0.1 The aims, scope and approach of this chapter

This chapter is prerequisite to the following chapters, in that it provides the background for the study of the possible influences of online catalogues on both the bibliographic record and on cataloguing principles. A major aim is to explore the development of online catalogues, their basic features and capabilities and also to reveal the major differences that exist between them and manual catalogues. This comparison will help identify the differences and similarities in the processes by which a bibliographic record and, on a larger scale, a catalogue, is created, manipulated and made accessible to the catalogue user for searching and retrieval. In this context, the requirements of online systems which may influence cataloguing rules will also be discussed. A thorough understanding of the conceptual as well as the practical and technical differences and similarities between the online catalogue and the card catalogue will then help in an investigation of the relevance of current cataloguing principles and rules to the online catalogue. It is not the intention of the present chapter to discuss the influence of the features and capabilities of online catalogues on individual cataloguing principles or concepts. That theme will be covered in chapters 5 and 6.

In any comparison between the online catalogue and the manual catalogue, it seems appropriate to choose the card catalogue among the other forms of catalogues (book catalogues, computer-produced book catalogues, and computer-output microform (COM) catalogues) as an appropriate approach, because: 1) the card catalogue has been and still is one of the most important manual systems in use for more than a century, 2) it is the basis from which the present cataloguing standards (cataloguing codes, ISBDs, and MARC formats) have been developed, and 3) it is the basis on which the structure and contents of online catalogues have been developed, i.e., online catalogues are the logical successors to card catalogues.

It is not the intention of this chapter to reject the merits of the card catalogue. A realistic approach in comparing the online catalogue with the card catalogue should reveal advantages and disadvantages in both catalogues. Although there is overall support among librarians for online catalogues (see section 2.3.1), most librarians consider having knowledge about the card catalogue to be very useful for an understanding of the origins of the present online system, particularly the structure of the MARC format and how individual records fit into the idea of a catalogue system. This was clearly the case in the general discussions about the card catalogue on the AUTOCAT list, 20 November 1994 to 3 December 1994, commenting on the need to teach the card catalogue in library schools. In fact, an understanding of the origins and underlying concepts from which the present environment has evolved will help us develop catalogue systems based on substantive assumptions. In short, this understanding and comparison of the two environments will help us to reassess, refine and redesign our standards for the construction of catalogues. According to John Hickey (<> in a posting to AUTOCAT, 23 November 1994): "Even if nobody still uses catalog cards, more of our professional assumptions that we recognize are based upon unit cards & card displays; it helps to have some acquaintance with the previous technology."

It should be noted that online catalogues and card catalogues can be compared from different perspectives and according to different criteria. However, this study will compare them with regard to the processes by which bibliographic records and files are created, manipulated and organised on the one hand and searched, retrieved and displayed on the other. The differences between the online catalogue and the card catalogue will be explored in terms of the input, manipulation and output processes of bibliographic data.


Online catalogues are a norm today; they are not static; they have developed rapidly and will continue to evolve further. By utilising the various capabilities of computers and telecommunications, online catalogues are adding new features that make them totally different from traditional catalogues. Online catalogues are now gateways to larger information systems or, as Hopkins (1993: 127) says, they are the 'one-stop information store'.

The online environment is an environment encompassing a wide range of information tools, both bibliographic (such as library catalogues, abstracting and indexing services and book trade databases) and non-bibliographic (such as numeric databases, directory databases, and full text databases). Library catalogues are now a small but very important component of the evolving online environment and are accessible through different tools in the networked environment, the public access computer system (PACS). The global network is the Internet including various PACS components such as Gopher, WAIS (Wide Area Information Servers), Netscape and Mosaic and other access modes such as Archie and FTP (File Transfer Protocol) tools. The Webpages created by libraries and other information providers are becoming very pervasive and are often used both by librarians and endusers as linking sources for library information. The same workstation serves as a means of navigating the whole world of the Internet. In the online environment not only are the information tools different from the traditional tools but also the whole concept of access to bibliographic information has changed. Time and location are irrelevant in searching the online environment.

1.2 Developments and directions of online catalogues

As a result of a significant growth in scientific and technological information after the second world war and a resulting expansion in library collections, manual systems could no longer respond effectively to the ever-growing information needs of society. In terms of fast and effective retrieval of bibliographic information, the card catalogue had many disadvantages. Its large size, complexity and high costs of maintenance made it more and more difficult for libraries to maintain as an up to date searching tool (Freedman, 1979a; Guilford, 1979; Matthews, 1985; Reynolds, 1985). It became obvious that a more flexible tool was needed to cope with the new conditions of libraries. It was thus necessary to think of alternative ways of constructing library catalogues that could be cost-effective, manageable and easy to use. Following on the application of computers in other fields, librarians became assured that the computer's theoretical capability to control library operations constituted adequate grounds for embracing a mechanised approach (Hazen, 1981: 30). As Weihs and Howarth (1988: 41) point out, "It was necessary to investigate the computer as a relatively cost-effective tool to provide library catalogs."

Computer applications, however, first occurred in library activities other than the provision of public access to the catalogue. Computers were used in libraries mainly for housekeeping types of activities such as circulation control, acquisitions and serial control. This did not directly affect patrons' access to the library catalogue (Matthews, 1985: 3). Library automation began in the early 1960s with the rationale that "If a job could be done by computer, then the number of staff required to work at a defined level of expertise could be reduced" (Montague, 1978: 313).

Although some evidence of automation of library operations other than cataloguing is reported from the 1950s and 1960s (Reynolds, 1985), it is the MARC (Machine-Readable Cataloging) project that has been considered as one of the most important factors in the development of automated catalogues (Weihs and Howarth, 1988: 41). With the beginning of the MARC Distribution Service in 1969, large libraries began to utilise MARC magnetic tapes mainly for automated cataloguing in the standard form provided by the Library of Congress. The usefulness of MARC services in cataloguing, along with the increasing availability of computer technology in the late 1960s, led to more developments in automated catalogues.

In response to the needs of small and medium-sized libraries without access to a mainframe computer, centralised cataloguing services gave way to the establishment of bibliographic utilities in the early 1970s. The Online Computer Library Center (OCLC, formerly the Ohio College Library Center), established in 1971, has been considered to be a significant factor in the development of automated catalogues. With the standard cataloguing services of such bibliographic utilities, libraries were able to utilise the power of computer technology in a cost-effective way (De Gennaro, 1983: 631; Reynolds, 1985: 55). The proliferation of MARC-based cataloguing led to the realisation of the importance of uniform, standardised bibliographic description as the nucleus of bibliographic services at national and international levels. The growth of bibliographic utilities in the early 1980s as well as developments in telecommunication technology accelerated the move toward centralised MARC-based cataloguing and the need for standardised descriptive cataloguing (Reynolds, 1985: 55, 56).

