Library Cataloguing

Library Cataloguing: The cataloguing department decides on the appropriate form for identifying authorship of works in the collection, describes the item as a physical item or a virtual source, and assigns subject access points.  In the cataloguing, on the process lip, headings for different types of entries to be prepared should be listed. The headings should be listed on the pattern of a tracing section. At this state, the cataloguer should pass on the volumes along with process slips to the typist to type out catalogue cards or to handwrite the card. So at the end, the product of cataloguing is just like a card or in modern sense an entry in the OPAC giving essential general information about informational entity. This essential general information includes details about author, title, place of publication, name of publisher, year of publication, edition, editorship, pagination, illustration, etc. The individual cards which bear the class number or call number to enable the item to be located are arranged in some definite order. It may be noted that for each volume, an additional card called shelf list card shall be prepared.






Cataloguer / Catalog Librarian: The library professional who is engaged in the process of cataloging of library materials is called cataloguer. He compiles the list of documents according to a definite set of rules to enable the item to be located in the collection.


1. Definition: In order to provide access to the holdings of a library, an index or list of the materials is always prepared and maintained systematically for the readers. It contains all the essential details about the documents with location mark, usually in numerical form, by which the documents can be located on the shelves of the library. This list or index or tool is basically called a library catalogue.

Cataloguing meant those activities that record, describe and index the resources of a collection that were acquired in a manner that will aid the end-user in locating materials in the collection(s). Library items that are written in a foreign script are, in some cases, transliterated to the script of the catalog.

Ranganathan has defined a library catalogue as “a list of document in a library or in a collection forming a portion of it”. A “list” refers to some kind of arrangement based on a set plan and a “document” constitutes embodied thought, which is a ‘record of work on paper or other material fit for physical handling, transport across space and preservation through time’. This means that document includes all types of records in which information can be stored or presented.

According to Ruth French Strout, a catalogue may be considered “a work in which contents are arranged in a reasonable way, according to a set plan or merely word by word”.

2. Need and Purpose: The objective or function of the early catalogue was to serve as an inventory list with progressive pattern of arrangement based on the order of accession chronologically by date of publication or period of author. From this arose a wide variety of approaches and an expansion of the inventory idea to include retrieval.

The modern library catalogue serves both the inventory (listing) and retrieval (finding) function. Without cataloguing, it would be difficult for anyone to know what is in the collection, how many items dealing with a particular topic are in the collection and so on. What one sees in the public catalogue is the result of the efforts of the cataloguing staff and the extent of the use of library resources depends greatly upon the quality of it. A well made catalogue definitely adds to the reputation of the library. Library cataloguing allows library aids to assist the end-users in locating the materials. The need and purpose of the library catalogue can be viewed from the following points of view

a) General Objectives: The general objectives of library catalogues are-

i) Register: At any time the user may not find the entire collection of the library on the shelf. Therefore, to know about the entire collection (what is available) at any time reliance is to be given to some other dependable tool. Catalogue, which is a register of all informational items found in a particular library or group of libraries serves this end.

ii) Finding Aid: Cataloguing helps the user in locating the document in the stack. Simply it guides the user to the exact location of a stack in which he / she will find the book of his/her interest.

iii) Describes an Entity: Catalogue is only one of the many forms of bibliography, giving essential general information about an informational entity (e.g., books, computer files, graphics, regalia, cartographic materials, a webpage etc.).

iv) Satisfies Different Approaches: Cataloguing satisfies different kinds of approaches of the patron of the library, say author, title, series, subject approach etc.

b) Charles Ammi Cutter Objectives: Charles Ammi Cutter made the first explicit statement regarding the objectives of a bibliographic system in 1876. These have been frequently quoted and criticized. According to Cutter, those objectives are

a) To enable a person to find a book of which (Finding objective) one of the following is known

i) The author

ii) The title

iii) The subject.

