4.1.1.  Definition

AACR2 defines "main entry" as:

The complete catalogue record of an item, presented in the form by which the entity is to be uniformly identified and cited.  The main entry may include the tracing(s).

When a record is created for an item, the cataloger determines the access points under which it can be searched.  The primary access point is called the "main entry" and may consist of the heading for a corporate body or a person, a title, or a uniform title.

4.1.2.  Manual catalogs and printed products

While most library catalogs are online and computer-based today, much of the terminology associated with main and added entries originated in the context of manual catalogs.  In a traditional card catalog, the "main entry card" is filed under the main entry heading and contains all cataloging information.  In addition to the main entry card, " added entry" cards are made for subject headings, titles, corporate or personal names, or series.  The listing of these added entries, as given at the bottom of the main entry card, is referred to as the "tracings."  If cards are hand typed, the main entry card may be the only card that includes all of the notes and tracings.  The added entry cards can carry only enough information to identify the item.

When "unit cards" ( FN1) are used, all of the cards contain the same information.  However, if holdings or additional notes are added to the card by individual libraries, they are generally added only to the main entry card.

In a book catalog, such as New Serial Titles ( FN2), where there is a single entry for each serial, the entry is printed in the form of a main entry card with added entries serving, in some cases, as cross references.  (Figure 4.1.)

Figure 4.1.  Main Entry on Catalog Cards:

Title main entry


Corporate body main entry


4.1.3.  Online catalogs

The term "main entry" is generally used in an online environment to refer to the "main entry heading" in field 1XX or 245.  In an online record, the main entry heading may be no more or less accessible than other access points.  (Figure 4.2.)

4.1.4.  Considerations regarding main entry and choice of corporate body

There has been considerable debate over the years about the need for the "main entry" concept in an online catalog and the validity of "corporate authorship."  Is this a time-consuming intellectual exercise that serves little purpose?  Why not simplify things and put everything under the title?  After all, the 710 is just as accessible as the 110.  The proposal to enter everything under title was given serious consideration during the formation of the AACR2 rules; however, main entry survived!  The AACR2 philosophy about corporate body main entry is more restrictive than past codes, however, with the result that more serials are now entered under title.

In fact, main entry plays an important and useful role for serials.  The choice of main entry is significant for serials because a major change in the corporate body that constitutes the main entry heading requires the creation of a new record, according to the principles of successive entry cataloging (AACR2 21.3B1).  The main entry is also used to "cite" the serial in another record and is frequently used when citing the serial in single entry files (e.g., bibliographies, check-in files, abstracting and indexing services, union lists, financial commitment lists, and in some cases, for shelving purposes).  And as a file organizing device, it can be used to subarrange works in a display resulting from a subject heading search.

The basic consideration for the serial cataloger is when to enter under corporate body.  The basic principle of entry under corporate body is that there are some works that are so closely linked to a corporate body, such as membership directories and annual reports, that users looking for the item would be more likely to search for them under the body.  In these cases the contents of the item are generally about the body, or express the opinions of the body.  Often in these situations the title is not very distinctive.  For instance, an annual report may be called "Annual report," "Report of activities for the year ending ...," or "Annual report of the [body] for fiscal year ...," and it is unlikely that the patron will know the title.  Consider also how the serial would most likely be accessed by a user when the title is unknown.  Would the user most likely find it under the corporate body because information is being sought about the body, or would the user be more likely to find it through a subject search of works on a topic?

Figure 4.2.  Main Entry on OCLC Records:

Title main entry


Corporate body main entry


4.1.5.  AACR2 21.1B2

A serial is entered under corporate body only when the serial emanates from the body and fits one of the categories under AACR2 21.1B2.  The decision has nothing to do with the distinctiveness of words in the title.  The decision for the serial cataloger will almost always be:  should the serial be entered under corporate body or title?

While the first consideration presented in AACR2 Chapter 21 is whether it should be entered under a person (AACR2 21.1A), persons are generally not given as the main entry for serials (see CCM 4.6.).  LCRI for 21.1A2 lists rare instances where a serial is entered under the heading for a person.  LCRI 21.1B2 refers to a special case where a serial that emanates from a corporate body also bears the name of one or more persons as authors.  In these cases, the cataloger should apply AACR2 21.1B2 to determine if the work should be entered under corporate body first.  If "no," then consider personal authorship.

Sometimes determining the nature of the serial will be very easy; other times it is more difficult.  Many serials contain information about a body and information about other matters external to the body.  To keep from spending needless time debating the issue, apply the "in case of doubt" clause found at the end of AACR2 21.1B2.


When in doubt, enter under title.


4.1.6.  The decision process

Although chapter 21 begins with personal authorship, then covers corporate body main entry and title main entry, consider applying the following order as shown below.

See also:

Module 4.  Main and Added Entries (Fields 100-111 and 700-711)