The following is a list of frequently asked questions about cataloging. Frequently Asked Questions about Acquisitions is also available on the Cataloging and Acquisitions Web site.
... for the General Public
- Can I search the Library's catalogs over the Internet?
- May I request that my publication be cataloged by the Library of Congress?
- Is LC's cataloging used by other libraries?
... for Publishers
- How can I obtain information about cataloging services such as Cataloging in Publication (CIP), International Standard Serial Number (ISSN), and other services that supply standard numbers for publications?
... for Librarians
Cataloging at the Library of Congress
- What types of materials are cataloged at the Library of Congress (LC)?
- What organizational areas of the Library perform cataloging?
- Is cataloging completed when a title is deposited for copyright registration?
- How many titles are cataloged by LC staff in one year?
- What levels of cataloging are used at LC?
- What cataloging rules and publications do LC catalogers use?
- Which of the MARC (machine-readable cataloging) formats are used by cataloging staff at LC?
- What office is responsible for cataloging policy at LC?
- Does LC use the Dewey Decimal Classification?
- What is the difference between monographs, serials, and integrating resources?
- What is "initial bibliographic control" (IBC)?
Cataloging Documentation and Standards
- How can I order cataloging documentation from LC?
- Who publishes the Library of Congress Program for Cooperative Cataloging Policy Statements (LC-PCC PS)?
- Are the Library of Congress Classification (LCC) schedules available on the Internet?
- What cataloging-related standards are developed and maintained at LC?
How to Contact the Library of Congress
- How may I contact LC with cataloging questions, comments, and queries?
- How may I direct questions to LC about the use of the MARC 21 formats, including which fields to use for specific types of data?
Yes, there are several different methods currently available for searching the Library's catalogs over the Internet. The Library of Congress Online Catalog Home Page provides access to and information about these search methods.
The Library does not catalog publications at the request of authors. Publications are selected for bibliographic cataloging according to guidelines developed by cataloging managers and collection development officials.
Libraries throughout the world rely on LC cataloging, either directly through the Library's online catalog, through the Cataloging Distribution Service, or by participating in bibliographic utilities or cataloging services. In fiscal year 2014, the Cataloging Distribution Service had 3,540 active accounts.
How can I obtain information about cataloging services such as Cataloging in Publication (CIP), International Standard Serial Number (ISSN), and other services that supply standard numbers for publications?
"Resources for … Publishers" is available on LC's Web site, listing a variety of cataloging-related services for publishers. These services include the International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) for serial publications and Preassigned Card Number (PCN) and Cataloging in Publication (CIP) for books. Information about the International Standard Book Number (ISBN), a service coordinated by the R.R. Bowker Company, is also included in "Resources for … Publishers." Registration information, application forms, and general information about Copyright is available through "Resources for … Publishers" as well.
The Library of Congress completes bibliographic cataloging for materials that are selected for addition to the collections. The cataloging provides for the identification, description, and access to these materials, which include items in hundreds of languages and virtually every format – either analog or digital. The range of formats includes books, journals, government documents, maps, globes, atlases, microforms, e-resources, sound and video recordings, prints, drawings, photographs, films, manuscripts, braille books and music, and other formats. While virtually all subject areas are represented in the collections, the Library does not attempt to collect comprehensively in the areas of clinical medicine and technical agriculture. These subjects are collected by the National Library of Medicine and the National Agricultural Library, respectively. (Works deposited for copyright registration are also cataloged following copyright cataloging procedures.)
Cataloging materials for LC collections is performed in many different areas of the Library although most of the books, journals, microforms, and e-resources are cataloged in the Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access Directorate (ABA). The list below identifies the materials that are not cataloged by ABA and the name of the area that does the cataloging:
- Maps and other cartographic materials (Geography and Map Division)
- Visual materials, including prints, photographs, etc. (Prints and Photographs Division)
- Materials for the blind and physically handicapped, including braille, audio materials, etc. (National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped)
- Manuscripts (Manuscript Division, American Folklife Center)
- Motion pictures and other moving images (Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, American Folklife Center)
- Sound recordings (Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division; American Folklife Center)
- Printed and manuscript music, books and e-resources related to music, music special collections (Music Division)
- Materials submitted for copyright protection (U.S. Copyright Office; full bibliographic cataloging of these items may also be done in other LC cataloging units)
Items submitted for copyright are cataloged in the U.S. Copyright Office by catalogers using the Copyright Cataloging Rules. These rules are developed and maintained within the Office and specifically address facts about copyright ownership of a work that include basic bibliographic information. Full bibliographic cataloging is undertaken by the Library's cataloging units outside of the Copyright Office for those copyright deposits that are selected for inclusion in the Library's collection.
