Another milestone of international cooperation in cataloging was reached Feb. 26, when Winston Tabb, associate librarian for Library Services and Stuart Ede, acting director of Acquisitions Processing and Cataloguing for the British Library (BL), signed a Memorandum of Agreement on Convergence of Cataloguing Policy.
The memorandum puts into effect the provisions of an accompanying document, Cataloguing Policy Convergence Agreement (CPCA) that is the result of nearly three years of discussions and negotiations between staff at the Library of Congress and the British Library aimed at aligning cataloging practices between the two institutions.
The groundwork for this event was laid in spring 1993, when Pat Oddy, now head of Cataloguing at the British Library, visited the Library of Congress and expressed interest in initiating exploration of ways in which the two institutions could reconcile differences of cataloging practices, particularly in the area of access points, so as to facilitate international exchange of bibliographic and authority records.
Although the two libraries share a common cataloging code, Anglo-American Cataloging Rules 2 (AACR2), differences in cataloging policy and the context in which particular headings were established had resulted in cases in which different forms of headings were used for the same entity. In addition to the duplication of effort in establishing the headings, the different forms used created a barrier to effective sharing of cataloging because of the need to adjust headings from the "UK form" to the "U.S. form" or vice- versa.
The Library of Congress responded enthusiastically to Ms. Oddy's proposal, and a working group, chaired by John Byrum, chief of the Regional and Cooperative Cataloging Division, was formed to support the initiative at LC.
Since then, the two libraries' staff have communicated through electronic mail. Also, Alan Danskin, head of Authority Control at the British Library, made several visits to LC. Mr. Danskin and Diane Humes, cataloging policy specialist of the LC Cataloging Policy and Support Office, in consultation with other staff at both institutions, worked to resolve differences in policies for establishing name headings with the goal of reducing as many divergent practices as possible.
Members of the Executive Council of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging as well as other experts who were consulted about possible changes strongly encouraged this effort. Compromises were made on both sides, with the result, as stated in the CPCA, that the British Library and the Library of Congress have now reached agreement on a common interpretation of AACR2 with regard to the formulation of access points for most names.
There are still some areas where agreement has not been reached - for example, romanization of headings from nonroman scripts and use of some abbreviations but the parties are resolved to explore strategies to settle them.
The British Library has mounted the U.S. National Authority File in its own system and has already begun to make use of existing headings where agreement on practice has been reached. The British Library is also contributing new and altered headings to the shared authority file. This contribution to NACO (National Coordinated Cataloging Operations) will increase significantly during 1996 and, in the future, the forms of headings in the British Library's Name Authority List (BLNAL) will be gradually superseded by the equivalent LC/NACO headings to create a truly international joint authority file.
This Anglo-American file will reduce duplication of effort in establishing headings and provide greater consistency in headings used in cataloging records created on either side of the Atlantic.
Together with programs on achieving alignment of MARC (machine-readable cataloging) formats and subject authorities, these developments indicate the growing strength of the cooperative relationship between the Library of Congress and the British Library.