Competency G

Cataloging. Each graduate of the Master of Library and Information Science program is able to demonstrate understanding of basic principles and standards involved in organizing information such as classification and controlled vocabulary systems, cataloging systems, metadata schemas or other systems for making information accessible to a particular clientele.


Cataloging plays an important role in the information organization and management. Part of technical services—aimed at acquiring, cataloging, and processing items for addition to the library or information center collections—cataloging is particularly focused on organizing information by constructing, editing, and enhancing descriptions of both tangible and electronic works and information.  According to Hall-Ellis, Jerabek, and Valliant, “the twenty-first century cataloger (also called a catalog librarian) is a professional librarian who works in an archive, a library or other information organization and creates surrogate records for the institution’s collection of information packages and maintains the integrated system” (2011, p. 5), through which users access the cataloged records.

As the information record formats grow increasingly diverse, from traditional materials to non-traditionally published materials—e-Books, podcasts, archival photographs, and alike—the role of modern catalogers has evolved to accommodate the trend.  From the stone tablet catalogs of the Sumerian and Babylonian times 4,000 years ago and the thick-volume printed catalogs of the mid-1900s, the catalogs of today  have grown into sleek and dynamic online information systems, such as the online public access catalog (OPAC), enabling information retrieval in a matter of seconds.

The advancing technologies and proliferating information formats have brought about a dramatic change to the ways in which information is collected, organized, stored, and accessed.  As a result, “during the last decades of the twentieth century and into this millennium the meticulous, time-consuming work that catalogers have traditionally performed has evolved exponentially,” Hall-Ellis, Jerabek, and Valliant point out. “The professional responsibilities shouldered by catalogers and their technical services colleagues have increased to include:

  • bibliographic access
  • database building and maintenance
  • serials control
  • acquisitions binding
  • mastering computer equipment and peripheral devices,
  • accompanying technologies,
  • specialized websites
  • integrated library systems
  • resource sharing networks, and
  • bibliographic utilities” (2011, pp. 2-3).

In the contemporary information environment, catalogers are expected to be proficient in “metadata and classification schemes, bibliographic utilities, electronic resources, Internet-resident tools, integrated library systems, interoperability technologies, human-computer interactions, networking, and telecommunications” (ibid., p. 3).  The metadata schemes designed specifically to accommodate descriptive bibliographic records in the digitization projects, for example, include Dublin Core, EAD, MODS, METS, and TEI.  Of no lesser importance are the standards guiding the second and third steps of cataloging and metadata creation: assignment of subject headings and classification.  Catalogers need to be well versed in the Library of Congress Subject Headings for subject analysis, and apply the Library of Congress, Dewey Decimal, and National Library of Medicine classification schemes, in the last step of cataloging.

As the majority of printed materials, databases, and electronic resources are cataloged using internationally adopted rules and conventions, such as the RDA: Resource Description and Access (RDA) and its predecessor Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, 2nd edition (AACR2), the catalogers of today must closely follow professional guidelines, documentation, and standards developed by the national and international bodies representing the cataloging trade.  The ALA’s ALCTS/LITA Metadata Standards Committee, formerly known as the Machine-Readable Bibliographic Information Committee (MARBI), the National Information Standards Organization (NISO), and the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA)—have been especially instrumental in the cataloging domain.

IFLA, in particular, is known for having initiated a fundamental re-examination of cataloging theory and practice on the international scale.  From 1992-1995, it developed Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR), based on “an entity-relationship model as a generalized view of the bibliographic universe, intended to be independent of any cataloging code or implementation,” according to Tillett (2004, p. 2).

The changes in the cataloging environment—the rise of the web, expansion of types of content and its complexity, diversification of information carriers, and globalization—have resulted in the development of a new cataloging standard, RDA, grounded in the FRBR theoretical model.  The result of the IFLA development, FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) is viewed as one of the main change drivers in cataloging. Catalogers, along with all other fellow information professionals, need to be flexible and “adapt and change as the world does, using new ideas and technologies. FRBR is one of the ways libraries will grow,” Denton maintains (2007, p. 44), in agreement with Tillett’s prediction: “FRBR promises to have a profound influence on future systems design.  Vendors and bibliographic utilities, like VTLS, OCLC, and RLG have already embraced the FRBR conceptual model in designing their future systems” (2004, p. 7).  FRBR has been instrumental in the ongoing effort of transitioning into a Linked Data environment—a revolutionary change in the information organization driving the departure from traditional bibliographic records into the new environment where pieces of data are linked using URIs (Unique Resource Identifiers).

