Competency G

Demonstrate understanding of basic principles and standards involved in organizing information such as classification and controlled vocabulary systems, cataloging systems, metadata schemas, or other systems for making information accessible to a particular clientele.

Statement of Competency

A LIS professional with this competency will know how to design or populate an IR system that enables information retrieval by correctly classifying items, follow cataloging rules, using standard metadata schemas, subject headings and best practices for information architecture.

Cataloging is one of facet of librarianship. The main purpose of cataloging is to uniformly arrange information in such a way that information can be retrieved efficiently. Mortimer (2007), describes cataloging as “the preparation of bibliographic information for catalog records” (Mortimer, 2007, p. 9). Each item that is added to the library collection is catalogued and to achieve consistency, catalogers must adhere to international rules and standards when creating catalog records, both in description and metadata (p.9). Today open access and interoperability is encouraged not just within one library but between libraries. The prevalence of copy cataloging and cooperative cataloging also necessitates accuracy because records should have integrity when it is shared.

The Library of Congress defines a cataloging record as a “bibliographic information that is traditionally shown on a catalog card” (LOC, 2015).  The essential information includes: bibliographic description of the item, main entry and added entries (which will serve as access points), subject headings, and classification number. The catalog record is also known as a surrogate record, which is a representation of an item in an information retrieval system. In library science, this is commonly referred to as bibliographic control.

Principles of Information Organization

The current practices for organizing information have evolved from principles that were created in the past, for example, Cutler’s Rules and the Paris Principles (Lazarinis, 2014, Section 1.2.1 & 1.2.2). These rules guided catalogers for many decades. The most recent cataloging principles were authored by the IFLA. The International Cataloging Principles (ICP)’s updated draft edition was written this year.  It is an expansion of the Paris Principles and includes not only principles and objectives but also guiding rules that should be included in cataloging rules internationally. It also provides guidance on search and retrieval capabilities (IFLA, 2015, p. 4-6). These principles were created in response to the changing world of information science and its requirements.

In ICP, the catalogue is expected to be an effective and efficient tool that enables users to find bibliographic resources in a collection as a result of a search using attributes or relationships of the entities to find a single resource or sets of resources, to identify and select a bibliographic resource that is appropriate to the user’s needs, to navigate the catalog and acquire access to an item described (p. 10-11).

Standards for Organizing Library Resources

There are several ways to organize information that maximize access and findability. These include classification systems, descriptive cataloging, subject headings, controlled vocabularies, and metadata schemas. The end product of the cataloger’s efforts is the catalog which Lazarinis (2014) describes as “a comprehensive list of items in a library collection, arranged in a systematic order to facilitate retrieval” (Lazarinis, 2014, Glossary). The cataloger must use the following tools in order to produce a catalog that enables an effective searching experience and relevant results.

Classification Systems

Classification systems assign a classification number to an item which representative of its subject area. Some widely used classification systems include the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) and the Library of Congress Classification (LCC).

The Universal Decimal Classification (UDC) is an international classification system that is highly flexible system. Its structure allows for new developments and new fields of knowledge be readily incorporated and it is independent of any particular language or script (UDC, 2015). The U.S. Government also has its own classification system called the Government Printing Office (GPO) Classification. This system consists of a list of classes for U.S. government agencies assigned in the Superintendent of Documents Classification (ALCTS, 2015).

Cataloging Systems

Descriptive Cataloging – is a method of cataloging that describes items, identifies and formats access points using standards like the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules 2nd edition (ACCR2). The ACCR2 is an international descriptive metadata schema with rules governing description; choice of entry; form of name, title, and series headings; and corresponding catalog resources in any format (LOC, 2015).

The Resource Description and Access (RDA) is the new standard for descriptive cataloging, released in 2010, that provides guidelines on creating bibliographic data and instructions on formulating data to support resource discovery (JSC, 2014). RDA is “the new unified cataloging standard” (RDA Toolkit, 2015). The advantage of RDA is that it covers all types of content and media. The difference between AACR2 and RDA is structural. RDA is based on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR). Using RDA instructions in making descriptions makes them compatible with any coding schema and can also work with existing records that were created using AACR2 rules (Oliver, 2010, p. 128).

The International Standard Bibliographic Description for Serials (ISBD) and Other Continuing Resources is the international standard for creating catalog records for serials and other continuing resources. This was developed by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (ALCTS, 2015).

Another descriptive cataloging system is the Art and Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) which was developed by the Getty Art History Information Program. Its scope includes terminology needed to catalog and retrieve information about the art, architecture, decorative arts, material culture, and archival materials. Its structured vocabulary can be used by museums, libraries, visual resource collections, archives, conservation projects, cataloging projects, and bibliographic projects. It is a thesaurus that is in compliance with ISO and NISO standards (Getty, 2015).