b) To show what the library has (collocating objective)

i) By a given author

ii) On a given subject

iii) In a given kind of literature

c) To assist in the choice of a book (Choice objective)

i) As to its edition (bibliographically)

ii) As to its character (literary or topical)

It is only a few readers who are able to express their subject requirements in specific terms. They think of either a narrower or broader subject rather than the specific subject they require. Considering this, Ranganathan raised an important point by quoting “if it is the interest in the subject which takes him to the library, his wants will be better served if the catalogue can spread before him a full connected panorama of all materials on his specific subject, all its subdivisions and all broader subject of which it is itself a subdivision”. Ranganathan in the light of the five laws of library & information science expressed the objectives of a catalogue as the following

A catalogue should be so designed as to

i) Disclose to every reader his or her document;

ii) Secure for every document its reader;

iii) Save the time of the reader and with this save the time of the staff.

The Cutter objectives are more specific in comparison to the Ranganathan approach in describing the objectives of a library catalogue.

c) Paris Conference: The principles adopted by the International Conference on Cataloguing Principles held in Paris in 1961 are considered a landmark that leads to the standardization of practices. The Paris conference resolved the function of a catalogue as given below

The catalogue should be efficient instrument for ascertaining

a) Whether the library contains a particular book specified by

i) Its author and title or

ii) If the author is not named in the book its title alone or

iii) If author and title are inappropriate or insufficient for identification, a substitute for the title and

b) i) Which work by a particular author and

ii) Which edition of a particular work in the library.

The function as adopted by the Paris conference is more or less a restatement of the Cutter objectives as described in his first edition of 1876.

d) Simonton Objectives: According to Simonton (1964) a library catalogue serves three purposes in the conventional library and especially in the research library.

i) Describing all items catalogued to a degree of precision permitting positive identification.

ii) Establishing and describing the relationship of all items catalogued in terms of community of authorship or sponsorship, similarly of context and continuity of bibliographic history.

iii) Serving as a finding list.

Though the objectives stated by Cutter have been criticized a great deal and quoted very often, these can only explain the explicit objective of a catalogue. These have stood the test of time and according to Patrick Quigg “later statements’ are most usually restatements of them”.

3. Different Kinds of Catalogue: The catalogue may be of different types based on different approaches to division.

Based on physical form of presentation library catalogue can be of the following types

i) Printed Catalogue: The printed catalogue is also known as dictionary catalogues or bound book catalogue. This type of catalogue is just like a book where individual catalogues are printed to make it easy to consult for the user. The printed catalogues sometimes are interlaced with blank leaves on which additions could be recorded. This type of catalogue is difficult to produce and update; it’s very difficult to interpolate new entries and maintain correct sequence in it. Again, its portability can be a disadvantage to other users because when a single volume is taken to nearby table to be used by a particular user, it becomes difficult for the other user to consult and there is no guarantee that the user will keep the volume in the proper place. The British Museum catalogue of printed books is an example of this kind of catalogue.

ii) Guard Book Catalogue: This type of catalogue is also known as paste down catalogue. In paste down catalogue, the base is a bound volume of thick blank sheets; each typed or printed entry is pasted in the correct sequence on the successive right hand pages, leaving space for at least five more entries to be inserted between any two consecutive pages. The left hand page is left blank for pasting down any new entry not finding its due place vacant on the right hand page, in the corresponding position. In case a given portion of the catalogue becomes too crowded, the stripes are lifted and redistributed. This is similar to a printed catalogue except that additional new entries can be pasted in and also new pages can be inserted. It is sometimes used in conjunction with a printed catalogue and used prior to its production, bringing a new edition or in producing a supplement for making addition, deletion, amendment and so on.

iii) Sheaf Catalogue: This type of catalogue is also known as loose leaf book form catalogue. It contains about six entries on a single paper slip with holes or slots at one edge so that they can be fastened into binders. Each binder has a locking / releasing mechanism to allow the insertion of new entries when required yet ensures that the slips remain securely in place when the catalogue is consulted. Owing to the fact that more than one entry was included on a single leaf sometimes a break-down in sequence occurs.

