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Cataloging Basics

General Resources | RDA | Classification | MARC | Subject Headings | FRBR

General Resources

Library catalogs contain information about all materials owned by the library. The information that describes each item is referred to as a bibliographic record or catalog record. Cataloging is the process followed by librarians to create the bibliographic record. To perform catalog work means to systematically record details about a published item, such as, title, author, publisher, date, physical description, subject headings, edition, and call number. A set of standardized rules for cataloging and transcribing information about library materials governs the cataloging process. These rules are published as RDA (Resource Description and Access) which replaces AACR2 (Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, Revised)

  • Catalogers Reference Shelf – Based on 21 MARC manuals and other reference works published by the Library of Congress
  • Cataloging and RDA Webinars – Online webinars from the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS)
  • A Glossary of Cataloging Terms – University of Oklahoma Libraries (compiled by Charlene Rezabek ; edited by Katherine Wong, Elaine Bradshaw, Nedria Santizo, Ila Grice) – A comprehensive source of definitions of words used in cataloging
  • Languages -ALA-LC Romanization Tables

RDA (replaces AACR2)

Designed for the digital world and an expanding universe of metadata users, RDA: Resource Description and Access is the new, unified cataloging standard.


To assist library customers in locating materials within the library, catalogers assign call numbers which are printed on labels that are attached to individual materials. The two most commonly used classification systems are: the Dewey Decimal Classification system (DDC) and the Library of Congress Classification system (LC). Most public libraries use the Dewey schedules. DDC is a numerical scheme which divides all knowledge into ten general categories and further subdivides the major headings according to subject specificity. Most university and research libraries use the Library of Congress Classification System. LC uses an alphabetical code in combination with a numbering scheme to define subject content.

MARC – Cataloging for the Computer

A variety of computer software packages are available to produce catalog records. These computer programs help libraries develop online catalogs for local use, and, in addition to make their catalogs available to remote users via the World Wide Web. In order for the computer to interpret the information found in a cataloging record, libraries follow a standard professional practice called MARC record cataloging. MARC is an acronym for Machine-Readable Cataloging Record. The official rules and documentation for cataloging in MARC format is compiled by the Library of Congress and published in the document: USMARC Format for Bibliographic Data.

Subject Headings

Libraries assign subject headings to assist the public in finding materials on a particular subject when an author or title is not known. Libraries strive for consistency in subject heading use so that all items with the same subject will be listed together in the library catalog. The most authoritative list consulted by librarians to determine appropriate headings and cross-references is the Library of Congress Subject Headings(LCSH). Some small libraries use the Sears List of Subject Headings to help identify proper subject terms. There are also subject heading lists to address special topics, such as children’s literature.


For more information or assistance contact:

Linda Roholt
Phone Number (801) 715-6754 or (800) 662-9150 (Utah toll-free)
Email address