A catalogue is a list of books, maps, sound recordings, or materials in other medium that represents a collection arranged alphabetically by authors, titles, number, or subjects. The main purpose is to record, describe, and index the holding of a collection.

Catalogue is very important in a library whenever its collection is growing too large. Its function is to remember the items available in a library. In contrast with a large library, a small or private library will have less need for a formal catalogue. Its collection can be accessed through author, or title. However, when the collection becomes a bit growing, an informal arrangement for a grouping the books by subject categories may provide access to them. When a library collection becomes too large for simple approach, formal records are necessary. Any information represents in a record is called an entry.

In a library, each entry in the catalogue is the representation of a bibliographic record at a particular point in the catalogue. A bibliographic records transcription of the complete cataloguing information for any item. The purpose of a bibliographic record is

– to provide all the information to describe an item both physically and intellectually in order to distinguish it form other item

-to provide its location in the collection


The objectives of a library catalogue are to enable a user to find a book when one of the author, or title, or subject is known; to show what the library has by a given author, on a given subject, in a given kind of literature; and to assist in the choice of a material as to the edition or as to its characteristic

The main functions of a library catalogue are to enable the library users to determine :

– whether the library has a certain item

– which works by a particular author are in the collection

– which editions of a particular work the library has, and

– what materials the library has on a particular subject


The types of physical form of a library catalogue are : book catalogues, card catalogues, microform catalogue and online catalogue. Any kind of these types has advantages and disadvantages. Thus, in deciding whether a library uses any type of a catalogue, certain considerations should be made. The library catalogue should, for example, be flexible and up-to-date to the changing of library collection; easy to use; and easy to produce in multiple copies. Since the catalogue is a record of what is available in the library, entries should be added or removed as a certain material is added, removed or discarded from the library.

The printed book or book catalogue is the oldest type of catalogue which was commonly used in American libraries. The characteristic of this type was expensive to produce and quickly became out of date or inflexible in changing of the collection. The libraries using this type should provide more copies, this is due to provide access for more users. Thus this type was gradually replaced by card catalogues.

However, with the more modern, cheaper methods of printing and with the advent of automation for quicker cumulation that the book catalogue again became popular in certain type of libraries. It is produced in more modern production techniques, such as by National Library of Medicine, the Library of Congress, and the New York Public Library. This catalogue is easy to be sent to other libraries or information agencies.

The card catalogue is the library most often found in the worldwide. Each entry is prepared on a standard 7.5 x 12.5 cm. card. These cards are then filed in alphabetically order by author, subject, title, or call number in the drawers to provide access to the collection. The card catalogue is very flexible, it can be easily added or removed whenever necessary. Changing can be made on cards and they can be refiled. It can be provided by references (see or see also). In large library, however, filing a large of new entries takes a long time and, of course, it needs more spaces. Other disadvantages are any changing is made manually and the users tend to manipulate the trays or drawers, so that other users may have to wait them.

Microform catalogues have become much more popular with the development of computer-output microform (COM). COM catalogues are produced in microfilm or microfiche. It provides a complete data of library holding which is periodically updated. Both book and COM are inflexible in changing, they cannot be added or deleted until the new editions are produced. But, by which they are computer-produced, they are flexible in making changes of entries. With a certain command can be made to change many entries. To meet the users demand, COM should be made in many copies. They are also easy to be sent to other libraries or information agencies

The online catalogue is the newest. The bibliographic records stored in the computer memory are printed on the video screen in response to a request from a user. Entries may comprise the full bibliographic record, or medium, or only a brief, it is depending on the system and/or the desires of the users.

Online catalogue is the most flexible and current. Additions, deletions, and changes of entries can be made at any time, and the results are immediately available to the users. However, it is quite expensive to build up compared with other three types.

The primary advantage of the online catalogue is that database can be searched in almost any item of information of interest to the users or the users can retrieve information in a variety of ways, and it provides very rapid search. Other advantages are, such as : it can be used from far a way location, so that the users can access a local, national and international cataloguing database; filing of indexes is no longer a consideration; database in online catalogue can be updated online or at frequent intervals, as needed; provided instructional help; provided links to card form catalogues, reference help and circulation; online database, with a certain instruction in the system, can be produced in any other physical form of catalogues; and global changing can be made.

However, some of the disadvantages are, for example: it is much more sensitive in spelling, any error means unexpected or different information is printed on the computer screen; its users may be frustrated by getting a quite few citations or sometimes too many citations; it requires a new way of getting information, or training for its users; and it will be unavailable if there is no power or if the computer breaks downs.

References :

1. Fayen, Emily Gallup. The online catalog : improving public access to library materials. White Plains, NY : Knowledge Industry Publications, 1983.

2. Hunter Eric J. and KGB Bakewell. Cataloguing. 2nd ed. London : Clive Bingley, 1983.

3. Wynar, Bohdan S. Introduction to cataloguing and classification. 6th ed. Littleton, Colorado : Libraries Unlimited. 1980.