iv) Card Catalogue: In card catalogue the size of leaf is reduced so that each leaf containes one entry only and as the small leaf is inconvenient to handle so it has been replaced by the card. Each card is of 125 mm X 75 mm. The cards are arranged in trays and held in their relative position by a rod passing through holes near their bottom edge. The trays are all built into a cabinet. The specification for the catalogue cabinet is given by the Indian Standards Institution. The card catalogues allow much more flexibility.

v) Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC): The card catalogue was a familiar sight to library users for generations, but the computerization of library activities has led to rethinking regarding the form, purpose and function of a library catalogue. Now the card catalogue has been effectively replaced by the OPAC or Web OPAC. Some libraries with OPAC access still have card catalogues on site, but these are now strictly a secondary resource and are seldom updated. Some libraries have eliminated their card catalogue in favour of the OPAC. The other form of catalogue can be easily obtained as an output from OPAC.

Based on source where cataloguing is done catalogue can be grouped into the following types-

i) Individual Cataloguing: Cataloguing done by individual libraries, institution, people to serve their own need and purpose or for their own sake are known as individual cataloguing.

ii) Cooperative Cataloguing: Cooperative cataloguing refers to a situation where a number of independent libraries share the work of producing a catalogue for their mutual benefit. It is done in two or more libraries for the benefit of each participant and the results may or may not be made available to other libraries. One of the important outputs of cooperative cataloguing is Union catalogue.

iii) Centralized Cataloguing: Centralized cataloguing is defined as the cataloguing of documents by some central organization for the benefit of other libraries. This form of cataloguing can take place within one library system or within a number of library systems. Sometimes centralized cataloguing may be done by another agency. Some of the forms of centralized cataloguing services are Card or shelf service, Cataloguing in source, Cataloguing in publication, and Prenatal cataloguing.

The term “Prenatal cataloguing” was used by Dr. S.R. Ranganathan. In this process the cataloguing work has been done by the National Central Library of a country on each book before its release by the publisher. This is done with the help of a copy of the form proof of each book sent by each publisher. The National Central Library prepares a muster stencil of the catalogue cards for each book before its release. The catalogue cards are later made available for distribution to libraries on order along with the release of books themselves, Call numbers are also printed on the back of the title pages and tooled on the binding as well. According to Ranganathan, this type of process leads to saving 79% in the technical manpower of an intra National and inter National Library System.

Based on the type of entry catalogue can be divided into the following-

i) Author Catalogue: A formal catalogue, sorted alphabetically according to the authors' or editors' names of the entries.

ii) Title Catalogue: A formal catalogue, sorted alphabetically according to the title of the entries.

iii) Keyword Catalogue: It is a subject catalogue, sorted alphabetically according to keywords. The keywords are derived by using some system.

iv) Mixed Alphabetic Catalogue: It is a mixture of author / title, or an author / title / keyword catalogue.

v) Systematic Catalogue: A subject catalogue, sorted according to some systematic subdivision of subjects is called systematic catalogue.

vi) Shelf List Catalogue: It is a formal catalogue with entries sorted in the same order as bibliographic items are shelved on the stack.

d) Based on Scope: Based on the scope of a catalogue unit, cataloguing can be divided into i) Individual catalogue and ii) Union catalogue. When a library catalogue lists holding or part of holding of two or more libraries then it is called a union catalogue.

e) Based on Purpose: Based on purpose catalogue can be classified as Library Catalogue, Book Sellers Catalogue, Publisher Catalogue, Dealers Catalogue, etc.

