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Cataloguing policy

1. Definitions

  • Cataloguing – preparing bibliographic metadata to represent collection resources, using applicable standards to enable discovery and access and provide efficient inventory control.
  • Bibliographic metadata – standardised information describing the characteristics and intellectual content of a resource.
  • Authority control – the creation and maintenance of consistent forms of terms – names and subjects – used in a library catalogue to facilitate discoverability.
  • Data sharing and interoperability – providing standardised metadata to enable data to be exchanged and utilised by other library systems and to integrate with and engage in the wider information community.
  • Levels of cataloguing – define how completely, and with what degree of verification, catalogue records are produced. The level of cataloguing assigned is influenced by access needs, collecting priorities and staff resources.
  • State collection – the name given to the Library's collection by the Libraries Act 1988.
  • Substandard catalogue data – catalogue data that is not compatible with current standards and is not capable of enabling discovery and access to library resources. This would include metadata that has been converted from a printed format to a machine readable format.

2. Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to inform individuals about the State Library's approach to bibliographic metadata in order to achieve consistent definitions and application of standards.

3. Scope

This policy applies to anyone who adds bibliographic data directly to the Library Management System (LMS), or who contributes data in other format, such as Excel, that is subsequently repurposed into catalogue records. This includes library staff, volunteers and work experience students.

4. Content

4.1 Overview

Catalogue records of varying levels of detail are provided for the majority of printed publications, original materials, electronic and digital resources in the Library's collections. Cataloguing activity is disseminated across library divisions, workgroups and collections. The Collection Resources Division is responsible for establishing and maintaining cataloguing policies and standards library wide, including training and disseminating cataloguing information.

The Cataloguing Steering Committee, which is chaired by the Manager, Collection Resources, is a cross-divisional forum that participates in the development, co-ordination and review of cataloguing policies and standards.

4.2 Principles

  • The Library provides the best quality metadata for the catalogue to enable collection discovery and access, and to facilitate inventory management.
  • Priority is given to cataloguing the resources which are part of the State Collection.
  • The Library supports data sharing and data interoperability between the State Library Victoria and external systems by:
    • adopting and applying standards that enable the creation, exchange and linking of descriptive metadata
    • utilising existing metadata where possible
    • contributing bibliographic and holdings data to Libraries Australia, Trove and other bibliographic databases.
  • The Library uses current metadata standards, adopted by expert cataloguing committees and forums endorsed by the library community (see 5. Related documents for current standards and guides).
  • Different levels of cataloguing are applied according to the significance of the resources.
  • The Library adopts a flexible approach to the quality of the bibliographic records supplied by vendors to enable access to titles in databases.
  • Catalogue metadata is provided at the earliest time feasible.
  • Catalogue metadata may be reviewed and updated to meet changing standards, technical requirements or to enhance access.

4.3 Levels of cataloguing

Levels of cataloguing define how completely, and with what degree of verification, catalogue records are produced.

  • Any new full or minimum level record (original cataloguing) input to the catalogue by the State Library Victoria should be described at least to core RDA for format and meet Libraries Australia required data elements.
  • If a record in AACR2 format is sourced as copy, it is acceptable to leave the record as AACR2.
  • Records purchased from vendors are usually accepted at the level and standard received. These records are numerous and most often transient, they provide the only catalogue access to titles within subscription databases.

The level of cataloguing to be applied is determined by State Library Victoria cataloguing priorities and other factors, including format and size of collection. It may also be determined by staffing resources available to complete the cataloguing.

Full level

Full-level catalogue records include full descriptive data, and all descriptive and subject access points and notes necessary to identify the item, to differentiate it from other items, and to cover all the characteristics of the item that might be useful for resource discovery. Full-level records are exported to Libraries Australia and Trove. This level of original cataloguing is provided for the majority of Victorian resources.

Minimum level

Minimum level cataloguing is an abbreviated form of cataloguing that reflects less than full level bibliographic description, subject analysis and authority work. Minimum level records conform at least to core RDA for format and Libraries Australia required data elements and may be exported to Libraries Australia and Trove. This level of cataloguing is applied to resources that may not be of such value that they justify full level cataloguing; eg non-Australian government publications; material in large collections where the most efficient way to provide item level bibliographic control is to produce brief or less than full catalogue records; eg large collections of zines, comics and photographs. Most spreadsheet cataloguing is completed to minimum level.

Inventory level

Inventory level records are created primarily for internal inventory management. They contain a minimum amount of data for discovery and may not conform to core RDA or Libraries Australia required data elements. These records are not exported to Libraries Australia or Trove. They may be upgraded to minimum or full level at a later stage. Examples include: Acquisition order records, Victorian Government Publications (VGP) ephemera records.

While full level bibliographic description is desirable, the Library considers some level of bibliographic description preferable to no bibliographic access.

Collection description

Collection-level cataloguing brings together items with common characteristics and provides a single catalogue record with access points relevant to the whole set of material. Cataloguing at the collection level provides limited catalogue access and description.

