Conference Home Page

What's new

Greetings from the Director for Cataloging

Topical discussion groups

NAS study and 2 articles from the LC staff Gazette

Conference program

Speakers, commentators, and papers

Conference sponsors

Conference discussion list

Logistical information for conference participants

Conference Organizing Team

Cataloging Directorate Home Page

Library of Congress Home Page

Bicentennial Conference  on 
        Bibliographic Control for the New Millenium: Confronting the Challenges of Networked 
        Resources and the Web
sponsored by the Library of Congress Cataloging Directorate
Topical Discussion Group 4a:
How Can AACR2 Become More Responsive to Cataloging Networked Resources on the Web in the Near-Term?
Discussion Facilitator:
Sherry Kelley
Head, Catalog Services
Smithsonian Libraries
Washington, DC

The Conference topical discussion groups are for the purpose of identifying recommendations made by the speakers and commentators in their presentations and for developing recommended actions and an overall action plan for discussion and approval by the Conference in its concluding plenary session. Each topical discussion group consists of a facilitator who, with a designated number of participants, is assigned a specific topic related to the presentations that will serve as the focal point for identifying recommendations and deriving recommended actions and an overall action plan. Each group will also have an LC staff member to take notes and capture highlights throughout the discussion.

In a few cases, topics for the topical discussion groups are assigned to address near-term and long-term directions. We have defined "near-term" to be a recommendation of an action that is "doable" in the range of 12-18 months, and "long-term" to be recommendations or actions accomplished in 2-5 years. These definitions have been applied to the following topic, which will involve one topical discussion group addressing near-term directions and a second group addressing long-term directions.

"One enduring role of libraries in the transition from physical to digital information will be the intellectual task of cataloging--imposing order on diverse resources with the goal of making these resources easier to discover and manage."

This quote from the National Academy of Sciences report LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress ( reaffirms one of the basic tasks of libraries, which is to provide bibliographic control for information resources of all kinds for their constituencies. The accepted standard that libraries have used to accomplish this task is AACR2. The cataloging rules in AACR2 cover print and non-print materials, including electronic resources. It is particularly notable that rules for the latter date to 1978 when AACR2 was first published. In the intervening decades, these rules, perhaps more than any other in the code, have undergone extensive revision reflecting the rapid and far-reaching advances in the networked environment of the Internet and World Wide Web. However, despite these continuous efforts, there is the perception that AACR2 has been much too slow in addressing the challenges posed by the plethora of networked resources on the Web. There is also the perception that the revision process itself is slow and time-consuming, resulting in needless delays in implementing necessary changes affecting these materials. Ann Huthwaite in her paper "AACR2 and Its Place in the Digital World" states that the Joint Steering Committee for Revision of AACR (JSC), which is responsible for the ongoing revision of the code, has embarked on an ambitious program of reform in response to the concerns of the cataloging community about the ability of the existing rules to adequately describe these materials. While being proactive, she notes the Committee has also stressed the importance of taking a fundamental, long-term approach to changes rather than applying near-term, "band aid" measures. Reflecting this long-term view, she expects AACR22 to undergo significant changes in the next five years.


Although it appears from Ms. Huthwaite's paper that JSC prefers to take the long-term approach to rule revision, we think it is important to consider whether there might be some near-term (but not so-called "band aid") measures that would serve to address some of the problems associated with the cataloging of networked resources. For instance, we feel a problem of major importance that might be addressed through such measures is how AACR2 might accommodate multiple versions through guidance in the code. This has been a persistent and widely discussed problem over the years for resources, such as serials, that have appeared variously in print, microfilm, and other physical formats, but has now been exacerbated in the digital environment, where it is not at all unusual for a resource to be available via different markups, file formats, and access methods. Additionally, we have the recent phenomenon of e-books, which have served to heighten this problem. Although we have identified this as a cataloging issue, we realize that it is many faceted and not only cataloging rules driven but, rather, takes in public service, vendor, and system-related perspectives as well. For these perspectives, we refer you to the paper by Michael Kaplan on "Exploring Partnerships: What Can Producers and Vendors Provide?" and the report of the survey by Carolyn Larson and Linda Arret on "Descriptive Resource Needs From the Reference Perspective."

While we have singled out multiple versions as a problem you might wish to address through near-term solutions to AACR2, this does not exclude your consideration of other problems, which we invite you to examine in this topical group discussion. Whichever ones you choose, we ask you in this assignment to develop a prioritized list of 4-6 such measures that could be used to help ameliorate these problems. Your list has obvious importance for the library community. Further, it would support an important goal of this conference, which is to promote changes to AACR2 that are "coherent, flexible, and adaptable to accessing the proliferation and diversity of Web resources."


Your topical discussion group is organized into two parts to cover the two Conference days in which you meet.

  1. The first meeting is in the afternoon of Day 2 of the Conference. The objective of this meeting is to have you brainstorm your topic by sharing your thoughts and ideas in an informal discussion. Your facilitator will serve to direct the discussion and to keep it focused and moving. An LC staff member will be present to record major points of discussion.

    Follow the lead of your facilitator in determining the format of the discussion. Then start by identifying any suggestions or recommendations offered by the speakers, commentators, and participants on your topic. Next, move on to identify possible measures that JSC or national cataloging bodies could undertake and complete in the near-term. Discuss the purpose of these measures and the strategies needed to initiate and implement them. By close of the meeting, you should have an extended list of measures together with their purpose and strategies to review on the following Day 3 of the Conference.

  2. The second meeting begins in the morning of Day 3 with the facilitator and LC recorder present. Time spent at this meeting is focused on reviewing the list of near-term measures drafted in the first meeting and extracting from it a list of 4-6 recommended measures with their purpose and strategies arranged in priority order.

Once you have finalized the prioritized list of criteria, the LC recorder will input it to a computer and a Powerpoint presentation will be created for your facilitator to present to conferees.

Presentation and Action Plan:

Your facilitator will present the prioritized list of near-term measures and strategies for discussion and approval in the closing session of the conference. Conferees will use this list along with the prioritized recommendations presented by the facilitators of the other topical discussion groups to develop an overall action plan that the Library of Congress can carry forward from the Conference.

Library of Congress
November 2, 2000
Library of Congress Help Desk