Subject Cataloging – uses subject headings to organize information. Subject headings encapsulates the content of the work. The Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) is a list of subject headings for all subjects, generally for larger research libraries. It is a massive database of subject heading authority records. These authorities are available through the LOC’s online catalog. Children’s literature has a separate list of subject headings developed and maintained by the LOC (LOC, 2015).

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has developed and maintains Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) which is available online from NLM at Medical Subject Headings (NLM, 2015).  MeSH includes an annotated alphabetic list with notes for indexers, catalogers, and searchers (ALCTS, 2015).

The Sears List of Subject Headings is a core list of headings that serves the unique needs of small and medium sized libraries. It suggests headings appropriate for use in their catalogs and provides patterns and institutions for adding new headings as they are required (EBSCO, n.d.).

Controlled Vocabularies

A controlled vocabulary is an authoritative list of terms used in indexing. It is also called an authority file. Controlled vocabularies are useful in ensuring consistent indexing, especially of multiple documents, periodical articles, and web sites. They are also used when indexing a single work that could have multiple indexers such as different volumes of an encyclopedia. Controlled vocabularies can take the form of the following:

  1. Taxonomies – are controlled vocabularies that have a hierarchical nature. Terms within a taxonomy are related to the other terms within that taxonomy. Typical relations are: parent/broader term, child/narrower term, or often both if the term is at a mid-level within a hierarchy. A taxonomy is often displayed as a tree structure. Terms within the taxonomy are called “nodes.”
  2. ThesauriA thesaurus is a controlled vocabulary that follows a standard structure where all the terms have relationships to each other. These relationships are: hierarchical (broader/narrower term), associative (see also), and equivalent (use/used from or see/seen from). Thesauri usually include scope notes for terms or brief explanations on how to use the terms for indexing. Thesauri are often created by the indexer for a specialized group of terms like the thesaurus in the ERIC database.
  3. Ontologies – like thesauri is a kind of taxonomy with structure and specific types of relationships between terms. Ontologies have greater types of relationships and are more specific in their function. Examples of relationships include located in (which relates to a place). Ontologies are used in more complex information systems, such as the Semantic Web (Taxonomies & Controlled Vocabularies SIG, 2015).

Metadata Standards and Schemas

Metadata is structured information that describes, explains, locates, or otherwise makes it easier to retrieve, use or manage an information resource. Libraries use metadata for resource description of digital and non-digital objects. Traditional library cataloging is a form of metadata; MARC 21 is a metadata standard used in most libraries to describe monographs and other print material. Other schemas have been developed for different kinds of textual and non-textual objects like visual materials, data sets generated from research, and electronic documents (NISO, 2001, p. 1).

Metadata serves several purposes but its main purpose it to facilitate information discovery. Metadata also helps organize electronic resources, facilitate interoperability and integration with legacy resources. They provide digital identification, such as establishing governance other pertinent information that is used in archiving and preservation.

NISO (2001) enumerates many metadata schemes which have been developed for different environments and disciplines. The Dublin Core Metadata Element Set, is used by authors to describe Web resources (NISO, 2001, p. 3). The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Guidelines specify encoding methods for machine-readable texts chiefly in the humanities, social sciences and linguistics (TEI, 2015). The Metadata Encoding Transmission Standard (METS) is a schema for encoding descriptive, administrative, and structural metadata for objects within a digital library and is expressed using the XML schema language. The Metadata Object Description Schema (MODS) is a schema for a bibliographic element set that may be used for a variety of purposes, and particularly for library purposes. It was created to bridge selected data from existing MARC 21 records and allow the creation of original resource description records (LOC, 2015).

The Encoded Archival Description (EAD) is a non-proprietary standard for the encoding of finding aids for use in a networked environment (SAA, 2015). Other schemas mentioned by NISO (2001) are Interoperability of Data in Ecommerce Systems (<indecs>), the Visual Resources Association (VRA) Core Categories, the ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG), the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM), officially known as FGDC-STD-001-1998, and the Data Documentation Initiative (DDI) standard for describing social science datasets (NISO, 2001, p. 7-9).

Justification of Evidence

  1. The Birdhouse Emporium (LIBR 202 – Information Retrieval)

This artifact is a compilation of a multipart group assignment. I included this artifact from my information retrieval class because it taught me the skills to create a database with retrievable information. After all, a catalog is a database. Our group wanted to create a collection of records for birdhouses which theoretically can be used by a birdhouse merchant. Because we haven’t learned about MARC 21 yet, we created our own fields. These fields were divided between the 6 group members. One of my classmates and I were assigned to think of values for the fields of color, style, display, cleanout, and bird type. We collaboratively worked on the statement of purpose and the rules for the database.

