee for Revision of Anglo-American Cataloging Rules
This site includes agendas and minutes of the meetings of this committee, as well as amendments to AACR2.  The information includes archives dating back to 1997 and it is updated quite regularly.  [Accessed 26 August 2005].

Useful Websites for AV Catalogers
This site has many links to useful sites, listed in alphabetical order, for cataloging audiovisual materials.  Audiovisual materials, the resources with the fewest MARC records available, present the most challenges to catalogers because of their complexity. Last updated July 2005. [Accessed 26 August 2005].

•   Authority Records

This site, indexing almost 12,000 entries – 4,000 “real” names and 7,000 pseudonyms, includes aliases, nicknames, working names, etc., a link to a bibliography of pseudonym dictionaries, and a link to the source list.  There is also an interesting page listing people who have used more than 10 pseudonyms.  [Accessed 26 August 2005].

Library of Congress Authorities
“Using Library of Congress Authorities, you can browse and display authority headings for Subject, Name, Title and Name/Title combinations. You can also download authority records in MARC format for use in a local library system. This service is offered free of charge.” [Accessed 26 August 2005].

Nom de Guerre
This site provides access to pseudonyms used by entertainment personalities, athletes, writers and historical figures.  The list was compiled by Mark Samwick, who invites emails. [Accessed 26 August 2005].

Sandra Q. Williams is a professor in Learning Resources & Technology Services and the Center for Information Media at St. Cloud State University.  She is the government documents librarian, has taught cataloging in the CIM graduate program for 15 years, and has a special interest in children's literature.  She co-coordinates the annual Children's Literature Workshop at SCSU, which celebrated its 26th year in summer 2005.


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