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Cataloging policy

The level of cataloging quality varies according to the nature of BnF's responsibility on the items catalogued.

The catalogue général de la BnF contains the following:

  • a large proportion of the library’s former printed and card catalogs, which have been converted;
  • descriptions of both newly produced items or older materials, received both under the legal deposit scheme and by way of acquisitions, donations, and exchanges.

BnF’s cataloging policy defines the required levels of quality and cataloging instructions for bibliographic records created natively in the catalogue général de la BnF.

It is broken down by type of material and the route by which materials come into the library. It is aligned with the needs of users: on-site readers, remote readers, and library staff, publishers, and booksellers.  It is supplemented by an indexing policy.

Materials obtained under the legal deposit scheme

Responsibilities of a national library

As a national library, BnF has both national and international responsibilities in respect of describing materials obtained under the legal deposit scheme.

This obligation covers materials which are published, printed, or distributed in France and added to the library’s heritage collections. Once received by BnF under the legal deposit scheme, such materials are described in bibliographic records contained in the catalogue général de la BnF.
These records are extracted from the catalogue général de la BnF to create the French National Bibliography, which BnF has a duty to maintain (under the terms of Article L.131-1 of the Heritage Act).
They have authoritative value and can be reused by French and foreign libraries and other public and commercial organizations.

BnF also has national and international responsibilities in respect of the quality and reliability of access points to these records. For this reason, BnF maintains an authority file (with authorized and rejected forms, information about entities, usage instructions, etc.) for use by the professional community.

Complete authority records may be accessed via the “BnF authorities” section of the catalogue général de la BnF, which enables to retrieve authority records for names of persons and corporate bodies, titles, and geographical names.

Finally, BnF has national responsibilities in respect of managing the RAMEAU subject authority list (which can also be viewed via the “Authorities” section of the catalogue général de la BnF) and assigning ISSNs to French publications.

See also

Acquisitions, donations, and exchanges

Responsibilities of a research library

As a research library, BnF also grows its collections by way of acquisitions, donations, and exchanges. Such collections are either available on an open-access basis or are added to the library’s closed-stack heritage collections. Such materials, at least as far as monographs are concerned, are equal in number to those received under the legal deposit scheme.

Descriptive records for these collections are added to the catalogue général de la BnF. The corresponding authorities that are created are included in the BnF authority file. All such records can be downloaded.

BnF has no particular national or international responsibilities in respect of the bibliographic and authority records it creates in this connection. However, these records must include the information needed to identify and locate materials.

A high quality bibliographic offering

Everyday cataloging is based on the application of standards

Cataloging policy is defined by way of a consultation process involving BnF’s various departments. It guarantees the quality of records in the catalogue général de la BnF, and thus of records published in bibliographic and authority products extracted from the catalogue général de la BnF.

Irrespective of the route by which materials come into the library, record quality is defined by national and international rules. A list of the standards and authoritative documents used, together with transcription and transliteration systems, is available online.

Speed of appearance and relevance of description are also taken into consideration so as to meet users’ expectations as fully as possible.

Finally, cataloging policy may evolve in line with changes in the editorial world and internal constraints.

BnF has implemented operating procedures and set up bodies responsible for ensuring that policy is properly applied.

Cataloging principles

Descriptions vary according to the route by which materials come into the library

The cataloging principles applied at BnF, together with instructions derived from those principles, are set out in the Practical Guide for Catalogers (Guide pratique du catalogueur). The way in which these principles are applied is adjusted for certain types of materials, including in particular graphic materials.

Note: The Practical Guide for Catalogers specifies when exceptions are made to these principles.

Materials obtained under the legal deposit scheme
Descriptive records Records are created based on physical inspection of materials.
Full standard description.
Subject indexing and classification See indexing policy.
Authority records Links to authority records.
Acquisitions, donations, and exchanges
Descriptive records Records are created based on physical inspection of materials.
Simplified standard description used to populate major indexes in the catalog.
Cataloging may draw on records from BnF’s bibliographic pool (OCLC’s WorldCat). Access points are controlled through BnF authority records.
Subject indexing and classification See indexing policy.
Authority records Links to authority records.

Information not included in records in the catalogue général de la BnF

For information, records in the catalogue général de la BnF do not include the following:

  • abstracts
  • tables of contents
  • reproductions of covers
  • analyses (for periodicals, miscellanea, and proceedings)
    Exceptions apply to certain materials belonging to special collections departments (Performing Arts, Cartographic Materials, etc.) and sound recordings.

Some materials are not described individually, but at folder level.

Choosing among various levels of cataloging

Sound recordings

The Audiovisual Department offers “adjusted cataloging”. This involves treating as a whole materials whose content deserves more extensive description, as well as potentially indexing titles, performers, and authors, using a matrix of types of phonographic publishing and content (number and completeness of works contained, first edition or reissue, content mainly accessible by author, performer, or non-musical concept, etc.).

For more info

sur le catalogage modulé des enregistrements sonores
(information sheet from the Practical Guide for Catalogers)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

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