Joan Swanekamp

Columbia University

Joan Swanekamp is the Head of Original and Special Materials Cataloging at Columbia University. Her previous position was Head of Technical Processing at the Sibley Music Library of the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester. She was a member of the Interactive Multimedia Guidelines Review Task Force, the committee responsible for developing the Guidelines for the Bibliographic Description of Interactive Multimedia.



Numerous recent articles predict that multimedia will provide many new opportunities as a teaching and learning tool. It can be used to enhance lectures and presentations, or as a tool for self-directed instruction.

Diana Oblinger has described digital multimedia as the convergence of text, graphics, images, sound and full-motion video. Her definition serves as the basis for the definition used in the recently published Interactive Multimedia Cataloging Guidelines. She describes the two key elements as:

1) Natural presentation of information through text, graphics, audio, images, animation and full-motion video, and

2) Non-linear navigation through applications for access to information on demand. [FOOTNOTE: Diana Oblinger, Introduction to Multimedia in Instruction. Chapel Hill: The Institute for Academic Technology, 1992, A1.]

In other words, interactive multimedia uses a computer to provide a multisensory experience.

Development of ALA Guidelines

The Guidelines for the Bibliographic Description of Interactive Multimedia [FOOTNOTE: Guidelines for the Bibliographic Description of Interactive Multimedia. Chicago: American Library Association, 1994.] were published in June 1994, three years after the first discussions of the cataloging issues. The Guidelines were generated by a Task Force made of members of ALA's Committee on Cataloging: Description and Access, also known as CC:DA, and cataloging experts from the areas of music, computer files and audiovisual materials. In addition, the task force relied heavily on input from practicing catalogers with experience in this field.

The following paper discusses a number of issues and concepts associated with the Interactive Multimedia Cataloging Guidelines. Most of the topics were debated by the Task Force, often at great length, as it tried to reach a consensus on the issues.

What is interactive multimedia?

The first question the Task Force addressed was: 'what is an interactive multimedia work?' Since the most common combination of materials in this format are those that include video and computer technology, the logical question was whether to consider these to be a computer file or a video? Early in the discusssion, the Task Force discussed three possible scenarios.

1) to consider this format a manifestation of a computer file and recommend modifications to AACR2R Chapter 9;

2) to consider this format a manifestation of a film and recommend modifications to chapter 7; or,

3) to consider this format as something analogous to a kit and not consider one format to be of primary importance.

The problem with considering an interactive multimedia work to be either a computer file or a video, is that the other aspect of the work is relegated to a secondary status. Early in the discussions it appeared that a majority of the Task Force favored the computer file option. But, a closer examination of a number of titles and lengthy discussions led the Task Force to conclude that it was important to consider the intellectual content, and that the 'interactive multimedia work' was the combination of the all the parts and needed to be considered in its totality.

The Task Force spent months developing a definition for Interactive Multimedia in what was probably the most challenging aspect of the Task Force's work, and the area where it was most difficult to reach a consensus. The agreed upon definition says:

-- that interactive multimedia is media residing or one or more physical carriers or on a computer network,

-- and it must exhibit two characteristics:

(1) user controlled, nonlinear navigation using computer technology; and

(2) the combination of two or more media (audio, images, text, graphics, animation or video) that the user manipulates to control the order and/or nature of the presentation. [FOOTNOTE: Ibid, 1.]

Because it is sometimes difficult to determine or identify candidates appropriate for these cataloging guidelines, a HELP section is included in the Guidelines. It offers assistance in identifying interactive multimedia works by asking a number of questions about the technology in use, the hardware and the level of user control. The Guidelines also cover those categories of works where the parts have been issued separately and the combination of the separately issued works can be considered a new interactive multimedia work.


With the acceptance of the idea of the Work including all the parts, it became necessary to rethink the Chief source for the bibliographic description. Since the 'work' is the sum of the parts, the Guidelines instruct a cataloger to prefer the source that applies to the work as a whole or includes a collective title; both internal and external sources are acceptable, recognizing that many catalogers will not have the appropriate equipment to view interactive multimedia works.

The Guidelines also introduce a new General material designation (gmd)--[interactive multimedia].

The transcription of statements of responsibility can become rather complicated with interactive multimedia titles since most of these works are collaborative efforts. There are authors of text, musical composers, production staff, program designers, etc. In the case of musical works, quite often the composer's name is part of the title of the work and other persons have responsibility for the creation of the 'new interactive work.' The Guidelines instruct a cataloger to transcribe Statements of responsibility relating to those persons or bodies responsible for the entire content. Other names associated with aspects of the Work can go in a note.

The Dates that appear on the work may also include dates for the related work and again seems to be most complicated for musical works. Very often the Interactive multimedia work is based on an earlier recording and can be further complicated if the work includes pieces that have been brought together. The emphasis though is on trying to establish a date for the complete work and not its parts.

One of the areas where there is a significant difference from standard AACR2 practice is the Physical description. Since the definition of a interactive multimedia work is the 'entire work' the subfield a of the physical description can be:

1) a list of the parts of the work separated by commas, or,

2) a list of multiple physical descriptions (multiple 300's)

The Guidelines illustrate both examples. In cases of many of the new materials, both the video and the computer aspect are carried on one disk.

The suggested Notes are borrowed from the chapters devoted to computer files, films and music.

Choice of Entry and Access Points

The Guidelines also offer assistance with Choice of entry. The Task Force found that most of the non-music materials presented situations that were straightforward. Most of the music works though, presented problems for which there were no good solutions.

Before finalizing the guidelines, the Task Force asked for volunteers to catalog 5-6 works from a sample of 20 titles. The set of Guidelines used in the cataloging test did not include any guidance on choice of entry. Many of the volunteers naturally tried to establish a personal main entry and most of the music catalogers in the study chose the composer as the main entry. As has often been the case with music videos, there seemed to be a natural tendancy to consider the composer as the main entry whenever a music work serves as the basis of a new work. But, following the rules set out in AACR2R, interactive multimedia works are like videos in that they are new works created by an assortment of individuals or bodies, performing assorted functions.

For the purposes of the Guidelines, the issue in deciding main entry is whether a person or body is responsible for the entire content of the work or, whether responsibility is confined to creation of a specific part i.e. the direction, the computer program, the music, etc. Most often entry will be under title, though entry under a person or body is possible. This solution will most likely generate some new discussion and perhaps a new call to revisit the issue of main entry in general.

American libraries have begun to use the Guidelines. Since no MARC format exists for this category of material, OCLC and RLIN (after consulting with the MARC Editorial Office) have agreed to instruct their users to enter records in the computer files format. This is an interim decision; discussions are also underway to develop a new byte in the MARC Leader and a new 008 for these materials.

CC:DA will be reviewing comments on the Guidelines and recommending revisions as needed. After a reasonable trial period, the Guidelines will probably move forward as part of a discussion of new rules for AACR2.