A significant factor further affecting the development of online catalogues was that some libraries began to use MARC bibliographic information for their circulation systems in an online mode. Using short bibliographic records rather than full MARC records for circulation operations, a number of libraries tried to help their patrons in checking whether an item was on loan, on order, or at binding. This was a form of public enquiry module, which later developed into the online public access catalogue (OPAC). However, as Seal (1984b: 9) pointed out "The public enquiry module will often replicate the structure of a card or COM [Computer Output Microform] catalogue."

Another major factor leading to the rapid development of online public access catalogues was the contribution, by some library system vendors, of designing and developing public access modules as an important part of their turnkey systems. These vendors tried to incorporate a more sophisticated structure for the public enquiry module with more searching facilities. It should be noted that the early public enquiry systems were not integrated with other library modules, such as acquisitions and serials control.

Due to both the relative success and acceptability of online public enquiry modules, and pressures from patrons and librarians, libraries began to consider developing online public access catalogues (OPACs) with more bibliographic information, i.e., full MARC records and more searching capabilities, such as keyword access and Boolean searching (Seal, 1984b: 9). The possibility of utilising MARC records as the foundation of bibliographic databases led to the development of the concept of the Integrated Online Library Systems (IOLS) in which "The information that was input at the acquisitions stage would form a basis for the catalog record which, in turn, would support all library functions. Thus, a number of integrated systems, such as GEAC, ULISYS, ATLAS, DOBIS, NOTIS and VTLS, were established incorporating this modular design (Weihs and Howarth, 1988: 43-44).

The overall factors relating to the growing interest in online catalogues have been numerous. It is generally agreed that the most important factors that led to the rapid proliferation and development of online catalogues in the early 1980s were those related to their search, retrieval and display capabilities. Moreover, the opportunity of feedback from librarians and library patrons has provided a continuing momentum for upgrading the structure, contents and capabilities of online catalogues.

Tracing the historical development of online public access catalogues, Hildreth (1984, 1989) and Matthews (1991) identify three generations of OPACs. This categorisation is based on the features and capabilities of online catalogues in the processes of input, storage and output of bibliographic information. Matthews (1991: 7) claims that most of the existing online catalogues are still in the first or second generations and only a few systems have moved beyond first-generation. Added to the three generations identified by Hildreth and Matthews, recent advances in OPACs using graphical user interfaces (GUIs) have introduced a fourth generation to online catalogues.

First-generation online catalogues

Derived from circulation or cataloguing systems, first-generation online catalogues were in fact computerised card catalogues with almost the same traditional features. In contrast to the patrons' expectations from their use of computerised database systems, these new library catalogues provided limited author, title and controlled vocabulary subject heading access points. For this reason, first-generation online catalogues have been criticised as having no advantages over the card catalogue (Hildreth, 1984: 39; 1987: 650).

Searching in first-generation online catalogues was essentially based upon pre-coordinated information retrieval principles and was possible only through inputting the exact form of words or phrases. In contrast to searching in card catalogues, the patron had great difficulties as he/she had to input something into the system so that it could respond to his/her query. As this was possible only through inputting the exact form of words or phrases, which was difficult to remember, searching was not as successful as the searcher expected. Keyword access was not available and refining a search by further limiting it to elements such as date of publication, language or country of publication was not possible.

The interfaces, which were usually menu-driven, replicated traditional catalogues in their form of access by providing mainly phrase access to separate subject headings, title, and author indexes (Mitev, 1989: 144). Output and display of search results generally had a single format.

Second-generation online catalogues

With further developments in information technology, it was possible to provide a more sophisticated system for input, storage and output of bibliographic information. Second-generation online catalogues are a departure from traditional card catalogues and incorporate many new features for the provision of effective access. In contrast to the limited input, storage and output capabilities of first-generation online catalogues, second-generation online catalogues are characterised as being powerful tools for the searching of bibliographic information. Keyword search, Boolean keyword search, cross index search and increasing or reducing of search results are among the features of second-generation online catalogues (Matthews, 1991: 11). Hildreth (1987: 650-651) writes:

Today's second-generation online catalogs represent a marriage of the library catalogue and conventional online information retrieval (IR) systems familiar to librarians who search online abstracting and indexing databases via DIALOG, BRS, ORBIT, MEDLINE, etc. Improved card catalog-like searching and browsing (via headings and cross references) capabilities have been joined with the conventional IR keyword and Boolean searching approaches. Many online catalogs support the ability to restrict searches to specified record fields, to perform character masking and/or right-hand truncation, and to limit the results by date, language, place of publication, etc. Also, bibliographic records may be viewed and printed in a number of different display formats.

However, it should be noted that there are a number of major differences between online catalogues and these IR systems that make second-generation online catalogues easier searching tools (Ibid: 651). With a combination of different search methods, the user is offered possibilities that were not available in first generation online catalogues.

Due to improvements in the design of database management softwares, the structure and content of bibliographic records in second-generation online catalogues may be enhanced by incorporating full records augmented by information such as tables of contents, summaries, content notes, abstracts and links to full electronic texts. Considerable increase in the length of fields was another improvement in second-generation systems.

Interfaces are usually in two modes, menu-driven and command-driven; this makes the interaction between the user and the catalogue more flexible. In terms of user assistance, these catalogues provide more options including, for example, help screens, error messages and suggestive prompts. Ease of use and user-friendliness are two major features of today's second-generation online catalogues.

Third-generation online catalogues

As mentioned earlier, only a few systems have moved beyond second-generation online catalogues into third-generation online catalogues with enhanced or more sophisticated features. Due to the growing sophistication and availability of technology, new capabilities are being added to online catalogues making them more adaptive to the needs of library patrons. Free text search, enriched database search and simultaneous journal citation searching are among the retrieval capabilities in third generation online catalogues. Furthermore, the mode of interaction has been developed to the point of conversational, adaptive dialogue and the bibliographic format can be tailored according to user preference. Operational assistance such as automatic, context-based correction is also available (Matthews, 1991: 8).

Fourth-generation online catalogues

Beginning from the late 1980s, a most recent development in online public access catalogues has been achieved in providing easy access to bibliographic information by using graphical user interfaces (GUIs) such as Windows. These systems, which can be considered as fourth-generation catalogues, have moved away from the traditional menu-type interfaces and are more associated with client server and graphical user interface. They use WIMP (windows, icons, mouse and pointers) interfaces to speed and simplify searching. With the Windows-style user interface available through PCs (personal computers, i.e., intelligent, and not dumb terminals), there is much more functionality. In these systems the user has the flexibility to click on various buttons, each of which carries a special function. Nevertheless, these systems do not eliminate but augment the keystroke access. There is also the possibility of using function keys for different purposes when keyboards are involved. In general, access is via mouse or keyboard or a combination of both.