4. Criteria for Selection of Library Catalogue: In selecting the forms of catalogue to be adopted by the librarian, he / she may consider the following factors-

i) Economic to produce and handle: The production and its subsequent maintenance cost and labour of the catalogue should be minimal.

ii) Compact in size: It should not occupy much space in the library.

iii) Bring together like entries: It should have the provision to bring together entries with the same heading or leading section.

iv) Updating: The selected catalogue should have the provision to insert or withdraw entries easily as and when required.

v) Reproduction: It should have the provision to produce duplicate copies.

vi) Durability: The catalogue should be durable.

vii) Accessible: It should be reasonably accessible (within approach) to both users and staff members of the library.

viii) Easy to handle and consult: To enable a user to find entries with ease. It should be easy to handle and consult.

ix) Speed of searching: It should be amenable to fast speed of search.

x) Portability: It should be easily portable to enable the user / staff to consult it from inside or from outside the library. The user should be able to take it home and consult it there.

5. Cataloguing Rules: Cataloguing rules have been defined to allow for consistent cataloguing of various library materials across several persons of a cataloguing team and across time and space. Users can use them to clarify as to how to find an entry and how to interpret the data in an entry.

Cataloguing rules prescribe which information from a bibliographic item is included in the entry; how this information is presented on a catalogue card or in a cataloguing record; how the entries should be sorted in the catalogue. Currently, most cataloguing rules are similar to, or even based on, the International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD), a set of rules produced by the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) to describe a wide range of library materials. These rules describe an item in terms of: title and statement of responsibility (author or editor), edition, material-dependent information (for example, the scale of a map), publication and distribution, physical description (for example, number of pages), series, note, and standard number (ISBN).

A catalogue code is a set of rules for the guidance of cataloguers in preparing entries for catalogues so as to ensure uniformity in treatment. These codes may also include rules for subject heading, filling and arranging of entries. Classified catalogue code by S. R. Ranganathan and Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd edition (AACR-II) are examples of such catalogue codes. In June, 2010, the Resource Description and Access (RDA) was published, which will completely take over the place of AACR-II. AACR-II was the most commonly used set of cataloguing rules in the English speaking world. The AACR-II has been translated into many languages for use around the world. AACR-II provides rules for descriptive cataloguing only and does not touch upon subject cataloguing.

5.1 Anglo-American  Cataloguing Rules – II: AACR-II was jointly prepared by American Library Association, The British Library, The Canadian Committee on Cataloguing, The Library Association, UK, and The Library of Congress. The code was edited by Michael Gorman and Paul W. Winkler. It was published in 1978 by the American Library Association and Canadian Library Association.

There are two parts and four appendices in AACR-II. An index was also provided at the end of the code and it has been compiled by KG B Backwell.

Part I:             Description

1.         General Rules for Description

2.         Books, Pamphlets and Printed Sheets

3.         Cartographic Materials

4.         Manuscripts

5.         Music

6.         Sound Recordings

7.         Motion Pictures and Video Recordings

8.         Graphic Materials

9.         Machine-Readable Data Files

10.       Three-Dimensional Artifacts and Realia

11.       Microforms

12.       Serials

13.       Analysis

Part II:           Headings, Uniform Titles and References

14.       Choice of Access Points

15.       Headings for Persons

16.       Geographic Names

17.       Headings for Corporate Bodies

18.       References

Appendix A: Contains instructions for Capitalization

Appendix B: Contains list of Standard Abbreviations

Appendix C: Deals with Numerals

Appendix D: Glossary

AACR-II prescribes three levels of details in the description depending upon the nature and the size of the library. The first level provides a brief cataloguing description just to identify a particular document. It is recommended for a small library. The second level description is recommended for a medium size library, whereas the third level of description includes all the elements prescribed in the AACR-II and is recommended for the highly specialized libraries or national and research libraries. Here, we will concentrate only on the second level of description.

5.2    Card Catalogue: In most of the libraries of India the entries are written on card. The standard size of the card is 12.5 X 7.5 cm or 5’’X 3". The catalogue cards which are used for preparing entries may be ruled, semi-ruled or plain. The ruled cards are very convenient if the entries are prepared by hand, and if the matter is typed then plain cards are more suitable and used. There are different lines on the card, which may be of the following types:

First Indention: It is the first vertical line that lays nine (9) spaces from left margin. This line is in red ink.

