The instructions contained in DCRM are formulated according to the objectives and principles set forth below.  These objectives and principles seek to articulate the purpose and nature of specialized cataloging rules for rare materials.  They are informed by long-accepted concepts in bibliographic scholarship and the Anglo-American cataloging tradition, as well as by more recent theoretical work important to the construction and revision of cataloging codes, namely the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions’ Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) and Elaine Svenonius’s The Intellectual Foundation of Information Organization.  They assume familiarity with the FRBR terms used to categorize entities that are the products of intellectual or artistic endeavor (work, expression, manifestation, and item) as well as bibliographic terms used to differentiate among textual variants (edition, issue, impression, and state).  It is hoped that these objectives and principles will provide catalogers, and administrators of cataloging operations, with a better understanding of the underlying rationale for DCRM instructions.

III.1.  Functional objectives of DCRM

The primary objectives in cataloging rare materials are no different from those in cataloging other materials.  These objectives focus on meeting user needs to find, identify, select, and obtain materials.  However, users of rare materials often bring specialized requirements to these tasks that cannot be met by general cataloging rules, such as those contained in the latest revision of AACR2.  In addition, the standard production practices assumed in general cataloging rules do not always apply to rare materials.  The following DCRM objectives are designed to accommodate these important differences.

III.1.1.  Users must be able to distinguish clearly among different manifestations of an expression of a work

The ability to distinguish among different manifestations of an expression of a  work is critical to the user tasks of identifying and selecting bibliographic resources.  In general cataloging codes like AACR2, it is assumed that abbreviated and normalized transcription is sufficient to distinguish among manifestations.  Users of rare materials, however, often require fuller, more faithful transcriptions, greater detail in the physical description area, and careful recording of various distinguishing points in the note area, in order to identify separate manifestations.  Additionally, users of rare materials are typically interested in drawing finer distinctions among variants within manifestations than are users of other materials, including not simply between editions and issues but between variant impressions and states; many also need to distinguish between copies at the item level.

III.1.2.  Users must be able to perform most identification and selection tasks without direct access to the materials

Users of rare materials frequently perform identification and selection tasks under circumstances that require the bibliographic description to stand as a detailed surrogate for the item (e.g., consultation from a distance, limited access due to the fragile condition of the item, inability to physically browse collections housed in restricted areas, etc.).  Accuracy of bibliographic representation increases subsequent efficiency for both users and collection managers.  The same accuracy contributes to the long-term preservation of the materials themselves, by reducing unnecessary circulation and examination of materials that do not precisely meet users’ requirements.

III.1.3.  Users must be able to investigate physical processes and post-production history and context exemplified in materials described

Users of rare materials routinely investigate a variety of artifactual and post-production aspects of materials.  For example, they may want to locate materials that are related by printing methods, illustration processes, binding styles and structures, provenance, genre/form, etc.  The ability of users to identify materials that fit these criteria depends upon full and accurate descriptions and the provision of appropriate access points.

III.1.4.  Users must be able to gain access to materials whose production or presentation characteristics differ from modern conventions

In order to distinguish among manifestations, general cataloging codes like AACR2 rely on explicit bibliographic evidence presented in conventional form (e.g., a formal edition statement on the title page or its verso).  In rare materials, such explicit evidence will often be lacking or insufficient to distinguish among different manifestations.  That which is bibliographically significant may thus be obscured.

III.2.  Principles of DCRM construction

To meet the objectives listed above, DCRM relies upon the following six principles.  These principles are influenced by the general principles of bibliographic description offered by Svenonius:  user convenience; representation; sufficiency and necessity; standardization; and integration.

III.2.1.  Rules provide guidance for descriptions that allow users to distinguish clearly among different manifestations of an expression of a work

This principle derives from the general principle of user convenience and has implications for all areas of the bibliographic description.  The principle relates to objective 1 stated above.

III.2.2.  Rules provide for accurate representations of the entity as it describes itself, notably through instructions regarding transcription, transposition, and omission

This principle derives from the general principles of representation (with its related subprinciple of accuracy) and of standardization.  Precise representation is of particular relevance in those areas of the description that require transcription (the title and statement of responsibility area, the edition area, the publication, distribution, etc., area, and the series area), but should not be ignored in the physical description and note areas.  The general principles of representation and standardization stand in greater tension with each other when cataloging rare materials.  Faithfulness to both principles may require descriptive and annotative treatment necessarily exceeding the norms (and at times the vocabulary) established as sufficient for the description of general materials.  The principle relates to objectives 2 and 4 stated above.

III.2.3.  Rules provide guidance for the inclusion of manifestation-specific and item-specific information that permits users to investigate physical processes and post-production history and context exemplified in the item described

This principle derives from the general principle of sufficiency and necessity (with its related subprinciple of significance).  Application of the principle requires that rules for rare materials cataloging provide additional guidance on access points, particularly in cases where such information is not integral to the manifestation, expression, or work described.  Rules for item-specific information appearing in the note area may recommend standard forms for presentation of information (addressing the general principle of user convenience and its related subprinciple of common usage).  Application of such rules presumes both a user’s need for such information and a cataloger’s ability to properly describe such aspects.  The principle relates to objective 3 stated above.

III.2.4.  Rules provide for the inclusion of all elements of bibliographical significance

General cataloging codes like AACR2 routinely strive for both brevity and clarity, principles affiliated with the general principle of sufficiency.  In describing rare materials, too great an emphasis on brevity may become the occasion for insufficiency and lack of clarity.  Brevity of description may be measured best against the functional requirements of the particular bibliographic description rather than against the average physical length of other bibliographic descriptions in the catalog.  The tension between rules for rare materials that promote accurate representation of an item and yet do not exceed the requirements of sufficiency is great.  Reference to the principle of user convenience may offer correct resolution of such tensions.  This principle is related to all of the objectives stated above.

III.2.5.  Rules conform to the substance and structure of the latest revision of AACR2 to the extent possible; ISBD(A) serves as a secondary reference point

This principle relates to general principles of standardization and user convenience (with the latter's subprinciple of common usage).  DCRM assumes that users of bibliographic descriptions constructed in accordance with its provisions operate in contexts where AACR2 (often as interpreted and applied by the Library of Congress) is the accepted standard for the cataloging of general materials.  Therefore, DCRM uses existing AACR2 vocabulary in a manner consistent with AACR2; any additional specialized vocabulary necessary for description and access of rare materials occurs in a clear and consistent manner in DCRM rules, appendixes, and glossary entries.  DCRM does not introduce rules that are not required by differences expected between rare and general materials.  Numbering of areas within DCRM conforms to the structure of ISBD as implemented in AACR2.  When an existing AACR2 rule satisfies the requirements of cataloging rare materials, DCRM text is modeled on AACR2 text (substituting examples drawn from rare materials for illustration).  In cases where the language of AACR2 is not precise enough to convey necessary distinctions or may introduce confusion when dealing with rare materials, DCRM uses carefully considered alternative wording.  Wording of relevant ISBD(A) standards was also considered when deviating from AACR2.

III.2.6.  Rules are compatible with DCRB except in cases where changes are necessary to align more closely to current revisions of AACR2 or to conform to the above principles

This principle relates to general principles of standardization and user convenience (with the latter’s subprinciple of common usage).  DCRM assumes that users of bibliographic descriptions constructed in accordance with its provisions operate in contexts where monographic materials in special collections were cataloged, until recently, using DCRB.  Therefore, changes to DCRB cataloging practices were introduced only after careful consideration of the value or necessity of such changes.

See also:


Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials (Books):  Contents