Searching capabilities in the Windows version of OPACs are greater than those found in other generations of online catalogues. Pointer capabilities allow the searcher to select exactly the term he/she is looking for, while pull-down menus provide additional options to make searching even more useful. By using scroll bars and pull-down menus, browsing in different indexes is very simple. With the capability of post-Boolean searching, the search software also attempts to interpret users' search requests in order to present matches of greater or lesser interest to the user. This is called relevance ranking of the search terms. Similar to second and third generation online catalogues, these systems search for terms through using an implicit Boolean 'AND'. Other Boolean operators such as 'OR' and 'NOT' can also be used to narrow down search results or such search strings can be constructed using the mouse alone. In addition, access has been enhanced by text retrieval qualifiers such as 'language', 'date' and 'form' of the text. With this feature, it is possible to include new data elements that help in the better identification of the sought item. Integral or add-on text retrieval modules to provide range searching, related term searching, wild card features, adjacency and proximity are supplied by some systems.

As will be discussed in section 2.3.2, one of the recent additional advanced features of fourth-generation OPACs is the 'hypertext' function. Through this function, any word that the user selects or highlights can be used to search all the fields and subfields in all the records in the database for any occurrence of that word. This dynamic feature helps the searcher to navigate the database to find more relevant sources of information.


There have been some general attempts in the literature of the past decade (for example by Cochrane, 1985: 256, and Matthews, 1985: 6) to briefly compare different types of library catalogues. However, these comparisons have not been concerned with the concepts that underlie the nature and structure of the catalogue. In the following sections, the two types of catalogue will be compared in terms of the creation, manipulation and search/retrieval/display of bibliographic records.

2.1 Creation and manipulation of bibliographic records

2.1.1 Structure and content of bibliographic records

By 'structure of the record' is meant the bibliographic description consisting of data elements arranged and presented in a given order, such as card catalogue formats and MARC formats (Svenonius, 1989: 129). It is generally understood that the medium, via which bibliographic records are created, manipulated and made accessible to the searcher, influences their structure and content.

The computer has made possible the enriching of the structure and contents of bibliographic records. While the space limitations of 3" x 5" cards generally restrict the level of data elements to be entered in a record, the content of a bibliographic record in an online catalogue makes it possible and desirable to include more data elements such as those fixed-length data elements indexed in field 008 in the USMARC bibliographic format (see section 1.2.1 in Chapter 5) and even data such as summaries, tables of content, and full texts. This issue has been of major interest to librarians and system designers during the past decade and there have been some proposals in this regard. User studies of the early 1980s showed that most users of online catalogues would like to have access to tables of contents, back-of-the-book indexes and summaries (Matthews, Lawrence, and Ferguson, 1983: 134). Other suggestions have included the titles of essays in collected works or festschriften, book introductions, book jacket material, and the assignment of more subject headings (Markey, 1984: 85).

With the advent and further development of online catalogues it has become possible to assign a larger number of access points to bibliographic records. In comparison to the conventional main and added entries in the card catalogue, any data element in a bibliographic record may be designated as an access point.

2.1.2 MARC format and categorisation of data elements

As a set of standards for the identifying, storing and communicating of cataloguing information, MARC has significantly contributed to the growth of library automation and to the development of online catalogues. Although the MARC record was conceived as an automated version of the catalogue card, the structure is flexible enough to store bibliographic information in more detailed fields and subfields due to the requirements of automated systems for separate identification of data elements. While the medium for the card catalogue is the 3" x 5 " card with a fixed, less flexible format, most online catalogues use MARC as a communication format for the exchange of bibliographic information. In this regard, MARC communicates bibliographic information with more flexibility than the card catalogue. With the machine-readable format, in which the bibliographic information on a record has been broken down into fields and subfields, it is possible to separately identify each data element. This approach also allows for inclusion or exclusion of data elements for output as desired.

Based on the MARC format, bibliographic records can be created and tailored according to the specific needs of the library without either discarding standardisation or diminishing the quality of cataloguing. In the card environment, cataloguing depends on a longer process of manual checking against other catalogues (such as NUC, the National Union Catalog), the ordering of card sets and receiving and interfiling them in the catalogue. This process in online catalogues is done more comprehensively and easily by subscribing to bibliographic utilities or by purchasing MARC products and downloading the needed records into the library's automated system.

MARC records permit a fuller level of description; more data elements to be included in the description and many more data elements to be assigned as access points for retrieval. A MARC record also includes other data, including non-bibliographic data that are used for catalogue maintenance. There is now a trend toward preserving detailed bibliographic records in machine-readable form. According to Reynolds (1985: 285):

The amount and type of information that constitute a 'full bibliographic record' is certainly open to debate, but since the late 1960s the accepted standard has been the MARC format.... The data that can be contained in a MARC record include the entire spectrum of information normally presented on catalog cards plus a great deal of other potentially valuable categorizing information that can be encoded in fixed elements and elsewhere on record.

However, MARC format has been criticised for being an electronic version of the catalogue card and for its limited accommodation of hierarchically structured information (Gaynor, 1996: p. C). As will be discussed in Part 2 of Chapter 5, there are also some problems with the MARC tagging and indexing of data elements that influence retrieval in online databases. Systems may differ from one another in the indexing of fields and it is often difficult to find out what fields are indexed by a given system. This results in retrieval and display problems, leading to user confusion.

2.1.3 Bibliographic standardisation

In comparison to manual systems, the online environment gives much more emphasis to the concept of standardisation. Although the idea of standardised bibliographic description seems to have first appeared with derived cataloguing and the sale of Library of Congress cards in 1898 and later with the introduction of the National Union Catalog (NUC), it was not until the 1970s that the application of computers to library operations and the advent of online catalogues gave to standardisation a much more significant role. With regard to the description, choice and form of data elements to be included in a bibliographic record, conformity to standards, e.g., cataloguing codes, ISBDs and MARC formats, are vital to online catalogues. Unlike libraries of two decades ago with their independent card catalogues, libraries of today often create their own catalogue records according to national and/or international standards for the purposes of easy communication of and access to bibliographic information. Now, it is common for libraries of any size to participate in networks. One result of this, as Wajenberg (1992: 105) points out, is an ever-increasing pressure to conform to national and international standards.

Uniformity and consistency are basic requirements for effective bibliographical control. The rapid growth of shared cataloguing systems, developments in bibliographic utilities and the need for bibliographic exchange between databases in the last decade has led to a stronger reaffirmation of the value of standardisation in bibliographic records. Standardisation helps bibliographic records to be uniformly created, manipulated, exchanged and retrieved. According to Weihs and Howarth (1988: 78-79):

As the cataloguing community moves closer to making the ideal of universal bibliographic control a reality through local, regional, provincial, national, continental and international networks, all libraries assume the responsibility of maintaining standards requisite to maintaining the network. Integration and standardization are the keywords in the increasing movements towards, and promotion of, interconnected telecommunicating automated systems.

Despite this emphasis on the significance of standardisation in the online catalogue, this concept has been considered only in the inputting of data elements in bibliographic description and not in the output and display, whereas in the card catalogue both input and output are standardised. For example, both the card catalogue and the online catalogue conform to the ISBD standard for the input format, i.e., the order of areas, punctuation and levels of description. However, in online catalogues the output format is not fixed as in card catalogues and may be flexible.

As Gorman and associates (1990: 32) state, the standardisation and formalisation of description and access points is crucial to the online environment and to the effective exchange of bibliographic records. As an important concept that has developed over the last hundred years to meet the changing forms of the catalogue and the needs of the profession, standardisation will continue in the future and as Wajenberg (1990: 497) points out, at an accelerated pace.

