Category Archives: Cataloguing

Catablog: Make Your Library Music Collection Easily Browsable and Discoverable Online


Ultimately, many libraries’ music collections are designed to be “browsing collections,” divided into genres so that library users can stumble upon similar sounds. But with less and less borrowing taking place in the library branch itself, we have to make our music collections easily browsable and discoverable online as well. Part of this involves assigning subject headings to each music catalogue record.

Most public libraries in Australia take their subject headings from the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). LCSH tends to focus strongly on classical music, and in a particularly academic way. Cataloguers can specify if the recording they’re describing includes concertos, sonatas, symphonies, etc., and can pick from an almost endless range of options for including instrumentation and arrangements:

Obscure Concertos

At Digitales we mainly focus on popular music of all kinds, and we find that there are some areas where LCSH can’t quite describe the diversity of our libraries’ recorded music collections. Here are some of the issues I’ve encountered when working with music subject headings:

The one term you can’t use for Classical music under LSCH is “Classical music”. It will redirect you to “Music,” where you have to subdivide by century, instrument, etc. Sub-classifications based on time period, such as “Early music,” “Baroque” or “Romantic” aren’t allowed terms, which in a non-academic context makes some beautiful and distinctive styles of music much, much harder to find in a catalogue because you need to know which century they were written in.

Baroque ReferencesThe “Popular music” conundrum: This subject heading can be fairly useless on its own, because it covers anything from Doris Day, to Lady Gaga, to a variety of world music. Rock music is just as diverse. Even a genre like rap varies enormously, especially in its regional variations, e.g. Southern hip hop has a character of its own, but has no allowed subject term in LCSH. Cataloguers can qualify broad music genres such as these with geographic and chronological subdivisions to distinguish different styles or sounds, e.g. Britpop isn’t an allowed term, but you could use “Rock music – England – 1991-2000”.

Speaking of hip hop, there is an LCSH subject term for Hip-hop, but it’s not really intended to cover music. “Hip hop music” redirects back to “Rap (Music)”. In my humble opinion, the term “rap” doesn’t adequately describe all hip hop, and certainly doesn’t cover the diversity of “urban” music genres. “Rhythm and blues” doesn’t necessarily cut it either, depending on the artist.

There are plenty of Heavy Metal subgenres available in LCSH:

Metal Sub-Genres

But there’s no term for Symphonic or Operatic Metal, which has a unique sound compared to other heavy music. I find the classical fusion of bands like Nightwish, Epica and Apocalyptica to be really interesting listening, and feel this genre deserves its own heading.

Electronic dance music is a bit of a minefield, in my opinion. I have a couple of particular pet peeves with electronic music cataloguing:

The comprehensive LCSH term for this kind of music is “Underground dance music,” rather than the more commonly used EDM. I don’t think anybody outside the library profession would search for this term.

The LCSH term “Dance music” is often used in electronic music records, but this heading actually refers specifically to ethnic folk dancing. Yes, this distinction is a bit pedantic, but on the other hand, Swedish House Mafia doesn’t really fit into the same category as traditional Nordic folk dances. I’ve also seen a fair amount of records using “Techno” as a blanket term, when it’s actually a very specific sub-genre.


For better searchability, and to help borrowers to make a decision without actually listening to the music, I think a good summary field is very useful in a music catalogue record. These are often not included, but can be helpful in describing whether, for example, a rock album is heavy or laid back, features distorted, jangly or driving guitar sounds, etc. etc. Even if these descriptions don’t help with the searching itself, sometimes having a description of the mood of a particular album is a really useful way to choose what to listen to. Tell your borrowers that this is great music for a cocktail party / knitting circle / romantic evening / whatever.

Now if you need me, tap me on the shoulder. I’ll have my headphones on…

Catablog: Libraries Australia – Collaboration and Contribution in the Library Community


Libraries Australia is an amazingly wide-reaching service provided by the National Library of Australia, which supports collaboration and resource sharing among Australian libraries. It’s used for a lot of different purposes, but it all centres around the Australian Bibliographic Database (ANBD), which includes records for over 25 million titles, including newspapers and journals, films, recorded and sheet music and many other media, as well as good old-fashioned books. Over 100 institutions contribute to the database, recording the rich and extremely varied content of Australia’s libraries in one place. Check out this excellent infographic for more information.

