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Cataloging Resources: Home

Elements of Cataloging and Classification

To "catalog" a book or other form of library material involves several interrelated processes which all contribute to the achievement of Charles Ammi Cutter's "objects" for a catalog:

  • To enable a person to find a book of which the author, title, or subject is known
  • To show what the library has by a given author, on a given subject, or in a given kind of literature, and
  • To assist in the choice of a book.

(Adapted Rules for a Printed Dictionary Catalogue, by Charles Ammi Cutter, 4th ed., 1904, p. 12.)

Thus, catalogers prepare a description of an item, assign subject headings, determine a shelf location using a classification system, provide a link to the electronic item, if appropriate, and code that information with both MARC tags or metadata so that it may be displayed in local online catalogs and, if the library catalogs with OCLC, in WorldCat. Each element of the cataloging process is addressed in other tabs of this Guide, along with sources for the cataloging tools needed.

Key Resources

Critical Cataloging

Cataloging ethics is described as the "principles and values that provide an intentional decision-making framework for those who work in cataloging or metadata positions."


This guide is an amalgamation of libguides created by Sharon Smith at Eastern Connecticut State University and the ALA's Cataloging Tools and Resources Guide.  Both are reused with permission.  Changes have been made to update links and reflect local practices.

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