2.1.4 Input inconsistencies and level of tolerance.

A major difference between a manual and an automated catalogue lies in the fact that the creation of bibliographic records for online catalogues demands more precision and logic in terms of typography, spelling, punctuation, spacing, coding of fields and subfields. This is a critical requirement for computerised systems, since such errors can result in a serious separation or an improper sequencing of entries and therefore can lead to the irretrievability of records. In other words, any errors, even if very small, for instance a faulty keystroke, will be magnified in the online catalogue (Knutson, 1990: 24). However, in a manual system, when filing catalogue cards or when retrieving information, the human brain can often ignore such minor errors and treat them as if they are correct and file them in the right place.

Errors and inconsistencies can be corrected in the process of filing cards, whereas in the automated catalogue there is a lower level of tolerance towards such errors as variations in format, filing and indexing, and literal and logical inconsistencies within the catalogue. In general, the online catalogue is far less forgiving of cataloguing and typographical errors than is the card catalogue.

2.2 Construction and maintenance of the catalogue

2.2.1 Structure and content of the catalogue

By 'structure of the catalogue' is meant how the catalogue is built up, the kinds and content of files and indexes constituting it and the relationships of these files and indexes to one another. For example, a card catalogue, whether in dictionary or divided form, may include different files such as authors (personal; and corporate); references; titles (including other title information and series titles); subject headings (including references) and shelflists.

The advent of the online catalogue has given new dimensions to the catalogue's structure. It is generally maintained that the online catalogue can support a more complex yet more dynamic structure than that of the card catalogue. The online file may be independent and self-contained, it may be related to files of similar scope and structure or it may be integrated with other files such as holdings, circulations, acquisitions and authority files. The online catalogue provides services that were not part of the traditional library catalogue. Access to circulation information, status information, holding information, indexing of special collections, serials and so on have become possible through the development of the contents and structure of the catalogue (Potter, 1991: 77).

While the structure of the card catalogue is based on the concept of several discrete entries for a single item, the online catalogue maintains a single-entry structure for a single item (i.e., in a master file), but with several indexes as access points to records in the master file. Emphasising what constitutes the structure of an online catalogue, Svenonius (1989: 129) states that:

In its general sense structure refers to an aggregate of elements related, or arranged with respect, to each other.... The structure of a catalog or catalog database consists of bibliographic, authority, and holdings records arranged in a given order and referencing one another through a variety of syndetic relationships. Thus, filing rules, together with ordering devices, such as the main entry and see and see also references, define a catalog structure.... The structure of bibliographic descriptions consists of data elements arranged and presented in a given order. Thus, card catalog formats and MARC format represent different but related bibliographic structures, the former intended for display and the latter for communication.

In terms of addition to the contents of the catalogue, the online catalogue has a growing ability to enlarge its own scope. Results of a nationwide survey on the use of online catalogues in the United States (Matthews, Lawrence, and Ferguson, 1983) revealed that respondents were enthusiastic about accessing journal articles, newspaper articles, encyclopaedias, dissertations, films and government documents through online catalogues. Other studies showed that users wanted the catalogue to be expanded to include journal titles, government publications and dissertations (Markey, 1984: 86), and journal citations, indexes to collections, content services, abstracts and book reviews (Burke, 1991: 41). Thus, it can be concluded that the contents of the online catalogue will be expanded in parallel with developments in the technology of catalogue construction.

2.2.2 Integration of the catalogue

Integration has been considered as an important feature of the recent online catalogue in the sense that different parts of the library automated system are integrated through the use and manipulation of the same record as the basis for different library operations. In such an integration, a single master bibliographic record is tagged and can be manipulated for different library operations, such as acquisitions, cataloguing and circulation. A consequence of integration of the online catalogue, as pointed out by Buckland (1992: 34), is that bibliographic information in different parts of a library system, as well as other useful information, can be accessible to users and to other libraries. Such a concept indicates the importance of uniformity and standardisation of bibliographic records in the online environment.

Another interpretation of integration in the online environment is related to various methods of access to bibliographic information (Hagler, 1989: 205). In such an integration, different files and databases can be accessible via the same terminal. This concept has opened up a new era in bibliographic services and is considered as a significant factor in the enhancement of the catalogue. There are increasing attempts to build information systems with integrated access to different types of information services. The trend toward the integration of book trade bibliographic databases and A&I services with the online public access catalogue is an approach which makes the library catalogue a window to the whole bibliographic apparatus, a concept not feasible in the manual catalogue. As will be discussed in chapter 5 and 6, these different kinds of integration have implications for cataloguing principles.

2.2.3 Authority control

Authority control ensures the consistent use of names, series and subjects. No bibliographic record can be entered into the system until all assigned headings under which it can be searched are verifiable against the approved authority file (Hagler, 1985: 15). In a manual system, it is a time-consuming and costly operation and requires the services of skilled staff. There are many advantages to authority control in an online catalogue: in terms of maintaining cataloguing operations, it is particularly advantageous when major revisions to name and subject headings have to be done. In terms of searching, the actual search that the user does is via an authority control file. What the user inputs to the system is automatically switched through the index (authority file ) to the correct form. In the online environment, the authority records are usually linked with bibliographic records.

There are a number of reasons for the resurgent interest in authority control in the online environment. The various difficulties that users have had with searching names and, as Potter (1986: 128) points out, the inconsistencies and errors in the records used to build the databases for online catalogues have led to new attention being given to the concept of authority control. For example, the ability to search personal names in either direct order or through initials has led to the enhancement of the scope and structure of authority files. Another major difference in the process of authority control between a manual system and an automated system is that correction or change of any heading in the card catalogue is a time consuming operation, whereas this task in some automated systems is to a great extent facilitated through a 'global change' which automatically generates a correction or change in all relevant records (Reynolds, 1985: 73; Weihs and Howarth 1988: 71; Tillett, 1989a: 158).

Although authority control in the online environment is at an early stage of development and, at present, only a few systems have operational authority control modules, the online catalogue's features and capabilities have given a new dimension to the notion of authority control. According to Seal (1984b: 14), "Much work needs to be done into the need for authority control in online catalogues; access by name will decrease and the concept of name references will change (a reference being in fact little more than an added entry) and the need for authority files in the traditional sense may become less important." In making the concept of authority control in the online environment clearer, Gorman (1990: 70) points out that:

It is evident that traditional reference structure was designed for premachine catalogues. The ideas that underlie references have been taken over in machine systems and incorporated into the notion of authority files. An authority file consists, very simply, of the approved form of access point for a person, body, or title, together with the references to that approved form and links to other related authority records (the latter being the computer equivalent of a see also reference). We have already seen that, in the computer catalogue environment, the distinction between a main and added entry access point no longer has meaning. The authority record takes this progress a step further. It, in effect, abolishes the distinction between an access point and a reference.... In other words, two of the basic assumptions of traditional catalog codes-- the main entry and the distinction between a heading and a reference -- have survived.

