Learn about: What a library catalog is, how catalogs are organized, what a bibliographic record is, how to recognize the parts of a bibliographic record, and access points.
A library catalog is a systematic listing of all the items available in a library or group of libraries. Items included in a catalog are books, periodical titles, videos and films, audio recordings, maps, government documents, etc. Not usually included in the catalog are individual periodical articles.
The purpose of the catalog is to make items in the library more accessible to users and to provide basic information about the items in the library's collection. Each item within the catalog is described in a record by fields, such as author, title, edition, publisher, date, physical appearance, subject, and location of item. This information is organized in a standardized format that is easily identified, known as a bibliographic record.
To search a catalog effectively it is necessary to understand the parts of a bibliographic record. Bibliographic records contain the same basic information regardless of where they appear: card catalogs, online catalogs, web-based catalogs, print indexes, or online databases. The appearance of the information may vary slightly, but the content remains constant.
In each bibliographic record, you will usually find information about the author, title, imprint or publication date, physical description of the item, and subject headings.
Example: Online catalog record
Since bibliographic records consist of the same type of data in standardized fields, we can use some of this information (author, title, subject) to search for specific records that might be listed in a catalog, based on our information needs. Thus, author, title and subject information become ways to access the information we need, or access points.
Catalogues and bibliographies
The National Library provides a broad range of information services based on the catalogues of its own collections, union catalogues, and Polish and foreign information resources. Intensive work is underway on retroconversion of the traditional card catalogue – i. e., its transfer to electronic format. The main online catalogue since 1997 is using INNOPAC software. The data in the catalogue are encoded in the Unicode standard, owing to which the National Library may cooperate with the European Library – a portal for searching the content of most of Europe’s libraries.
The National Library performs the duties of the national bibliographic agency, and at the same time the national centre of information on library documents. It compiles and publishes both the print-on-paper and the electronic version of the current and retrospective national bibliography, and special bibliographies: a bibliography of Polish bibliographies and a bibliography of library science. The current national bibliography is composed of “Przewodnik Bibliograficzny” [Bibliographic Guide], which registers books, “Bibliografia Zawartości Czasopism” [Index to Periodicals], “Bibliografia Wydawnictw Ciągłych” [Bibliography of Serials], “Bibliografia Wydawnictw Ciągłych Nowych, Zawieszonych i Zmieniających Tytuł” [Bibliography of Serials – New, Suspended and Changed Titles”], and ‘‘Polonica Zagraniczne” [Foreign Polonica], as well as the “Bibliografia Dokumentów Elektronicznych” [Bibliography of Electronic Documents] published since 2001, and the “Bibliografia Dokumentów Kartograficznych” [Bibliography of Cartographic Documents] covering data since 2002. Two statistical reports prepared at the National Library are helpful in defining the situation of the book and libraries in Poland: the official statistics of Polish publishing generated on the basis of the data registered in the current national bibliography and published as the annual “Ruch Wydawniczy w Liczbach” [Polish Publishing in Figures], and the annually published “Biblioteki Publiczne w Liczbach” [Public Libraries in Figures].