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Core Concepts in Cataloging

Statements of cataloging objects can be found in standard works as well as in a number of relatively recent research papers and proposals. Many of these documents can be found on the IFLA, JSC, and ALCTS web sites. For documents pertaining to electronic resources, see  Cataloging Electronic Documents.

Cutter's Rules (1)

  1. To enable a person to find a book of which either
    • (A) the author
    • (B) the title
    • (C) the subject is known
  2. To show what the library has
    • (D) by a given author
    • (E) on a given subject
    • (F) in a given kind of literature
  3. To assist in the choice of a book
    • (G) as to its edition (bibliographically)
    • (H) as to its character (literary or topical)


  1. Author-entry with the necessary references (for A and D).
  2. Title-entry or title-reference (for B).
  3. Subject-entry, cross-references, and classed subject table (for C and E).
  4. Form-entry (for F).
  5. Giving edition and imprint, with notes when necessary (for G).
  6. Notes (for H).

Ranganathan's Five laws of library science:(2)

  • Books are for use
  • Every reader his book
  • Every books its reader
  • Save the time of the reader
  • Library is a growing organism

Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) (3)

Group 1 entities:

products of intellectual or artistic endeavor that are named or described in bibliographic records. a) and b) represent artistic or intellectual content. c) and d) reflect physical form a) Work - distinct intellectual or artistic creation b) Expression - intellectual or artistic realization of a work c) Manifestation - physical embodiment of an expression of a work d) Item - single examplar of a manifestation

Group 2 entities:

those responsible for the intellectual or artistic content, physical production and dissemination, or the custodianship of such products a) Person b) Corporate body

Group 3 entities:

serve as the subjects of intellectual or artistic endeavor a) Concept b) Object c) Event d) Place

IFLA Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records User Tasks


a) Find. Find entities that correspond to the user's stated search criteria (i.e. to locate either a single entity or a set of entities in a file or database as the result of a search using an attribute or relationship of the entity) b) Identify: Identify an entity (i.e. to confirm that the entity described corresponds to the entity sought, or to distinguish between two or more entities with similar characteristics) c) Select: Select and entity that is appropriate to the user's needs (i.e. to choose an entity that meets the user's requirements with respect to content, physical format, etc., or to reject an entity as being inappropriate to the user's needs) d) Acquire: Acquire or obtain access to the entity described (i.e. to acquire an entity through purchase, loan, etc., or to access an entity electronically through an online connection to a remote computer)

Additionally, it is recommended that at a basic level the national bibliographic record should assist the user to do at least the following (local use of a particular item are not addressed):

Find all manifestations embodying:
  • the works for which a given person or corporate body is responsible
  • the various expressions of a given work
  • works on a given subject
  • works in a given series

Find a particular manifestation:

  • when the name(s) of the person(s) and/or corporate bod(ies) responsible for the work(s) embodied in the manifestion is (are) known
  • when the title of the manifestation is known
  • when the manifestation identifier is known

Identify a work
Identify an expression of a work
Identify a manifestation
Select a work
Select an expression
Select a manifestation
Obtain a manifestation

Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records and MARC21 (6) (7) (11)

Library of Congress Network Development and MARC Standards Office commissioned a study the relationship of MARC21 to FRBR, the Logical Structure of the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, and the set of user tasks that the format supports. FRBR Display Tool:
The Network Development and MARC Standards Office FRBR Display Tool sorts the bibliographic data found in a set of MARC records into hierarchical displays by grouping it using the "Works," "Expressions," and "Manifestations" FRBR concepts. Possible uses for the FRBR DisplayTool include experimentation with the collocating and sorting of search result sets into the FRBR categories to test concepts.
OCLC Research FRBR work-set algorithm:
An algorithm for converting MARC21 bibliographic databases to the "FRBR" (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) model.

OCLC research activities and IFLS'a Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records. Their study of Tobias Smollett's The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker found it difficult to determine which records represented different expressions or manifestations. (8)

Guidelines for OPAC displays

Good OPAC displays will exemplify the cataloging principles. (9)(10)

Rahmatollah Fattahi's JSC paper adds "housekeeping" or management.(4)

The management task is simply a heading under which may be grouped those tasks which are necessary to an institution, its staff, or its business partners and which related to fulfilling the four basic user tasks. The user needs are paramount; the manager needs are subordinate. Resource description needs are grounded in needs of users to find, identify, select, and obtain some information. We judge our tools - catalogs, indexes, search engines, etc. - primarily how well they do these tasks. An not only must they perform the user tasks well, but they must make the management task or house keeping as simple, easy, flexible, and cheap as possible. (5) Users cannot be categorized. Any one user during the discovery process, may perform both basic and advanced tasks and have both basic and advanced needs. Our catalogs have become one tool among many, but those "many" are not isolated; the catalog is a tool in a network of tools. The basic principle of tools in a network of tools is interoperability. Each tool in a network of tools must be compatible with each other from the user's perspective. The tools are expected to be used to identify and select and deliver.


(1) Cutter, Charles Ammi. Rules for a dictionary catalog. 4th ed. , rewritten. Washington : G.P.O., 1904. (London : Republished by the Library Association, 1962) p. 12.

(2) Ranganathan, S. R. The five laws of library science. Ed. 2, reprinted 1963. Bombay, New York: Asia Publishing House, 1963. p.9.

(3) IFLA. Study on Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records

Cataloguing Section's Working Group on FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records)

(4) Fattahi, Rahmatollah. AACR2 and Catalogue Production Technology.1997 (JSC paper)

(5) Beacom, Matthew. in

ALCTS. CC:DA. Task Force on Metadata. Summary report, June 1999

(6) Delsey, Tom. Functional Analysis of the MARC21 Bibliographic and Holdings Formats

(7) Joint Steering Committee. Principles of AACR

(4) Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records

(9) Yee, Martha M. Guidelines for OPAC displays. Prepared for the IFLA Task Force on Guidelines for OPAC displays, Nov. 24. 1998.

(10)  Guidelines for Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC). Prepared for the IFLA Task Force on Guidelines for OPAC displays, Nov. 24. 1998.

(11)  FRBR BibliographyFRBR Review Group � IFLA, Division IV, Cataloguing Section

Other Resources

Davis, Ian. FRBR & RDF - FRBR core & FRBR extended.


Denton, William. "FRBR and fundamental cataloging rules." May 2003.


FRBR in 21st Century Catalogues: an invitational workshop Report: frbr-workshop/report.htm


Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) relations in RDF / Ian Davis and Richard Newman


Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) / IFLA, Cataloguing Section


Joint Steering Committee (JCS). Logical structure of the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules - Part 1 and 2


Joint Steering Committee (JCS). Alignment of AACR2 with ISBD (ER)


Statement of International Cataloging Principles - AKA: Paris Principles for cataloging