2.2.4 Filing rules and problems

In any library catalogue, access points are usually filed according to alphanumeric order, which is a conventional arrangement applicable to most information systems accessed by human beings (Hagler, 1991: 263). However, filing is different in the manual catalogue and the automated catalogue.

The arrangement of access points has always been of particular interest to librarians and there have been a number of specific filing rules published to date. The ALA Filing Rules, The Library of Congress Filing Rules developed by John Rather, and the rules developed by the British Library Filing Committee are among the most important. Although developments in filing rules have been strongly in the direction of commonsense and are oriented toward the intelligent user (Rather, 1972), users actually have major problems in identifying the exact location of a heading in the sequential order of a large card catalogue.

In a manual system, filing is flexible and can be executed according to the order which seems desirable to the catalogue user, whereas, in a computer catalogue, it must follow the logic of the computer. Filing in a manual system follows the principle of file as if: that is, the form and order in which access points are arranged is according to the interpretation of the librarian with the supposition that the arrangement would be the most desirable to the user. For instance, the number 3 can be filed as if it were the word three. The use of the computer has influenced filing practices and it is generally agreed that the principle of file as is, which is necessitated by the introduction of computer filing, has more validity in the computer environment (Byrum and Hinton, 1979: 180; Gorman, 1979: 135; Malinconico, 1980: 33). This principle states that characters or words should be filed as they are and not as if they were something else; for example, the number '3' as 3, and 'three' as three.

This realisation of the logical as well as the practical differences between filing in a manual catalogue and a computer catalogue came with the earliest attempts in the application of computers to bibliographical work. Current filing rules, which were developed for manual systems, proved not to be effective in a computer environment (Lubetzky, 1979: 154; Hagler, 1991: 272).

Users of online catalogues can encounter many problems when searching for bibliographic information. Due to different software specifications, computer-based filing has not been entirely standardised and the burden of thinking, for example, about the exact form of access points and the way punctuation and non alphabetic symbols are treated is left to the user (Hagler, 1991: 274-275). In manual filing it is possible, by a simple convention, to ignore stop words such as 'the', 'and', 'of', 'a', 'an', etc. at the beginning of titles whereas, in the computer catalogue, this issue demands special programming and in some cases they are difficult to handle (for example, if the stop word is a necessary part of the title and is not to be ignored).

The treatment of punctuation poses another problem for the computer catalogue; while symbols, such as commas, apostrophes, periods and hyphens, may cause problems in the manual catalogue, they are considered as characters and are located in their 'logical' places by the computer unless software is created to overcome these difficulties. While the presence or absence of punctuation may be important in access points, they may or may not be important for online display. Diacritics and extended character sets to accommodate non-roman scripts are other important issues in computer filing of entries.

In sum, the logical arrangement of data elements in the computer has implications for the form of access points in the online catalogue. As an example, see the treatment of "Sir," which comes before forenames and thus interferes with filing. This can be seen in the change of some rules for the form of headings in the second edition of the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules (AACR2, 1978, and AACR2R, 1988). In fact, the incorporation/modification of some rules in AACR2 concerning the filing of data elements has arisen in response to the requirements of filing in the computer catalogue. For example, the inclusion of given names in parentheses in cases where the initials are not adequate for identification of authors with identical surnames (e.g., Johnson, A. H. (Allison Heartz) and Johnson, A. H. (Arthur Henry)) is to respond to computer filing (rule 22.18).In terms of conference headings the form and order of the number, the date and the location of a conference in parentheses is an illustration of filing relevant to a computer (rules 24.7B1-B4). The place of numeric identifying elements in music uniform titles, e.g., "Pianos (2)" rather than "2 Pianos", is another example of this issue (rules 25.30-34).

2.3 Searching, retrieval, and display of bibliographic records

2.3.1 User interfaces

A significant difference between the online catalogue and the card catalogue comes at the stage in which the user interacts with the catalogue, i.e., bibliographic records can be searched, retrieved and displayed. Online catalogues are here considered to be a great departure from card catalogues and it seems that there will be more developments in this regard in the near future.

While the card catalogue is a self-evident medium with a clear physical existence, the online catalogue is not revealed to the users and is not easy to grasp in their first interactions with it. In an online environment, the user cannot immediately understand the catalogue or its structure, coverage and searching mechanisms unless he/she interacts with the system and tries different options for searching and displaying of bibliographic information. Despite these limitations of the online catalogue, users show a high degree of satisfaction with the variety of features and capabilities it has at the output stage. Graphical user interfaces (GUIs), as indicated earlier in section 1.2, have made interaction with and use of online systems easier and more desirable. It seems likely that, in the near future, new generations of online catalogues will incorporate intelligent interfaces and sophisticated search/retrieval/display facilities.


Online catalogues have often been defined in the literature as 'interactive' catalogues (Cochrane and Markey, 1983; Fayen, 1983; Matthews, 1985; Bradriff and Lynch, 1985; Hildreth, 1989; Mitev, 1989). In the Dictionary of Information Technology (Collin, 1987), 'interactivity' is defined as "system or piece of software that allows communication between the user and the computer in a conversational mode." Interactivity is considered as a major advantage of online catalogues over card catalogues. "It is this interaction between the user and the computer system that really sets apart the online catalog from the other types of library catalogs" (Matthews, 1985: 13)

Unlike in the card environment, if the user does not input a query in the system, the system will not respond to him/her. This process, namely the action of inputting a query by the user and responding by the computer, occurs quickly in real time and in a dynamic and progressive way (Fayen, 1983: 3). In sum, the concept of interactivity in the online catalogue is well defined by Seal (1984b: 3): catalogues can be reactive and able to respond to the user in an intelligent way. This can be used to indicate what searching options are available, to correct operational errors, to suggest alternative items which might particularly match the search criteria and to guide the user through a long search. The reader can then be given help and feedback from the system itself, without needing to consult library staff. This approach is impossible in a card or a COM catalogue.

With the introduction of the online interactive catalogue, it has also become possible to record how users interact with the system and search the catalogue. In this way, i.e., through 'transaction log' analysis, librarians are able to check how users approach the catalogue and how frequently search terms appear, as well as to examine other aspects of search/retrieval problems, e.g., users' errors and unsuccessful searches. Many catalogue use studies have been and are being done using transaction logs as a means of data collection (see, for example, Tolle et al., 1983, Holmes and Bulger, 1988, Peters, 1989, Hunter, 1991, Milsap and Ferl, 1993, Wallace, 1993, Drabenstott and Weller, 1996).

User's input errors and the catalogue's level of tolerance

As pointed out earlier, online catalogues are less forgiving than card catalogues in terms of any kind of error, either in the input stage by the cataloguer, or in the searching stage by the user. A general problem with computers is that they are usually unforgiving of errors; if the user makes the smallest of mistakes, they will not necessarily recognise it as a mistake, and even if they do they will often not offer help in correcting the mistake (Seal, 1984c: 55). However, there are systems being developed that recognise errors, display the type of error, and offer help to the searcher.