Second Indention: It is the second vertical line that lays thirteen (13) spaces from left margin or four letters space from first indention. It is also indicated in red ink.

Third Indention: Beyond the second vertical line there is also a third indention which is an imaginary line. It lays fifteen (15) spaces from left margin. In a reference, referred-from heading continues from third indention.

Horizontal Line: The card has also one horizontal line in the upper section of the catalogue card. It is a bold line and is also indicated in red ink.

Hole: The card also contains one hole at the bottom portion at equal distance from both the vertical cores of the cards. A rod of iron or brass is used to support all the cards in the tray through this hole.



Fig. The locations of different indentions in a card catalogue


5.3 Types of Entries: Each library prepares various unit records for each document in its holding. These unit records are prepared to meet the various need and approach of the library user to the document. These unit records are called as entries.

AACR-I regards the main entry as “the complete catalogue record of a bibliographical entry, presented in the form by which the entity is to be uniformly identified and cited. The main entry normally includes the tracing of all other headings under which the record is to be represented in the catalogue”.

An added entry is “an entry, additional to the main entry, by which an item is represented in a catalog” (AACR-II, p. 563). The additional entries supplement the main entry by providing an additional approach to the documents listed in the catalogue.

a) Type of Information Needed for Cataloguing: The cataloguer needs the following information about a document for cataloguing.

Name of the authors

Name of the collaborators

Title, subtitle or alternative title of the document


Name of the series

Editor of series

Name, place and year of publication

Size and number of pages of the document

Copyright year


The call number (class number and book number) of the document. It can be found at the verso of the title page that will be provided by the classifier.

The accession number of the document. It also can be found at the verso of the title page. The accessionist will provide this number.

b) Sources of Information Needed for Cataloguing: The prescribed source of information for the preparation of the card catalogue is the title page. It provides most of the information about the book. It is the next printed page to the cover of the book. Please note here that the cover page of the book is not the title page. The page leaving one or two pages from the beginning and on which the description mentioned bellow is printed is called the title page. The title page, in upper most part of it, contains the title and subtitle (if any) of the book. The names of authors and collaborators with their working institutions are given in the middle of the page. In the lower part, the name of the publisher, place and year of publication and price etc are given. If there is no title page, one can consult the cover caption or the half title page of the book. In the half title page of the book, only the title of the book, but no author and publication statements, is printed. Sometimes, the name of the series is also printed on this page. The verso / back of the title page contains copyright year, print and reprint, edition, name and address of the publisher, the price, and so on.

Besides the title page, we can also collect information about the book (in order of the following preference)

i) Accompanying material

ii) A container

iii) Another published description of the book or

iv) Any other available sources.

AACR-II recommends the following types of entries

i) Main Entry: The Main entry is an author entry in AACR-II. If the authorship is diffused or not known the main entry is prepared under the title. The Main Entry is the complete catalogue record of an item. It also includes the tracing of all other headings under which the record is to be presented in the catalogue.

ii) Added Entry: An added entry is a secondary entry, additional to the Main Entry, by which an item is represented in a catalogue. S R Ranganathan calls it “entry other than the main entry”. There are different types of added entries. i.e. Joint author(s), Editor(s), Translator(s), Compiler(s), Subject, Title, Series, etc. The number and kind of added entries required by a document depends upon the nature of a particular document and also on the nature of the catalogue used in a library.

iii) Reference: Reference is a direction from one heading or entry to another. There are different types of references in AACR-II. They are See Reference, See also Reference, Name title Reference, Explanatory Reference, etc. Out of all the references “See” and “See also” type of references are frequently used.

* See Reference: It directs the user of a catalogue from a form of the name of a person or a corporate body or the title of a work to the form that has been chosen as a name heading or a uniform title.