For Australian cataloguers, the ANDB is a blessing. It saves time and energy by allowing us to copy catalogue, importing existing bibliographic records into library catalogues instead of having to create each one from scratch (known as original cataloguing). In exchange, cataloguers contribute original records for titles that aren’t on the database yet. As a supplier, creating and maintaining high-quality records in Libraries Australia can be a great way to “give back” to libraries, and be a contributing part of the library community.

Libraries Australia also benefits the broader community through Trove – and if you haven’t visited Trove yet, why not? It’s a discovery service covering a huge range of databases and information resources from Australia and around the world. Most of the resources accessible through Trove are online – digitised newspapers, photographs, archived websites and so many other fascinating archival materials. But since one of the databases Trove covers is the ANBD, is also gives public access to information about physical library holdings across the country. So if, like many booklovers, you’re a member of several libraries, but can’t be bothered searching each different catalogue looking for the item you want, you can use Trove to access holdings information for lots of different library services at once. Not all libraries add their holdings to the database, but enough do that you can at least get a picture of whether the resource you want is widely available. For students, it can be a great way of finding papers and theses held by other universities, even if your own library doesn’t have them.

There are libraries in all manner of sectors and institutions, from public libraries to specialised business, health and government information services. They’re so different in their needs and demographics that they rarely cross paths – but Libraries Australia and the ANBD are a uniting factor, serving all of them and their users, giving access to obscure academic resources for public library patrons, historical material at State and National Libraries for school children, and much more. So here’s to collaboration!

Catablog: Adventures in Audiovisual Cataloguing with RDA

Image Source: Flickr National Film and Sound Archive.
Photographer: Brooke Shannon. Licence.


This month’s Catablog sees our resident Catablogger and Digitales Cataloguing Team Leader, Jennifer, exploring the history of cataloguing from the 19th to 21st century and the transition of audiovisual cataloguing from AACR to RDA:

Generations of librarians in England and the United States have worked to develop rules and standards for English-language library cataloguing. In 1967, after decades of trans-Atlantic co-operation, the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR) were published.

In 1978 a second edition, creatively named AACR2, was published, and adopted as a standard across the English-speaking world. AACR2 went through three revisions, and in 2004, work began on developing a new edition, initially entitled… wait for it… AACR3.

But by then things had changed. A lot. When AACR2 was first devised, cataloguing was still done on index cards, and the concept of a computer in every home, let alone in every handbag, was a bizarre and unthinkable concept. And so in 2005, a re-think of how we catalogue in the 21st century began. Resource Description and Access (RDA) was born – a new cataloguing standard created for the age of e-books and metadata.

But back in the real world, you might begin to wonder what difference this has really made. How can we use the changes introduced with RDA to provide better catalogue access for library customers?

Today I’m going to focus on these MARC fields that started popping up in Libraries Australia records toward the end of 2013:

RDA Fields LA

What exactly are they, and most importantly, what do they do?

Perhaps the most obvious change in an RDA record is the disappearance of the General Material Designation (GMD), which showed the format of a non-book resource in the title field. These new fields pick up where the GMD left off, providing more a more detailed and structured way of recording format and characteristics. Here’s a rundown of the most common of these fields, and what we can do with them:

336 – Content Type

Simply put, what is this thing? Is it a map or model? Text or image? Is it two- or three-dimensional? Does it play music, spoken words or other sounds?

This field could be used display whether a CD is an audiobook or music, if a blu-ray is in 2D or 3D, or if a resource is in Braille or another tactile form for the visually impaired.

337 (Media Type) and 338 (Carrier Type)

Do you need a device to play this, or can you just pick it up and use it? Is it video, audio or a book? Microfilm or microfiche? Is it physical media or an online resource?