User assistance

In comparison to card catalogues, online catalogues have the ability to provide user assistance in a variety of ways and at different levels. Mitev (1989: 145-6) classifies such aids in four categories as 'retrieval aids', 'linguistic aids', 'navigational aids', and 'semantic aids'. This is a major advantage over the card catalogue in that the system can respond to the user's problems and help him/her as to what the next move to achieve the result would be. Online catalogues have developed, over the past decade, different devices for providing help to their users in the different stages of searching the system (Lewis, 1987: 156).

Most online catalogues have the ability to customise help messages, screen displays and system prompts according to the needs of the user. Online assistance enables the user to influence the dialogue at all times in a clear way. This is not possible in manual systems.

User satisfaction

It is generally stated that there is a higher level of satisfaction with online catalogues than with card catalogues and that users prefer this new form of the catalogue to the traditional card catalogue. According to Matthews, Lawrence, and Ferguson (1983: 152), over 90% of users like the online catalogue and almost 75% of users rate the online catalogue as being better than the card, book or microform catalogue. It is also interesting to note that this high level of satisfaction is consistent across all types of libraries (Matthews, Lawrence and Ferguson, 1983: 152). Lewis (1987), in reporting the results of different user studies, states that: "Users have a strong preference for online catalogs over card catalogs, and they very much want the new technology to succeed". Balaam (1993) and Burton and Hawkins (1993) report user satisfaction with OPACs despite their shortcomings.

A reason for preference of the online catalogue, even in its primitive form, to the card catalogue is related to its search and retrieval capabilities. It is also safe to assume that, as online catalogues continue to mature in terms of user interface, enhanced content and access, the level of satisfaction will be even greater. Another point worth mentioning is that the result of different online use studies show that use of the catalogue and use of the collection have increased with the introduction of online interactive catalogues (Matthews, Lawrence and Ferguson, 1983: 171). This, in turn, leads to higher user satisfaction as he/she becomes able to fulfil his/her information needs in easier, faster and more effective ways.

A major group of OPAC users are librarians themselves who are among the strong supporters of such systems. In a series of discussions in the electronic mail discussion group PACS-L@UHUPVM1.UH.EDU, 7-20 April 1994 and in response to Nicholson Baker's "Annals of Scholarship: Discards" published in the New Yorker, 4 April 1994, concerning the closing or storing of card catalogues, most librarians supported online catalogues as being superior to card catalogues. Charles Hildreth (<hildreth@halcyon. com> in a posting to PACS-L, 8 April 1994) considers Baker's article to be a nostalgic approach to the historical value of card catalogues. For Hildreth card catalogues represent a dead-end technology and their maintaining would be very expensive. Instead, online catalogues are open-ended, with a pure potentiality that will never reach its 'final' form. Walt Crawford (<> in a posting to PACS-L, 11 April 1994) asserts that online catalogues are ever-evolving systems that, when reasonably well designed, offer substantially better access and, unlike card catalogues, can be maintained as well as improved. Robin Alston (<>, in a posting to PACS-L, 11 April 1994) supports online catalogues for their advantages over card catalogues in many ways and states that a major advantage is that most of the key elements on a record in an online catalogue are searchable, while massive amount of information on catalogue cards are not retrievable. Although there are deficiencies in OPACs, as Baker (1994) expresses very well from the point of view of a scholar, online catalogues will keep improving, while card catalogues have not any potential for improvement.

2.3.2 Searching and retrieval capabilities

With regard to searching capabilities, the online catalogue is a significant departure from traditional library catalogues. One of its most interesting features and a major advantage over the card catalogue, is the ability of the user to search for the needed item in a variety of ways that are not available in the manual catalogue. Online catalogues are able to generate both a greater number of access points as well as new searching capabilities that enable the user to search the catalogue with little information to hand. In addition to controlled-vocabulary searches by author, title and subject headings, for which relevant indexes have been created and maintained in the online catalogue, it is possible to search bibliographic records through access points such as other title information, series, standard numbers and any other significant data through keyword searching. In general, although there are still shortcomings in the searching capabilities of online catalogues, particularly in subject searching (Markey, 1984; Crawford, 1987a; Klugman, 1989; Lancaster, 1991; Larson, 1991), the findings of various studies indicate that users show much enthusiasm in online catalogues' searching capabilities (Hildreth, 1991: 17; Kalin, 1991: 132; Lipow, 1991: 105).

The following types of searches in the online catalogue are not available in the manual catalogue and can help the user to execute a greater variety of searches:

Keyword searching.

Keyword access is a very powerful search tool and can create much greater flexibility for the user to search item(s) of which he/she has not exact information. This is extremely difficult in the card catalogue. Keywords, i.e., every indexed word in the bibliographic description, mainly headings, titles, other title information, contents notes and subjects, are appropriate alternatives for the catalogue user who cannot match the exact bibliographic information in the catalogue. When searching the catalogue, it is not necessary for the user to enter the exact form and order of words; while keyword searching is an alternative to controlled-vocabulary searching, it can also act as a complement to it. The potential value of keyword searching has often been highlighted in the literature. For example, reporting the result of a transaction log analysis of the Colorado University Library OPAC, Wallace (1993) found that 53% of searches were keyword searches.

In many online catalogues, there are options for limiting keyword searching to fields such as author, title, subject, or cross index. Among these options, title keyword searching provides a useful tool both as a substitute for subject access and for specific items when the exact or full title is not known. Some online catalogues provide keyword searching of abstracts and a number of systems extend this capability to the entire text of a document (i.e., full-text searching), a trend that is becoming common in many online search services.

It is extremely difficult to search authors under their forenames in manual catalogues, whereas in online catalogues with keyword access it has become possible to execute such searches. The same capability is available in the online catalogue for searching compound words of which the exact, full form is not known.

However, as will be discussed in Part one of Chapter 6, keyword searching has its disadvantages: in some cases too many records may be retrieved and some records may be irrelevant to the searcher's need.

Boolean searching.

Influenced by A&I (Abstracting and Indexing) services, many online catalogues have the ability to run Boolean searches. With the use of Boolean operators, such as AND, OR, NOT, it is possible to define subsets of the desired subject or concept when two or more sets are combined. Specificity is what Boolean searching offers: the user can combine two or more terms (from the same index or different indexes) in a search statement and narrow or broaden the parameters of the subject of his/her interest. Matthews (1985: 63) points out that: "In most OPACs, a Boolean 'and' is assumed when two or more terms are entered in a search statement, especially if the search is conducted on a single field or type of information, such as author, title, or subject."


As in A&I services, some online catalogues permit the user to broaden the set of records to be retrieved by shortening the search word through entering a special truncation symbol immediately after the shortened search word (right-hand truncation), or before it (left-hand truncation), or within the word (mid truncation). Most online catalogues perform right-hand truncation implicitly rather than explicitly. This feature of online catalogues provides greater flexibility for the user to broaden access to the necessary information when character-by-character exact match does not help. It should be noted, however, that users have difficulty in understanding and using this type of searching in online catalogues (Crawford, 1987: 136). In some cases, truncation also results in either too many hits or irrelevant records (see, for example, section 1.2.5 in Chapter 5 and section 1.6.2 in Chapter 6). As will be discussed in Chapter 6, this has implications for cataloguing principles and rules.