LC catalogs approximately 350,000 bibliographic volumes each year.
The following levels of cataloging are used at the Library of Congress: full-, minimal-, abbreviated- and collection-level cataloging. For information about the Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access Directorate's application of these different cataloging levels for monographs, refer to the document Modes of Cataloging [PDF - 78 KB]. For information about cataloging levels used for serials, refer to the CONSER Standard Record.
For materials cataloged for the general and area studies collections (primarily textual materials), LC catalogers currently use Resource Description and Access (RDA) for original cataloging, although the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules may still be used for processing copy cataloging. Cataloging for the Library’s special collections may represent several different standards. The publications listed below are also used by LC catalogers (most of which are also included in Cataloger's Desktop).
Descriptive cataloging aspects:
- LC-PCC Policy Statements
- Music and Sound Recordings Online Manual (MOIM)
- Descriptive Cataloging Manual
- CONSER Editing Guide
- CONSER Cataloging Manual
- Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials (Books)
- Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials (Graphics)
- Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials (Serials)
- Map Cataloging Manual
- Describing Archives: a Contents Standard (DACS)
- Archival Moving Image Materials: A Cataloging Manual
Subject cataloging aspects:
- Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Subject Headings Manual
Classification/Inventory Control Aspects:
- Library of Congress Classification
- Classification and Shelflisting Manual
- Dewey Decimal Classification
- LC Cutter Table
Machine-Readable Cataloging Aspects (MARC)
- MARC 21 Format for Bibliographic Data
- MARC 21 Format for Authority Data
- MARC 21 Code List for Countries
- MARC 21 Code List for Geographic Areas
- MARC 21 Code List for Languages
- MARC 21 Code List for Relators, Sources, Description Conventions
- MARC 21 Format for Classification Data
- MARC 21 Format for Holdings Data
- MARC Code List for Organizations
The MARC 21 Format for Bibliographic Data is used by LC catalogers when inputting bibliographic records and data in LC's integrated library system database and in OCLC. The MARC 21 Format for Authority Data is used by LC catalogers when creating authority records for the name and subject authority files. The MARC 21 Format for Classification Data is used by the Policy and Standards Division in the creation of Library of Congress Classification records that are available in Classification Web. Library of Congress Classification schedules are produced from records in the MARC 21 classification format. (See also the question below, relating to the availability of the Library of Congress Classification schedules on the Internet.)
The Policy and Standards Division (PSD), a division in the Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access Directorate, is responsible for coordinating bibliographic cataloging policy throughout the Library. Cataloging policy specialists work with management and staff in all areas of the Library to develop LC cataloging policy. The U.S. Copyright Office is responsible for copyright cataloging policy.
The Library of Congress does not use the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) to organize any part of its own collections. The Dewey Program maintained at the Library serves an outreach function to the Library's national and international constituencies. The Dewey Decimal Classification is the most widely used library classification in the world, and the mission of the Dewey Section of the U.S. Programs, Law, and Literature Division in the Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access Directorate is, on behalf of library users everywhere, to develop, apply, and assist in the use of the DDC.
A Dewey editorial operation has been maintained at the Library since 1923, and cataloging staff began adding Dewey numbers to bibliographic records (printed cards) for books being processed in the 1930s. Dewey Section classifiers now add numbers to approximately 88,178 records each year, in all subject fields, for items in English and the major European languages. These records are distributed through the MARC delivery services of the Cataloging Distribution Service.
The editorial staff (the editor and two assistant editors), which is funded by the Classification's current owners, OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc., revises and updates the DDC continuously, with revisions appearing on the Dewey home page and WebDewey. New print versions are issued by OCLC, the Classification's publisher, at approximately seven-year intervals. The most recent version, Edition 23, was published in mid-2011.
The rules for cataloging bibliographic resources cover monographs, serials, and integrating resources. Monographs are either complete in one part or intended to be completed within a finite number of separate parts. Serials are also issued in separate issues or parts but have no predetermined conclusion. Integrating resources are added to or changed by updates, but these updates are integrated into the resource itself instead of remaining separate. Any format of material (e.g., printed texts, maps, electronic resources, musical scores, microforms) can be issued as a monograph or a serial. The most common integrating resources are updating loose-leafs, updating databases, and updating Web sites.