Types of resources that may be catalogued at the collection level include:

  • Manuscript and other original resources, where the individual items (letters, journals, etc) are of most value in the context of the whole collection. These collections often have associated finding aids.
  • Collections of photographs/negatives sharing a common subject or theme, often containing duplicate or very similar items.
  • Large collections of unprocessed donated, or purchased resources, as a means of providing temporary control. This category of material may be catalogued to item level at a later stage.

Collection records can be inventory, minimum or full level records.

Additional discovery pathways

The Library may also use other ways of describing and making accessible resources in the Library's collections when appropriate. For instance, finding aids that provide information on the arrangement, context and content of collections of personal papers are accessible from the Library catalogue. These finding aids, summaries, transcripts and lists provide more detailed information than could normally be stored in a catalogue record.

Another example is the Australiana Index which is a citation index available on the catalogue. Compiled by Library staff and volunteers, it contains references to catalogued published resources held in the Library’s collections, including newspapers, journals and books. Index records conform to in-house standards, including a subject thesaurus compiled for the Index.

4.4 Cataloguing priorities

The Library aims to catalogue newly acquired resources and maintain catalogue data to ensure that users are able to readily access resources. To achieve these aims it must make the best use of available staffing resources by:

  • using MARC records created by others whenever possible
  • purchasing MARC records to provide access to large eresource collections
  • using shortcuts, such as creating spreadsheet entries, for very large collections for which original cataloguing is beyond the capacity of the Library
  • subscribing to a MARC record service to provide access to subscription databases.

Resources acquired for the collections

Cataloguing priorities are determined by the Library's collecting strengths as outlined in the Collection Strategy 2020-24, agreements with cooperative cataloguing schemes and the needs of library users. Also priority is given to collection resources that are owned and newly acquired by the Library, subject to available staffing resources.

High priority

  • Victorian resources; eg legal deposit, commercial and non-commercial, government, newspapers, magazines and journals, ephemera, websites, born-digital, manuscripts, pictures
  • user requests for resources which are listed as acquired but uncatalogued in the library catalogue
  • resources required for exhibitions
  • significant resources/collections
  • resources selected for digitisation.

Medium priority

  • Australian resources, other than Victorian
  • non-Australian; eg non-Australian government publications and pictures
  • resources relocated to deeper storage at Swanston Street or offsite; eg pictures and manuscripts.

Low priority

  • non-Victorian donations
  • low demand categories of legal deposit; eg non-English language and classroom aids.

4.5    Catalogue maintenance priorities

Cataloguing is generally directed at creating catalogue records for resources acquired for the collections. Resourcing is also applied to catalogue maintenance tasks.

High priority

  • catalogue corrections affecting discovery and access and which are requested by library users and staff
  • authority control of Victorian names of people and organisations
  • upgrading existing substandard catalogue data for resources selected for digitisation, exhibitions, collaborative projects and relocation to deeper storage
  • upgrading of substandard catalogue data for Victorian resources
  • barcoding of Victorian newspapers in offsite storage
  • upgrading serial holdings statements and barcoding of material identified for removal to deeper storage at Swanston Street or offsite.

Medium priority

  • upgrading of substandard catalogue data; eg legacy data that has been converted from a card to a machine readable format, contains minimal information and is not compatible with current standards
  • upgrading of serial holding statements and barcoding of serials in offsite storage
  • barcoding of microfilm.

Low priority

  • authority control of non-Australian names (these are addressed by adding Library of Congress name authorities to the catalogue)
  • retrospective analysis of monographs in series.

5. Related documents

SLV policies and procedures

Libraries Act 1988 (Vic)
Guidelines for digital objects (as amended from time to time)
Collection strategy 2020-24

Standards, controlled vocabularies and guides

The Library follows national and international standards, including the latest editions of:


Resource description and access (RDA)
Anglo American cataloguing rules. Second edition (AACR2)
MARC 21 formats
Library of Congress subject headings (LCSH)
Library of Congress genre/form terms for Library and archival materials (LCGFT)
Library of Congress name authorities (LCNA)
Libraries Australia authorities (for Australian names)
Libraries Australia standards and guidelines (various)
Dewey decimal classification (DDC)
Cutter four-figure tables


CONSER cataloguing manual
Thesaurus for graphic materials (TGM)
Controlled vocabularies for use in rare book and special collections cataloguing
Descriptive cataloguing of rare materials
Encoded archival description (EAD)
Art and architecture thesaurus (AAT)
Classification and cataloguing of maps and atlases (Boggs & Lewis) Victorian schedule / State Library of Victoria
Describing archives: a content standard (DACS)
Best practices for music cataloguing using RDA and MARC21
Digital Object Management system (DOMs)
Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI)
Descriptive cataloguing of rare materials, graphics (DCRM(G))/ Bibliographic Standards Committee, Rare Books and Manuscripts Section, Association of College and Research Libraries, in collaboration with the Policy and Standards Division of the Library of Congress.

This list may vary from time to time.