In library and information science, bibliographic control (also known as information organization or bibliographic organization) is the process by which information resources are described so that users are able to find and select that information resource. An information resource could be a book, a movie, or an image, among other things. By providing a name, title, and subject access to the description, a bibliographic record is created. This bibliographic record, which is essentially metadata, is indexed by an information retrieval tool (such as a database or a search engine) so that a user can find out whether or not the information resource is relevant to them.
Six Functions of Bibliographic Control
Ronald Hagler identified six functions of bibliographic control.
- "Identifying the existence of all types of information resources as they are made available." The existence and identity of an information resource must be known before it can be found.
- "Identifying the works contained within those information resources or as parts of them." Depending on the level of granularity required, multiple works may be contained in a single package, or one work may span multiple packages. For example, is a single photo considered an information resource? Or can a collection of photos be considered an information resource?
- "Systematically pulling together these information resources into collections in libraries, archives, museums, and Internet communication files, and other such depositories." Essentially, acquiring these items into collections so that they can be of use to the user.
- "Producing lists of these information resources prepared according to standard rules for citation." Examples of such retrieval aids include library catalogue, indexes, archival finding aids, etc.
- "Providing name, title, subject, and other useful access to these information resources." Ideally, there should be many ways to find an item so there should be multiple access points. There must be enough metadata in the surrogate record so users can successfully find the information resource they are looking for. These access points should be consistent, which can be achieved through authority control.
- "Providing the means of locating each information resource or a copy of it." In libraries, the online public access catalogue (OPAC) can give the user location information (a call number for example) and indicate whether the item is available.
History of Bibliographic Control
While the organization of information has been going on since antiquity, bibliographic control as we know it today is a more recent invention. Ancient civilizations recorded lists of books onto tablets and libraries in the Middle Ages kept records of their holdings. With the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, multiple copies of a single book could be produced quickly. Johann Tritheim, a German librarian, was the first to create a bibliography in chronological order with an alphabetical author index. Konrad Gesner followed in his footsteps in the next century as he published an author bibliography and subject index. He added to his bibliography an alphabetical list of authors with inverted names, which was a new practice. He also included references to variant spellings of author's names, a precursor to authority control. Andrew Maunsell further revolutionized bibliographic control by suggesting that a book should be findable based on the author's last name, the subject of the book, and the translator. In the 17th century Sir Thomas Bodley was interested in a catalog arranged alphabetically by author's last name as well as subject entries. In 1697 Frederic Rostgaard called for subject arrangement that was subdivided by both chronology and by size (whereas in the past titles were arranged by their size only), as well as an index of subjects and authors by last name and for word order to in titles to be preserved based on the title page.
After the French Revolution, France's government was the first to put out a national code containing instructions for cataloging library collections. At the British Museum Library Anthony Panizzi created his "Ninety-One Cataloging Rules" (1841), which essentially served as the basis for cataloging rules of the 19th and 20th centuries. Panizzi's "91 Rules" are also the origins of ISBD and Dublin Core. Charles C. Jewett took Panizzi's "91 Rules" and used them at the Smithsonian Institution, thus bringing Americans into the mix of cataloging, a domain where Europeans had traditionally had more influence.
- Hagler, Ronald (1997). The Bibliographic Record and Information Technology, 3rd ed. Chicago: American Library Association.
- Taylor and Joudrey, p. 5
- Taylor and Joudrey, p. 6
- Taylor and Joudrey, p. 7
- Strout, Ruth French (1956). "The Development of the Catalog and Cataloging Codes." Library Quarterly 26(4): 254-275
- Smalley, Joseph (1991). "The French Cataloging Code of 1791: A Translation." Library Quarterly 61(1): 1-14.
- Taylor, Arlene G.; Joudrey, Daniel N. The Organization of Information (3rd ed.). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.