Initial bibliographic control (IBC) encompasses all the bibliographic processing that is done on an item at the acquisitions stage, including work needed to acquire an item for the Library, as well as the processing that is performed when an item is first received. Initial searching is done to determine that an item is not already in the Library’s collections or that it has not already been received and cataloged, or that it is not already on order. A bibliographic record created at the IBC stage usually contains basic identifying information that is supplemented with additional information (authorized headings, subject analysis, classification, etc.) at a later stage in the cataloging process.
The most widely used cataloging documentation resources are integrated in an online product, Cataloger’s Desktop. Ordering information and more general information about obtaining LC cataloging documentation is available on the Cataloging Distribution Service website.
LC-PCC PSs are published as part of the RDA Toolkit, and are developed by the Library of Congress and the Program for Cooperative Cataloging.
Classification Web, a Web-based subscription service from the Cataloging Distribution Service, includes the LC Classification, as well as correlations with Library of Congress Subject Headings, Genre/Form headings, juvenile subject headings, and Dewey Decimal Classification. Print-ready PDF files of Library of Congress Classification schedules are freely available from the ABA website.
The Library of Congress is responsible for developing and maintaining a number of cataloging publications that serve as standards for cataloging library materials throughout the world, including: Library of Congress-Program for Cooperative Cataloging Policy Statements, Library of Congress Subject Headings, and Library of Congress Classification. Other cataloging documentation that addresses various formats of materials are also developed and maintained at LC (e.g., CONSER Cataloging Manual, and Thesaurus for Graphic Materials).
Standards that are necessary for record interchange between library systems are developed and maintained in LC's Network Development & MARC Standards Office. These include Machine-Readable Cataloging (MARC) formats for bibliographic data, authority data, classification data, holdings data, and community information, and numerous MARC 21 code lists. The Library is also the maintenance agency for the information retrieval protocols ANSI/NISO standard Z39.50 (Information Retrieval (Z39.50): Application Service Definition and Protocol Specification) and SRU (Search and Retrieve via URL).
In the area of metadata, the Library of Congress is the maintenance agency for MODS, the Metadata Object Description Schema and METS, the Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard, and is leading the efforts to define the Bibliographic Framework Initiative (BIBFRAME). In addition to being a replacement for MARC, BIBFRAME serves as a general model for expressing and connecting bibliographic data. A major focus of the initiative will be to determine a transition path for the MARC 21 formats while preserving a robust data exchange that has supported resource sharing and cataloging cost savings in recent decades.
Cooperative cataloging is a way in which libraries work together to create bibliographic and authority records that can also be used by others. Libraries agree to follow established cataloging practices and work in systems or utilities that facilitate the use of records by others. Bibliographic records for materials collected at different institutions can then be shared. Name, subject, and uniform title authority records that are created for one bibliographic record may also be used when the same headings are needed for another bibliographic record. A record for a serial publication can be collectively maintained when one institution creates the initial record and another adds data at a later time to reflect changes in the publication.
The Library of Congress is involved in cooperative cataloging programs through its participation in the Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC). LC serves on both the PCC Steering Committee and the Policy Committee. It also operates as the secretariat to coordinate and support component programs within the PCC: Name Authority Cooperative Program (NACO), Bibliographic Record Cooperative Program (BIBCO), CONSER (Cooperative Online Serials) Program, and Subject Authority Cooperative Program (SACO).
LC staff members are among those who conduct direct training of cataloging staff at other institutions and serve as reviewers and points of contact for members. LC staff serves on other PCC committees, task forces, and groups to develop policies and practices for the Program. LC is a CONSER member and its authenticated serial records represent the largest single contribution to the CONSER database. LC catalogers contribute other bibliographic and authority records that are distributed as PCC records to the library community.
The National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC) program provides and promotes bibliographic access to the nation's documentary heritage by producing cataloging describing archival collections held by eligible archival repositories throughout the U.S. and its territories, and by providing free searching, via a NUCMC gateway, of archival cataloging in OCLC WorldCat.
Please see the Library of Congress "Ask a Librarian" Web page. Complete the General Inquiry Form to send general questions and comments and the Error Report Form to report catalog or authority record errors. An alternative is to send an email message to the ABA Policy and Standards Division.
Questions on the use of MARC 21 formats, including which fields to use for types of data, should be directed via email to the Network Development and MARC Standards Office.