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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 4B:
How Can AACR2 Become More Responsive to Cataloging Networked Resources on the Web in the Long-Term?
Discussion Facilitator:
Carlen Ruschoff
Director of Technical Services
McKeldin Library
Room 2209
College Park, MD 20742-7011


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 AACR2 to undergo significant changes in the next five years.


The significant changes which Ms.Huthwaite expects AACR2 to undergo in the long-term concern the revisions to Chapter 9 (computer files/electronic resources) and Chapter 12 (serials/continuing resources), along with an expanded introduction and a new appendix. As extensive as these changes are, we think there are other long-term changes to AACR2 that are of additional concern to the library community. By long-term, we are referring to an action that is capable of being accomplished within a 2-5 year period. In this connection, we are asking you to undertake the following assignment: At the conclusion of her paper, Ms. Huthwaite lists 8 recommendations regarding the role of JSC and the library profession in the further development of AACR2 and the changing cataloging environment. Choose 4 of her 8 recommendations, and develop a prioritized list of 4-6 long-term measures in response to these recommendations. For example, recommendation 5 calls for the library profession to throw "its full support behind the continuing development of AACR". What in the way of a long-term measure might the profession do in response to this recommendation? Your list of long-term measures has obvious importance for the library community. It also complements 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. In addition to the papers by Ann Huthwaite and Matthew Beacom, was there any discussion of AACR2 cataloging rules (which may also have been referenced as "Chapter 9") in any of the other plenary sessions? Next, move on to choose 4 of the 8 recommendations that Ms. Huthwaite lists at the conclusion of her paper. Then identify possible measures that JSC or the library profession could undertake in the long term in response to these recommendations. Discuss these measures and the strategies that would be needed to initiate and implement them. By close of the meeting, you should have an extended list of long-term measures 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 long-term measures drafted in the first meeting and extracting from it a list of 4-6 recommended measures and strategies arranged in priority order. In the course of determining this list, consider these questions:

    1. Does the list identify specific measures in response to each of the 4 chosen recommendations?

    2. Who are these measures directed to--JSC, the profession, or both?

    3. What strategies are needed to initiate and implement them?

    4. Can the measures be accomplished within a 2-5 year period?

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 long-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
October 22, 2000
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