Md. Syed Ahmed Khan

            see Syed Ahmed Khan

Dhanpat Rai

            see Prem Chand

* “See Also” Reference: The function of a “See also” reference is to direct the user from one name heading or uniform title to another that is related to it. If the works of one person or corporate body are entered under two different headings a “see also” reference is prepared from each heading.


Home Science

            See also Interior decoration

5.4 Rules for Description of Monograph: The elements to be included in the catalogue entry are divided into the following areas:

a) Call Number: Call number is the combination of class number and book number. It is the first item which should be recorded in the upper left hand corner of the catalogue card with pencil.

b) Accession Number: It should be recorded on the seventh line from the top of the card or fourth line from the bottom.

c) Author: “Author” in the entry is indicated by writing the surname first which is followed by a comma “,” and the remaining parts of the name (i.e. forenames) are given after leaving one space which is followed by the date of birth and / or death of an author in full, if any, and a full stop. This is written from the first indention and continued from the third indention on the next line.

d) Title and Statement of Responsibility: The title proper should be recorded exactly as the wording, order and spelling as it is found in the title page of the document. Capitalization and punctuation should be avoided.

i) Alternate Title: Use the first part of the title with commas, and then the alternate title.


Another world watching, or The riddle of the flying saucers

Indian song of songs,  or Gita govinda

ii) Abridge Title: Abridge a long title proper only if this can be done without any loss of the essential information. Indicate the omission by the mark of three dots “…”.

iii) Initial and Acronyms: If a title proper includes separate letters or initials without full stops between them, record such letters without spaces between them. If such letters or initials have full stop between them, record them with full stops.


“ALA Rules for filling catalog cards” and “A.L.A. Rules for filling catalog cards”

iv) Parallel Title: Record parallel title in the order indicated by their sequences. If the title appears in two or more languages, choose one of these as the title proper and record the other titles as parallel title. The parallel title appearing outside the chief source of information should be noted in the note section of the catalogue card.

v) Title in Numerals: If the title of a document appears in numerals, record it in letters and endorse it in the square brackets.


“20 [Twenty] – point programme”.

vi) Other Title Information: Record other title information (subtitle, etc) appearing in the chief source of information. Use space colon space “ : “ between the title proper and other title information.


“Cataloguing : theory and practice”.

e) Statement of Responsibility: Record statement of responsibility in the form in which they appear in the chief source of information. The statement of responsibility should be preceded by a diagonal slash. If there is more than one statement of responsibility, record them in the order indicated by their sequence on or by the layout of the chief source of information. If the statement of responsibility is taken from outside enclose it in square brackets.


“Cataloguing practice / by S R Ranganathan”.

f) Edition: This area should be preceded by a full stop, space dash space “. – “. The statement of responsibility should be preceded by a diagonal slash, and then each subsequent statement of responsibility should be preceded by a semi-colon. The standard abbreviations and numerals in place of words should be used.


“2nd ed”, “3rd ed”, “New ed”, “Rev ed”, “Rev and enl ed”.

g) Place: If a publisher has many offices in more than one place, always prefer the name of the first place and omit all other places. If the place of publication, distribution, etc is uncertain, give the probable place with a question mark in square brackets.



If, no place or probable place can be given, put the abbreviation sl (Sine loco) in square brackets “[s.l.]”. “Sine loco” means “no place” in Latin.


“[s.l.]: Vikas, 2001”.

h) Publisher: After the place of publication, use the shortest form of the publisher in which it can be understood and identified internationally. If the book has two or more publishers, record the first named place and publisher. If the name of the publisher is not known, the abbreviation sn (sine nominee) is given in square brackets. Example: “[s.n.]”.

i) Date of Publication: Give the year of publication in Arabic numerals preceded by a comma.


“, 2001”.

If there is no date, the copyright date is given.


“, c 1999”.

If the date of publication is not known then n.d. (no date) is written in square brackets.



j) Physical Description Area: This paragraph starts from the second indention and continues from the first indention. This area consists of pagination, illustrative matter and size of the document expressed in cm.