At my former job, I did all the copy-cataloging and although I did the job correctly, I didn’t understand the logic behind it. This gave me an understanding of attributes and values and how to structure an effective IR system. I also learned how to use a controlled vocabulary, which were the values in the fields of the database. This project gave me the confidence to tackle other IR systems, like the one we use to create student IDs.

  1. MARC Bibliographic Records Quiz and Exercise (LIBR 248 – Beginning Cataloging)

This exercise and quiz is from Lesson 3 of my cataloging class. My instructor always gave these as a combo assignment. I included it as evidence to show that I understand the MARC 21 metadata standard. MARC 21 replaced MARC in the late 1990s. MARC stands for MAchine-Readable Cataloging. It provides the mechanism by which computers exchange, use and interpret bibliographic information, and its data elements are used by most libraries. MARC 21 is mapped with other metadata schemas like Dublin Core, MODS, ONIX and Digital Geospatial Metadata (LOC, 2015). A MARC record consists of three elements: the record structure (an implementation of ISO 2709 & ANSI/NISO Z39.2), the content designation, and the content of the data elements. The MARC 21 Format guidelines defines the codes and conventions (tags, indicators, subfield codes, and coded values) that identify the data elements in MARC classification records. MARC 21 has been used for online public catalog (OPAC) retrieval systems and the data elements were designed to use two major classification systems: the DDC and LCC (LOC, 2015).

In doing the exercise, I was able to practice the concepts that were taught in this lesson such as identifying different MARC fields, how to read the tags, delimiters, indicators, subfield codes and start-of-message mark (SOM). Knowing this information is certainly beneficial when I used to do copy-cataloging and if I ever work as a cataloger again.

  1. Saving Significant Metadata (LIBR 284 – Tools, Services and Methodologies for Digital Curation)

This last piece of evidence is from my digital curation class and it is from a discussion we had on what significant properties we would like to preserve for a particular type of media. I chose to create the metadata for a digital photograph I took while in Dallas, TX. I used a great tool called Jeffrey Friedl’s Exif (Image Metadata) Viewer. By uploading a picture, it reads the embedded metadata. I also used Adobe Photoshop to read the metadata which can be accessed by right-clicking on the image file. For this photograph, I used the significant properties of file formats for digital objects namely: the content (caption, subject and description), the context (creator, date/time, and other technical details like the camera  used to take the picture, image size and file type), appearance (or rendering), and behavior (permanent URL or identifier, other related links or tags). I did not use structure because this picture is not a part of collection or series.

Learning how to do this not only benefits me as an informational professional because I am better able to describe a resource using metadata standards but also to taught me to add metadata to my personal files. This is will aid in determining the details of a particular file like when it was created and modified, who created it, or if the file is saved in a standard data format. For example, I didn’t know that the best image format is TIFF, which has the least data loss when being copied for preservation. Converting to an open-data format like TIFF is recommended by the OAIS Reference Model for Open Archival Information System to enable access in the future even if hardware and media material has changed.


Association for Library Collections and Technical Services. (2015). Cataloging standards. Retrieved from

EBSCO Support. (n.d.). What is the Sears List of Subject Headings? Retrieved from

IFLA Cataloging Section. (2015). Statement of international cataloging principles (ICP). Draft. Den Haag, Netherlands: International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. Retrieved from

Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA (2014). RDA: Resource Description and Access. Retrieved from

Lazarinis, F. (2014). Cataloging and classification: An introduction to AACR2, RDA, DDC, LCC, LCSH, and MARC 21 standards. New York, NY: Chandos Publishing.

Library of Congress. (2015). MARC 21 Classification. Retrieved from

Library of Congress. (2015). MARC Standards. Frequently asked questions. Retrieved from

Library of Congress. (2015). METS home. Retrieved from

Library of Congress. (2015). MODS: uses and features. Retrieved from

Mortimer, M. (2007). Learn Descriptive Cataloging.Friendswood, TX: Total Recall Publications.

National Library of Medicine. (2015). Medical subject headings. Retrieved from

Oliver, C. (2010).  Introducing RDA: a guide to the basics.Chicago, IL: ALA Editions.

PCC. (2015). About PCC. Retrieved from

Society of American Archivists. (2015). Encoded archival description (EAD). Retrieved from

Taxonomies & Controlled Vocabularies SIG. (2015). About taxonomies and controlled vocabularies. Retrieved from

Taylor, A.G. (2006). Introduction to Cataloging and Classification, 10th ed. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

The Getty Research Institute. (2015). About AAT. Retrieved from

UDC Consortium. (2015). About Universal Decimal Classification. Retrieved from