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The Library of Congress > Cataloging, Acquisitions > PCC > Bibliographic Records That Reflect a Mixture of Practice


LC has several million retrospective records in machine-readable form (PREMARC records) that reflect pre-AACR2 cataloging conventions (both description and access). Because of the manner in which the records were created, they reflect various kinds of problems, including those of incompleteness and incorrect content designation. The heading structure is generally in tact, but it reflects pre-AACR2 forms of names and series and older subject heading practice.

Until recent installation of the LC Integrated Library System (LC ILS), these records were in a separate physical file and were not taken into account in daily cataloging activity. In general, we have not attempted systematically to upgrade PREMARC records, although many corrections have been made to individual records, particularly to correct errors in content designation. The one exception has been records for incomplete multipart items.

We wanted such records to be part of the "current" catalog so that additional volumes could be readily added as they were received. We therefore developed guidelines for upgrading such records and making them part of the files that, under our previous system, constituted our current catalog. We also applied these guidelines in those cases in which records did not get created in the initial PREMARC conversion.

LC Guidelines For Upgrading Pre-AACR2 Records

"New input" is the term we use for converting an existing manual cataloging record into machine-readable form or for upgrading an existing PREMARC record with respect to completeness (in relation to the original source card) and access points. Because we do not have, in general, the resources to recatalog in each instance of new input, we developed guidelines that allow us to combine pre-AACR2 description with current access practice. Thus in most instances we can upgrade the record based on the original source card without having to physically inspect the material itself. The guidelines are:

  1. determine the AACR2 choice of entry and adjust as needed;
  2. put all access points into the AACR2 form and support with authority work as needed; ensure that both the series added entries and the series numbering in any existing analytics reflect the AACR2 form;
  3. a special formula was developed for retaining in a general note information about supplements, indexes, etc. that were formerly represented on the catalog card for the main work to preclude recataloging both the parent work and any "dashed-on" entries;
  4. when adding information to a record, generally follow the style of the original cataloging; as a rule, do not mix ISBD and non-ISBD styles or AACR2 and pre-AACR2 styles;
  5. add a contents note, if appropriate, when adding to the record for an item previously thought to be complete in one part;
  6. when adding to the record of an item already known to be multipart, do not add a contents note if it was omitted under earlier policy;
  7. if the style used in the contents note is clear, follow it when adding new volumes; if anything is unclear (e.g., inclusion or omission of subtitles or statements of responsibility for individual volumes), follow the pattern already in the record or on the card; this may mean, for example, omitting an author statement from the volume in hand because volumes already in the contents note lack the statement of responsibility.

To assist the next user of the record, we add a local note that indicates whether the changes made reflect both choice of entry and access points or only the latter. The appropriate MARC 21 values are set for the Leader and the 008 (Fixed-Length Data Elements). Values in Leader/17 (Encoding level) and Leader/18 (Descriptive cataloging form) and 008/39 (Cataloging source) are especially useful in identifying these records that reflect a combination of old and new practice. Such records are distributed by the Library's Cataloging Distribution Service, along with current records, via the MARC Distribution Service.

Under the LC ILS, PREMARC records are no longer segregated into a separate physical file and are therefore now part of the cataloging "universe." We are in the process of planning how, over time, we can upgrade the heading structure in PREMARC records to reflect current practice. We will only distribute such records when they are 1) complete in relation to the original source card and 2) all the headings in a particular record have been upgraded to current practice. The emphasis of this activity will be on upgrading the heading structure.

Other Records That Reflect a Mixture of Practice

LC also has records, other than upgraded PREMARC records, that reflect a mixture of practice. These are machine-readable bibliographic records that were part of LC's "current catalog" at the time AACR2 was adopted in 1981. We have never had the resources to update systematically all the headings in these records to reflect current practice, although many individual instances of headings have been updated. When such a record is changed, it is also distributed via the MARC Distribution Service.

Kay Guiles, LC Cataloging Policy and Support Office
October 7, 1999