November 13, 2008 Library Reorganization Merges Acquisition and Cataloging Functions

Press Contact: John Sayers (202) 707-9216
Public Contact: Susan Morris (202) 707-6073

The world's largest library has redesigned the ways it receives and catalogs incoming materials in order to improve processing time dramatically and enhance the physical security of the collections. As result of the latest reorganization at the Library of Congress, a book acquired as a copyright deposit, purchase, gift or an exchange will go to one division instead of several for centralized processing—the ordering, cataloging, shelflisting, barcoding and other activities that enable users to find one particular book among more than 23.3 million unique titles in printed formats (plus another 8.9 million that are duplicate copies) held at the Library. "The new organizational structure--the Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access Directorate (ABA)--fully merges acquisitions and cataloging functions, streamlines workflows and deploys staff to take advantage of their unique language and subject skills," said ABA Director Beacher Wiggins. He noted that the new organization will be better designed and staffed to acquire new digital materials, which will be processed in the same work units as collections in printed and other formats. The merger of acquisitions and cataloging functions ends an older industrial model of work, in which an incoming book moved slowly along an assembly line of stand-alone acquisitions and processing units. Twenty years ago, staff in Order, Exchange and Gift or Cataloging in Publication divisions acquired a title and then handed it off to highly specialized librarians in separate Descriptive Cataloging and Subject Cataloging divisions for description, subject analysis, classification and assignment to a particular place on a shelf. Whole-book cataloging, which merged descriptive- and subject-cataloging functions in the early 1990s, began the trend toward centralized processing to eliminate duplicative efforts and speed up "throughput"--the time it takes to make a new book findable by catalog users and to get it on the shelf to be served to readers. The reorganization, which has been in planning for the past several years, will allow the Library to better handle both traditional and non-traditional deposits (such as digital). It also positions the organization to respond to the recommendations of the Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control, convened by the Library to address how the popularity of the Internet, advances in search-engine technology, and the influx of electronic information resources have greatly changed the way libraries do their work. The Working Group's final report and recommendations, published in January 2008, are available at The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Founded in 1800, the Library seeks to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, which bring to bear the world’s knowledge in almost all of the world’s languages in almost all formats. Today, the Library serves the public, scholars, Members of Congress and their staff--all of whom seek information, understanding and inspiration. Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed through the Library’s award-winning Web site and via interactive exhibitions on a new, personalized Web site at


PR 08-190
ISSN 0731-3527