If the volume is without pagination, ascertain the total number of pages and give the number in square brackets. The sequence of describing page information is

“Preliminary pages, Roman pages, Arabic pages.”.


“xii, 786 p.”.

When preliminary pages are not numbered it should be in the form of : “[xii], 786 p.”.

The connecting symbol between pagination and illustrative matter is a colon “:”. The illustrated printed monograph is described as “Charts”, “Maps”, “Music”, “Plans”, “Portraits”, “Samples”, or simple as “ill”.


“786 p. ; ill.”.

The connecting symbol between the illustrative matter and the height of the document is semi colon “;”. The height of the document is written in cm.


“786 p. : ill.; 18 cm.”.

k) Series: The series are preceded by a full stop space dash space “. - “. Series statement is recorded in circular brackets. The series statement may consist of name of the series, statement of responsibility relating to series and number of series.


“. - (Ranganathan series in Library Science; 4)”, “. - (Research monographs / Institute of Economic Affairs; 3)”.

l) Notes: Notes may be given to explain the nature, scope or artistic form of the item, language of the item, sources of the title proper, variation in title, accompanying material, contents, etc.

m) Standard Number: If the item contains ISBN / ISSN, record International Standard Book Number (ISBN) or International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) for the item. Example: “ISBN : 0-910608-70-9”.

n) Tracing: Tracing is the record of the heading under which an item is represented in the catalogue. The information about the added entries should be recorded in a paragraph starting from the second indention.

Before going for tracing, the subjects of the document need to be determined. In the main card, the added entries for subject should be numbered in Arabic numerals (Example “1”, “2”) whereas, the other entries should be numbered in Roman numerals (Example “I”, “II”). Another point to be noted is that, in the added entries for subject, the names of the subject are written in all capital letters. Example: “LIBRARY SCIENCE”.


6. Sorting: In a title catalogue, one can distinguish two sort orders-

a) Grammatic Sort Order: In the grammatic sort order, the most important word of the title is the first sort term. The importance of a word is measured by grammatic rules; for example, the first noun may be defined to be the most important word.

The most important word of the title is also a good keyword and it is the word most users remember first when their memory is incomplete. This is an advantage in favour of grammatic sort order. However, it has the disadvantage that many elaborate grammatic rules are needed, so that only expert users may be able to search the catalogue without help from a librarian.

b) Mechanic Sort Order: In the mechanic sort order, the first word of the title is the first sort term. Most new catalogues use this scheme. Still, the mechanic sort order includes a trace of the grammatic sort order as they neglect an article (A, An, The etc.) at the beginning of the title.

c) Alphabetic Sorting: Here entries are arranged alphabetically.

In a subject catalogue, one has to decide on which classification system to be used. The cataloguer will select appropriate subject headings for the bibliographic item and a unique classification number (class number).

7. Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC): The catalogues which are available for searching online are known as OPAC. Such OPAC may be searched from a terminal within the originating library or at a terminal elsewhere in the organization or remotely via national or international telecommunication network. Now the scenario is that these databases are available over web. OPAC has two different meaning-

a) Access to library housekeeping especially circulation (primarily for library staff use) and which could also serve as rudimentary catalogue for the library user.

b) Access to machine readable bibliographic records from which card and computer output in Microform (COM) can be generated.

a) Definition: The A. L. A. Glossary defines OPAC as “a commuter based and supported library catalogue (bibliographic database) design to be accessed via terminal so that library user may directly and effectively search for and retrieve bibliographic records without the assistance of a human intermediary such as a specially trained member of the library staff”.

b) Types of OPAC: OPAC can generally be viewed being of two types-

i) First Generation OPAC: First generation OPAC has been derived from traditional catalogues or computerized circulation system. They are also referred to as phase – indexed or pre-coordinated OPACs and it demands exact matching between the search term and pre-coordinate phrase. The number of access keys is limited and they are similar to that of manual catalogue i.e author, title, class number and possibly subject heading.

