This appendix offers guidance in the creation of bibliographic records for collections of printed items that will receive collection-level treatment based on administrative or curatorial decisions.  Several rationales can be cited to justify a decision to use collection-level cataloging:

It can be a means of highlighting the shared characteristics of a collection of materials by providing a summary-level description, thereby "adding value" to any other forms of intellectual access, such as item-level records, and revealing collection strengths that may not otherwise be obvious.

It can be a means of providing temporary control of unprocessed collections.

It can be a cost-effective means of providing bibliographic control for low-priority items.  Although this might seem to promise a solution to the problem of an institution’s limited means, it should be understood that adequately arranging and processing collections prior to cataloging also takes time.  Since there are significant costs associated with under-cataloged materials, this rationale should be used with careful consideration.


A collection-level record may serve as the sole method of access for the collection, with contents information provided in notes.  Some or all of the collection may also be represented by item-level bibliographic records, which may be created at any level of fullness using cataloging rules such as AACR2 or components of DCRM.  Item-level access may also be provided for some or all of the collection through inventories, finding aids, or databases (referred to hereafter as "finding aids"), which may be linked to collection-level records.  Providing some form of item-level access to resources represented by a collection-level record offers significant benefits for users and reduces the risk of redundant acquisition of those resources.  Decisions about the appropriate type and level of description should be made based on institutional goals, priorities, and resources, as well as the attributes of the collections themselves.


The following guidelines are based on those issued by the Library of Congress for collection-level cataloging published in Cataloging Service Bulletin, no. 78 (Fall 1997).  Examples have been added, drawn from the types of collections likely to be found in rare books and special collections libraries.  Catalogers creating collection-level records will also need to consult the appropriate cataloging rules, MARC 21 Format for Bibliographic Data, and their local system documentation in order to create useful, descriptive, and complete records using the various fields available to describe collections, as well as to create additional access points.  Catalogers wishing to contribute collection-level records as part of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging will need to consult the relevant instructions in BIBCO Core Record Standards.


These guidelines are not intended for description of traditional archival or manuscript collections.  Rules for cataloging such collections are addressed in specialized sets of rules such as Describing Archives: A Content Standard.  However, many of the activities associated with arranging and describing traditional archival or manuscript collections also pertain to collections of printed materials and inform these guidelines.

See also:

Appendix B:  Collection-Level Records