Browse searching

When the search aim is not specific, the desired results are not precisely known in advance or the correct terms for representing the user's query are not known at the outset, "browse searching is the most useful and preferred approach" (Hildreth, 1991: 26). Browsing, which is a good feature of the card catalogue, is becoming available in the form of browsable indexes in more and more online catalogues (Cherry et al, 1994: 180). The natural searchability that browsing offers satisfies users. In this type of searching, lists of index terms are usually presented in alphabetical order and the searcher can navigate the database by going forward or backward through the desired index until he/she finds the index term(s) which may lead him/her to relevant records.

A novel interface for browsing, which can improve access and the effectiveness of end-user searching, has been developed very recently. Using a GUI (graphical user interface), some advanced online systems (e.g., Hibrowse for Europe) offer improved searching functionality by providing a multi-windowed view of data stored on a relational database management system (Pollitt, Ellis and Smith, 1994: 413). This novel interface can help the user to search bibliographic databases in a multi-windowed environment, each of which represents an index of the catalogue with scrollable windows. This approach has the advantage that the user can browse different indexes on the same screen to filter their content and find the most relevant items. Among the indexes are: author, title, publication date, document type, language and subject headings. It would be possible, therefore, to match different indexes and find related documents which have the same values, i.e., identical data elements. This facility helps the user in appreciating the actual contents of the database through its different indexes and removes the problem of search specification using values that are not present (Ibid: 423).

Hypertext searching

A most recent addition to searching capabilities in information retrieval systems, including advanced online catalogues, is hypertext searching or 'hypersearch'. Non linear, associative hypertext systems offer a search approach that attempts to more closely mimic human thought processes (Dimitrioff and Wolfran, 1995: 22). It is stated that hypertext, when used with bibliographic records, could overcome the static nature of existing catalogues (Bjorkland, Olander and Smith, 1989).

The hypersearch facility, such as that one offered by GoPAC from Data trek, can simply be applied by highlighting a term or clicking on a highlighted term in the record. The system will search for any occurrences of the highlighted term in all fields and subfields or all authority-controlled fields in all records in the database. The number of postings associated with the term will be indicated or the system will show a brief display of those related records which contain the same term. The term is highlighted in the retrieved records so that the searcher can see in which field it is located and can decide on the relevance of the record to his/her information need. During the display of related records, the possibility exists for the user to shift his/her focus and to continue a hypertext search on new and more relevant data elements. In this way, the hypertext facility helps users to navigate throughout the catalogue to find possible related works.

Author-title search

In most online catalogues, there is an option for searching a known item through the author's surname combined with any keyword from the title. This is the clearest way to execute known-item searches (Crawford, 1987: 176). However, in those systems which restrict the search to author surname and the first word of the title, this type of search has the disadvantage of retrieving too many records when the author's surname is a common name, such as 'Smith', 'Johnson', and so on, or the title of the item begins with common words, such as 'Introduction', 'History', and so on. Another disadvantage is that, in most cases, users do not remember the first word of titles and thus fail to use this type of search in online catalogues. Nevertheless, it is very useful, for example, for searching titles on reading lists and it emphasises the importance of surname field.

ID numbers

Another type of search in some online catalogues is possible through ID numbers. Among possible ID numbers are: call number; International Standard Book Number (ISBN); International Standard Serial Number (ISSN); document number; computer system number, e.g., OCLC (Online Computer Library Center), RLIN (Research Libraries Information Network) or WLN (Western Library Network); local system number, e.g., accession number; These types of search are usually performed by library staff (Matthews, 1985: 59).

Other searching capabilities

Other types of searches in online catalogues include full-text searching, proximity searching, adjacency searching which are available only in a few online catalogues.

As mentioned earlier, these new searching capabilities in the online catalogue have revolutionised the way in which users search the library catalogue. The results of different use studies (for example, by Markey, 1983; Cochrane and Markey, 1983) indicate that the searching patterns of users in online catalogues have changed. In other words, the online catalogue has affected the ways in which users search for bibliographic information in library catalogues.

2.3.3 Output and display

Display of bibliographic information is another major aspect in which the online catalogue departs greatly from the card catalogue. Surveying OPACs in a number of Canadian academic libraries, Cherry et al. (1994) report that screen display is the best developed area in online catalogues. The last step at the catalogue, viewing a search result through the display of the bibliographic record(s), is what the user actually gains from the system. The quality of such a display affects the overall usefulness of the catalogue (Crawford, 1987: 192). While the form and content of bibliographic records in the input/output format in the card catalogue (even when computer-produced) are fixed, the online catalogue permits a flexible format, with the possibility of displaying bibliographic information in a variety of ways and at different levels. The ways in which bibliographic information is presented in the online catalogue in response to searches vary from system to system. Each system has its own techniques for manipulation of a search result. This is impossible in the card technology where space limitations and the fixed form of bibliographic description do not permit any flexibility or manipulation of search results.

The level of bibliographic description is usually flexible and can be designed according to the user's needs. On the other hand and from a system perspective, as Boll (1990: 20) points out, there is a range of display formats suitable for a computer screen or a page printout rather than a three by five inch card. Online display formats usually include: 1) 'brief-listing display' which shows, on one or more screens, the overall results of a search through 'author', 'title' and 'date' of publication, 2) 'medium-level display' containing the standard bibliographic description, access points and status and location information, and 3) 'full bibliographic display' which shows full description with all access points, including added entries, and may contain summary and/or table of contents of the item.

Another major difference between the online catalogue and the card catalogue is the way in which data elements in a record make up and represent a bibliographic record. Reynolds (1985: 501) points out three functions in this regard: the labelling of data elements, the sequence in which data elements appear and the spacing between them. The online catalogue can include identifying labels before data elements for distinguishing the bibliographic text in a record. Labels may be highlighted, or displayed in uppercase characters or in a different colour. In relation to the sequence of data elements appearing in a bibliographic record, there is a fairly high degree of uniformity among online catalogues (Reynolds, 1985: 501). As in the card catalogue, the arrangement usually follows the numerical sequence of MARC tags or the ISBD order. Some online catalogues do not incorporate ISBD punctuation on the basis that users do not comprehend such 'secret punctuation' (Crawford, 1987: 196).

However, it should be noted that a number of problems may arise from the differences in the input and output formats in the online catalogue (see section 3 in Chapter 7). A problem which would be difficult for the user to understand is that the relationships of headings (i.e., access points) to bibliographic data may not be clear to him/her. For example, the role (i.e., the responsibility) of persons associated with the work or manifestations of a work may not be distinguished in the way these names are displayed on the screen in conjunction with the title of the work. Therefore, the user may miss what he/she is seeking. In short, output in online catalogues is not controlled by cataloguing standards, a concept which will be discussed in detail in section 3 of Chapter 7.