ii) Second Generation OPAC: Second generation OPAC originated from common bibliographic information retrieval system and so there is a growing similarity between second generation OPAC and traditional information retrieval system. This generation OPAC provides key word searching that is post coordinate searching together with phrase searching or pre-coordinate subject heading.

c) Components of OPAC: There are three main components of OPAC. They are-

i) Computer and Terminal: The hardware requirement for OPAC i.e computer terminal and server from which databases can be accessed.

ii) Software Enabling Networking: The network enabling software which will be able to manage the entire database.

iii) Database: The database of books, serial, dissertation, etc can be generated by two different ways. One is developing database by direct entry and the other is developing database through retrospective conversion process.

d) Searching and Browsing OPAC: When the searcher knows precisely what he wants i.e. when user information need is fairly well defined he/she can use word truncation, range search, field level search, Boolean combination, word adjacency  / proximity operator, etc. which are of generally two types.

i) Phrase Searching: Phrase searching is done on pre-coordinate subject heading.

ii) Keyword Searching / Post Coordinate Searching: When a query is formulated using Boolean expression.

iii) Browsing: Browsing is used when user’s information needs are not precisely defined. By browsing one can determine the exact forms of entry of a subject heading or author name.

e) OPAC Vs Card Catalogue: The difference between OPAC and card catalogue are represented in the following table.



Card Catalogue


OPAC allows rapid retrieval.

It is a time consuming job.

Access point

It provides multiple access to the database and helpful for Boolean searches

Access is only through entry point and a build in cross reference structure.

Indexing techniques

Support both pre-coordinate and post coordinate searching.

Support only pre coordinate searching.

User Friendliness

It is more user friendly and guides the user in a step by step manner to find the information.

The user has to decide himself how to find the required card.

Current Status

OPAC provides the current status of the item being search i.e whether a document is on the shelves, on loan, on reservation or at binders or the document is lost.

It does not provide current status of the document.

Enhance Feature

OPAC provides acquisition of titles, to reserve material and to send personalized SDI, overdue/ recall / collect notices and messages by Email.

Such types of facilities are not found in a card catalogue

Union Catalogue

Helps to develop centralized database and resource sharing among different libraries.

It is very difficult to achieve resources sharing through card catalogue


f) OPAC vs Information Retrieval System: The difference between OPAC and Information Retrieval System are -



Information Retrieval System


OPAC database includes one or more than one library’s collection; hence its coverage is on wide variety of discipline and subject areas.

Its coverage is limited in subject scope either to a single subject or to a range of discipline linked to a particular mission.


Records in the OPAC mostly lack abstract and subject descriptor is inadequate.

Information retrieval systems records are well indexed and are supported usually with abstract.

Indexing System

OPAC provides pre-coordinate phrase searching and browsing option.

Information retrieval system mostly provides post coordinate searches.

Underlying Assumptions

The most searches will be on known document i.e searches for document whose bibliographic details are known at least partially.

Searching will be for document containing information of a particular subject.


OPAC is designed for end-user and so menu driven and provides facilities like on-line help message, on-line index with different approach points (author, ISBN, class number, etc.)

It is not designed for end user and required the skills of information professional. The search negotiations are carried out by the librarian. He/she should interact with the user to know their information need then formulate search strategy using vocabulary control devices and modify the search if required.


g) Advantages of OPAC: The main advantages of OPAC are -

i) OPAC searching is speedier and user friendly than that of manual cataloguing.

ii) Provides multiple access to the database and more or less designed as an information retrieval system.

iii) Guides the user in a step by step manner for retrieving the specific information.

iv) Supports the post coordinate searcher, Boolean operation, etc.

v) Provides the current status of the item being search i.e. whether a document is on the shelves, on loan, on reserved for some one, at the binder or whether it is lost.

vi) Designed as an integrated library management system.

vii) Helps to develop centralized database and resources sharing among different libraries.

h) Limitation of OPAC: Different in user and system vocabulary is a major reason for user dissatisfaction with OPAC.