Unfortunately these fields only deal with “computers” in general, rather than distinguishing between PCs, game consoles, mobile devices, etc., but this may change in the future.

344 (Sound Characteristics), 346 (Video Characteristics) and 347 (Digital File Characteristics)

These fields are optional and repeatable, depending on media types. They record details that you may not think about too much, but which can be quite important, such as:

  • Whether a vinyl record plays in mono or stereo;
  • If Casablanca on DVD is in the original black-and-white, or if it’s been (perish the thought) colourised;
  • If that console game is region-locked.

In my opinion, this kind of structured, controlled metadata creates some interesting opportunities. For example, it could be used to display eye-catching icons, so that customers using the catalogue could immediately identify whether what they’re looking at is actually what they’re after, without sifting through boring system requirement notes. This is already done to a certain extent, especially for media types:

DVD Icons

But how about being able to concisely and automatically display which device a video game or e-book uses, without extra customisations?

Unfortunately, at this stage most Library Management Systems can’t yet display this data in a helpful, user-friendly way. But I would definitely suggest that you keep these fields in your records, and hide them from displaying in your online catalogue for now. With your next systems upgrade, you might find that they can be used to make the front end of your catalogue cleaner and more visually interesting, with less jargon and messy notes, and more icons and buttons. Who knows what the future holds?

A Brief History of AACR –
RDA: Resource Description and Access –
RDA Toolkit –

Catablog: 5 of My Favourite Things About Cataloguing at Digitales

Joining us today for the first time as Digitales’ official Catablogger is our Cataloguing Team Lead, Jennifer. Each month, she’ll share calaloguing tips and experiences with you on the blog.

Today she shares a little about her team and 5 of her favourite things about cataloguing at Digitales:

A Little About Cataloguing at Digitales

We have eight cataloguers on staff, all with library qualifications, which in my experience is rare for a library supplier. We also have a trainee who’s learning the ropes in between his other duties. I’ve worked at libraries in the past, and found that life on the supplier side opens up a whole new working environment and a unique set of challenges.


Here are 5 of my favourite things about cataloguing at Digitales:

1. Diversity

Together we have experience in all sectors of the library industry, from public and state libraries to corporate and special libraries. We have a range of education levels, ages and life experiences, which means we bring a range of perspectives to our cataloguing practice. The team includes native speakers of Chinese, Korean and Japanese, along with speakers and students of Russian, Hebrew and a smattering of other languages. This is invaluable when we catalogue world music and cinema!

2. Variety

Cataloguing for a number of libraries makes Digitales a much more dynamic working environment than most technical services departments. Life is never boring. Most of us work remotely in more than one Library Management System, as well as manipulating raw MARC files. It means being flexible and really getting to understanding the impact of each element of a MARC record.

3. Pop Culture Mayhem

My background is in Special Libraries, primarily in engineering and finance. So for me, cataloguing popular entertainment is a breath of fresh air. It comes with its own special moments, too. Horror films are especially, shall we say, interesting… And we get to use the best subject headings – one of my all-time favourites is “Varmint hunting,” which I used for this Discovery Channel reality show.

4. Cataloguing as a Customer Service

As a cataloguer, it’s easy to get obsessive about detail. My cataloguing teacher at Box Hill Institute called this “getting excited about full stops” and it can be a good thing, but sometimes it obscures the real purpose of cataloguing: making library resources more discoverable. Working with a supplier, we really get to see cataloguing as a customer service. It’s not just about what’s technically correct, it’s about what’s right for each library and its patrons.

5. Sharing the Love of Music, Film and Television

The team shares a passion for all areas of music and cinema, from Classical to K-Pop, from American indie films to classic science fiction to Japanese anime, and much more. I’ve discovered new movies, TV shows and bands since I started here that I would otherwise never have known about. And being able to discuss them with my colleagues is like going to the AV equivalent of a book club every day.


I look forward to sharing more cataloguing information and experiences with you. If there’s something in particular you’d like to hear about, please let me know in the comments.