Limiting search results

Limiting or restricting the search results is a good feature of online catalogues and seems to have been copied from A&I services. According to Crawford (1987: 164), this capability of online catalogues should be offered or performed only when the search yields a large result. Matthews (1985: 55) points out that assisting the searcher in refining or expanding a search shows the powerful capability of the online information retrieval system over the card or COM catalogue.

In terms of refining the search results, the online catalogue has a great advantage over the card catalogue. When many records are retrieved in response to a search, the user may want to restrict them to certain aspects that might seem more relevant to his/her need. This is not possible in the card catalogue whereas, in most online catalogues, due to the assigning of some subfields in the MARC format as active and searchable, the user has the opportunity of further restricting, reducing or narrowing the search results (Matthews, 1985: 69; Hildreth, 1987: 651; Cherry et al., 1994: 180). For example, the searcher can limit all the search results to works in a particular language, in a particular type of material or all the works published prior to, during or after a given date, or even works of a certain level of difficulty. This is done by specifying certain control fields and other MARC elements that can be used for limiting search results.

With further developments in online catalogues it is expected that the limiting of search results will become more sophisticated and more flexible for the user. In addition to the usual access points available in the card catalogue, more data elements are being indexed and more indexes are likely to be created in the online catalogue.

Sorting search results

Another feature of online catalogues is the opportunity offered to the user to sort the search results in the way that will best fulfil his/her need. Most online catalogues can sort the retrieved records according to such data elements as the author, the title and the date. This sorting capability requires that, in addition to usual access points, more data elements be indexed in MARC records in the database.

Some systems, such as OKAPI (Online Keyword Access to Public Information, the experimental OPAC developed at the Polytechnic of Central London), SMART, the US National Library of Medicine catalogue CITE (Current Information Transfer in English), STATUS/IQ, CANSEARCH, PLEXUS (Hartley et al., 1990: 356-357), provide ranked output and relevance feedback. They sort and display results of a search in order of highest occurrence of keywords. Given the searcher's judgments of retrieved items as either relevant or irrelevant, some of these systems can be asked to perform another search modified automatically by relevance feedback to provide a new ranked output list.

Status, holdings and location information

A major feature of the online catalogue is its ability to link circulation information to bibliographic and holdings information and to show to the searcher the status and location of the sought item(s). The user of the online catalogue is able to see the status of any volume and/or copy of the item and whether the item he/she is looking for is available on the shelf or it is on loan, on order, at binding, missing or is not for loan. The status information also displays the 'date due' of an item on loan. The online catalogue can also show the location of the item in the library, e.g., on which level and/or in which section it is located. All such information is useful also for stock taking and check-in purposes.

These features help the patron, particularly the remote user, saving his/her time in knowing the status and location of the needed item(s).

2.3.4 Access and availability

Unlike in a manual system, the user of the online catalogue has access to bibliographic, circulation, acquisition, holdings and location information at the same terminal, whether within the library or in other libraries through remote access. Again, this capability may be an indication of the need for uniformity and standardisation of data elements and also the importance of integrity in the structure of different files in the system.

In contrast to the possibilities for online consultation, card technology is a strictly localised medium with many physical restrictions to its use (Wilson, 1989, Svenonius, 1989, Buckland, 1988, 1992). Almost all libraries have a single set of catalogue cards for a document. To some extent a book catalogue or a COM catalogue might help in making the library catalogue available in different locations but these catalogues are costly to update at regular intervals, particularly when the collection is very large.

Unlike the card catalogue, the online catalogue is accessible through terminals located in different places in the library and outside the library via local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs). In the online environment it is possible for different users, whether inside the library building or outside it, to use the catalogue online and to even search the same record simultaneously. In terms of access to library catalogues, distance has now become irrelevant. Technology has enabled us to have decentralised access to bibliographic information (Buckland, 1988: 301, 1992: 75; Svenonius, 1989: 2; Wilson, 1989: 6, 7).

Interconnectivity is one of the most important goals of libraries today and can take different forms. Many library catalogues are now accessible through the different tools in the Internet such as Netscape, Gopher, Mosaic and Telnet. This is a great advantage over the manual system and will continue to expand with further developments in telecommunication allied to a decrease in telecommunication costs. There is also more flexibility with interconnectivity for the searcher to go from one catalogue to another. This is done through the same catalogue or other catalogues which have a WWW forms-based interface. These developments, as will be discussed further in Chapter 6, have brought with them new concepts such as globalisation of catalogues and the 'library without walls'.

With the availability of different types of OPAC systems to remote users over networks, for example, over the Internet, libraries need to conform to a new standard known as Z39.50. This standard is a protocol for information search and retrieval in a client-server environment, and is now moving from a standard to an operational reality. Z39.50 is used by libraries to access and search remote databases. The WAIS system has implemented the standard to provide a consistent environment with consistent user interface, search and retrieval services. In environments supporting Z39.50 connectivity, the user sees remote catalogues as though they were additional databases available from the local system (Tomer, 1992: 567). The standard is also being used in different library operations such as technical services, acquisitions and interlibrary loans. In this context, Z39.50 encompasses bibliographic databases, full-text documents, even numeric databases. For example, for bibliographic databases, a list of fields needed to exchange information and support those functions has been developed.

With advances in telecommunications and the rapid development of different facilities in the Internet it is now also possible to have access to electronic texts and files stored anywhere in the world. As we move to the end of the twentieth century, more full text services will become accessible through remote databases.


With regard to all the differences between the card catalogue (as a representative of the manual system) and the online catalogue (as a representative of the online environment), it can be concluded that the interactive online catalogue has many advantages in terms of content, structure and search/retrieval/display capabilities. Today's online catalogues provide more effective access to bibliographic information through capabilities that were not possible in the manual catalogue. These capabilities have affected the ways in which users use the library catalogue and it seems that, with further developments in information technology, there will be more opportunities for enhancing, extending and expanding the online catalogue.

Similarly, access to remote library catalogues and other bibliographical tools has been significantly improved through the demonstrated superior performance and effectiveness of computers and telecommunication technology. The online catalogue is now evolving into one of several components of a larger, integrated information system. Thus, remote access places OPACs in a potentially key position in relation to information systems generally.

In the 90s, the computer is now an integral part of modern society and has caused fundamental changes in many aspects of our life, most basically in the ways we organise information for fast and effective retrieval. However, unlike in the manual environment, cataloguers do not have control over the whole processes of record creation and catalogue construction as manipulation and output of bibliographic data are less controlled by cataloguing codes. From a comparison of the online catalogue and the card catalogue it can also be concluded that the cataloguing standards which are based on the concept of the traditional catalogue need to be reassessed and redesigned in terms of their relevance to the new electronic environment. A critical question here is whether cataloguing principles and rules need to be reconstructed and developed on a basis parallel to the development of the environment in which they are used. To answer this question, it seems appropriate to commence with a study of the basic concepts underlying the bibliographic universe, an issue which forms the content of the next chapter.

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