The cataloger’s judgment has always been critical for accurate bibliographic description.  In the pre-RDA era, the concept of cataloger’s judgment was built into the foundation of Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules. In particular, AACR2 Rule 0.9 encourages “the application of individual judgment based on specific local knowledge” (Olson, Bothmann, & Schomberg, 2008, p. 1).  When describing an item, catalogers should not only consider both the content and the physical form, but also be as specific as possible. “It is important to bring out all aspects of the item being described,” the AACR2 Rule 0.24 states. “As a rule of thumb, the cataloguer should follow the more specific rules applying to the item being catalogued, whenever they differ from the general rules” (ibid., 2008, p. 15).

Based on the FRBR—a conceptual model that is centered on the user and aimed at fulfilling concrete user tasks (find, identify, select, and obtain)—the RDA standard relies on cataloger’s judgment even more heavily than its predecessor, AACR2.  Founded upon the International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD) principles, RDA states that “descriptive records should include all of the core elements applicable to a particular resource that will enable users to find, identify, select, and obtain it,” according to Weber and Austin (2011, p. 3). As the authors explain, catalogers must create descriptive metadata in such a way that, in addition to providing access points to any specific resource, it will also inform users “of the existence of all known related expressions and/or manifestations of the work” (ibid., p. 8). Most importantly, “conscious of our role as facilitators of resource discovery, catalogers must be wary of the implications of providing information that is misleading or unclear.  The ability of those outside of the “known” user community to discover a resource via an external web query and the potential for discovery by the anonymous user suggest that catalogers should no longer presume to be cataloging for the immediate user community but should instead assume that the bibliographic record is being created as a public service for the global user community” (ibid., p. 8).

Finally, in the current climate of ongoing economic challenges, catalogers are expected to participate in information services evaluation and fundraising efforts by making evidence-based arguments “demonstrating the direct contribution of cataloging services and innovations to institutional-wide goals such as impact on users, institutional reputation, and prestige,” according to Borie, MacDonald, and Sze, asserting catalogers’ place in the value of libraries (2015, p. 364).


To support my skills in this competency, I present the following examples of my work:

  1. The Descriptive Cataloging, Authority Control, and Classification assignments from LIBR 248 (Beginning Cataloging and Classification)
  2. The Cataloging assignments from LIBR 249 (Advanced Cataloging and Organization of Information)
  3. The Metadata exercises from INFO 281 (Seminar in Contemporary Issues – Topic: Metadata)
  4. The Dublin Core Adaptation discussion from INFO 281 (Seminar in Contemporary Issues – Topic: Metadata)

LIBR 248 Descriptive Cataloging, Authority Control, and Classification assignments

The first piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency G is a compilation of descriptive cataloging, authority control, and classification assignments from LIBR 248 (Beginning Cataloging and Classification). The assignments include: Descriptive Cataloging: Books, Authority Control/Access Points, Library of Congress Subject Headings, and Dewey Decimal Classification/Library of Congress Classification. Throughout this course, I assembled a total of 20 books and created machine-readable cataloging (MARC) records for them in OCLC Connexion—an online bibliographic and authority records utility allowing to share the records with the entire OCLC cooperative online resource catalog.

This piece of evidence shows my ability to create MARC records, using MARC 21 Format for Bibliographic Data, for print monographs in OCLC Connexion using the RDA and AACR2 rules. It demonstrates that I can compose the bibliographic description of the items, determine access points to the records, assign proper subjects from the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), and use the Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress classification schedules to select the call number for an item, allowing to place items on the same subject together on the same shelf in the library.

Click here to read the paper.

