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How to Acquire Cataloging Tools


ALA Library Fact Sheet Number 18


Providing complete cataloging for a library collection requires simultaneous use of four, sometimes five, different standards and guides.  Only one of these is available from the American Library Association.  This Fact Sheet will explain the tools needed and information on the sources for them.



The Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR) are “designed for use in the construction of catalogues and other lists in general libraries of all sizes. … The rules cover the description of, and the provision of access points for, all library materials commonly collected at the present time.” [Rule 0.1]


The current text is the Second Edition, 2002 Revision (with 2003 and 2004 updates) which incorporates all changes approved by the Joint Steering Committee for Revision of AACR (JSC) through February 2004. The rules are published jointly by:

  • The American Library Association
  • The Canadian Library Association
  • CILIP: Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals


Each publisher has its own set of ISBNs, ordering information, and relevant currency pricing. For more information, visit the AACR homepage at <>

and select your country from the menu on the left side of that page.  In the U.S., AACR products may be ordered from the ALA Store at <>.


Note: for smaller libraries, there is The Concise AACR, by Michael Gorman, which explains the more generally applicable AACR2 rules for cataloging library materials in simplified terms that make the rules more accessible and practical for practitioners and students who are in less complex library and bibliographic environments.  It is also available through the AACR homepage or the ALA Store.





Adding subject headings to a catalog record allows the catalog user to retrieve all items on a given subject in a consistent manger.   In the United States, there are two commonly used sets of subject headings: Library of Congress and Sears. 


The latest edition of the Library of Congress Subject Headings is the 28th edition, 2005, and the Library of Congress is the publisher.  See:



The Sears List of Subject Headings is up to the 18th edition, 2004, and is published by The H.W. Wilson Company. See:





Classification is the process of assigning a number to an item so as to be able to shelve the item with other items on the same subject.  In the United States there are two commonly used classification schemes: the Dewey Decimal Classification and the Library of Congress Classification.  Both are used widely and actively updated.


The Library of Congress Classification (LCC) was initially designed at the beginning of the 20th century for the collection of the Library of Congress (LC).  Since then, many other large American academic and research libraries have adopted it.  The LC class schedules are available in both print and electronic form. See:


The Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system was conceived to accommodate the expansion and evolution of the body of human knowledge.  It has been continuously updated for over a century and is currently available in four versions:


DDC22, in four volumes (2003)

WebDewey, based on DDC22, but updated on a quarterly basis

Abridged Edition 14 (2004), designed for the classification needs of libraries with up to 20,000 titles in their collections.

Abridged WebDewey, corresponding to the abridged print editions, but updated on a quarterly basis


The publisher is OCLC Dewey Services.  See:



Usually libraries using Dewey, use a “Cutter table” to assign specific author numbers. 

Cutter tables, the C.A. Cutter's Two-Figure Author Table, the C.A. Cutter's Three-Figure Author Table, and the Cutter-Sanborn Three-Figure Author Table, can be acquired through Hargrave House.  See:





Machine-Readable Cataloging (MARC) has been the standard in library automation for over 25 years. The MARC format is the data communication protocol for “translating” the text of a catalog record for use in an online catalog.   The Library of Congress, the British Library, and the National Library of Canada harmonized the USMARC, UKMARC, and CAN/MARC formats, and have now joined their MARC documentation to form MARC 21. All USMARC products have become MARC 21 products. MARC 21 products are available from the Library of Congress.  (Note: some bibliographic utilities publish extensive tagging guides based on MARC.)  See:





The Library of Congress also markets the Cataloger’s Desktop, which includes, among many other resources, the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules (in the current version), Library of Congress Rule Interpretations, Subject Cataloging Manuals, MARC 21 Formats, and links to the web-based LC Classification schedules.  See:


The Library of Congress was also the publisher of the National Union Catalog (NUC).  For information on the remaining union list publications, see:





American Library Association

ALA Order Fulfillment
P.O. Box 932501
Atlanta, GA 31193-2501
phone: 1-866-Shop ALA
fax: 770-280-4155


The H.W. Wilson Company

950 University Ave.

Bronx, NY 10452-4224

Telephone: 1-800-367-6770 (U.S. and Canada) or 718-588-8400

Fax: 1-800-590-1617 (U.S. and Canada) or 718-590-1617



Hargrave House

7312 Firethorn

Littleton, CO 80125

Telephone: 303-904-3600

Fax: 303-904-3601


Library of Congress

Cataloging Distribution Service

Customer Services Section

101 Independence Ave, S.E.

Washington, D.C. 20541-4912

Telephone: 1-800-255-3666 or 202-707-6100

Fax: 202-707-1334



OCLC Dewey Services

6565 Frantz Road

Dublin, OH 43017-3395

Telephone: 1-800-848-5878 in U.S. and Canada, or dial 1-614-764-6000

Fax: 1-888-DEWEY21 (1-888-339-3921)




June 2005



For more information on this or other fact sheets, contact the ALA Library Reference Desk by telephone: 800-545-2433, extension 2153; fax: 312-280-3255; e-mail:; or regular mail: ALA Library, American Library Association, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611-2795.