LIBR 249 Cataloging assignments

The second piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency G is a compilation of cataloging assignments from LIBR 249 (Advanced Cataloging and Organization of Information). Here, I present the MARC bibliographic records I had created in OCLC Connexion for monographs, DVDs, maps, sound recordings, music scores, electronic resources, and continuing resources—coded in MARC 21 Format for Bibliographic Data. In the compilation, I have selected one record from each assignment, representing a particular format of the material cataloged.

Through my work on the LIBR 249 assignments, I learned to perform original cataloging for both print and electronic serials, electronic resources, integrated resources, sound recordings, videos, and other nonprint resources. I have also gained experience in creating personal name and corporate body authority records according to national cataloging guidelines, as well as using Library of Congress subject headings, Dewey Decimal classification, and the Library of Congress classification system for subject cataloging—for items in various formats.

Click here to read the paper.

INFO 281 Metadata exercises

The third piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency G is a compilation of metadata exercises from INFO 281 (Seminar in Contemporary Issues – Topic: Metadata). Here, I present the bibliographic records I had created using a variety of metadata schemes, including Dublin Core, RDF-XML, MODS, TEI, as well as a crosswalk from Dublin Core to MARC21.

This piece of evidence showcases my mastery of various metadata schemes in application to information objects in a variety of analog and digital formats, and my understanding of the issues arising from generating metadata crosswalks as they relate to semantic mapping.

Click here to read the paper.

INFO 281 Dublin Core Adaptation discussion

The fourth piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency G is a Dublin Core Adaptation discussion from  LIBR 204 (Information Organizations and Management). Dublin Core is a very simple, flexible, and adaptable metadata schema. It has been used for many different types of resources and has a number of specific iterations such as VRACore (visual resources), PBCore (public broadcasting), and Darwin Core (biological sciences). In this discussion, I present my own Dublin Core adaptation to a personal collection of tea pots and discuss the metadata elements I used for cataloging of my own collection.

During my work on this assignment, I enhanced my knowledge of Dublin Core metadata schema and learned to adapt the standard DC element set to a personal collection of three-dimensional objects.

Click here to read the paper.


If I were to describe the most critical aspects of cataloging in one sentence, I would follow in steps of Olson, Bothmann, and Schomberg, who said: “We catalog materials to provide a service to our users, to describe the material so they know enough about it to decide if it is what they might want to use, and to provide access by enough words, terms, phrases, and names so the user can find it” (2008, pp. 56-57). The main catalogers’ challenge in the multi-format information environment is therefore in the ability to create bibliographic records for these diverse resources in such a way that helps meet the user’s stated search criteria, identify a resource, select a resource that is appropriate to the user’s information needs, and acquire, or obtain access to, the resource described. In the user-centered environment, all cataloging systems and standards that I have learned about, and practiced, in the course of my MLIS program—level of description, authority control, subject analysis, controlled vocabularies, metadata schemes, classification systems, and cataloging rules—will continue playing equally important role in resource description, discovery, and access, in the diverse library collections.


Borie, J., MacDonald, K., & Sze, E. (2015). Asserting catalogers’ place in the “Value of Libraries” conversation. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 53(3/4), 352-367.

Denton, W. (2007). FRBR and the history of cataloging. In A. Taylor (Ed.), Understanding FRBR: What it is and how it will affect our retrieval (pp. 35-57). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Hall-Ellis, S. D., with Jerabek, A., & Valliant, M. W. (2011). Contemporary cataloging: A handbook for practitioners and students. Athens, GA: University of Georgia System Regents, 2011.

Hall-Ellis, S.D. (2015). Organizing information: Technical services. In S. Hirsh (Ed.), Information services today: An introduction (pp. 139-148). Lanham, MD : Rowman & Littlefield.

Olson, N. B., Bothmann, R. L., & Schomberg, J. J. (2008). Cataloging of audiovisual materials and other special materials: A manual based on AACR2 and MARC 21. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Tillett, B. (2004). What is FRBR? A conceptual model for the bibliographic universe. Washington, DC: Library of Congress.

Weber, M. B., & Austin, F. A. (2011). Describing electronic, digital, and other media using AACR2 and RDA: A how-to-do-it manual and CD-ROM for librarians. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.