CDL Cataloging Guidelines

  • Decision Points Mar 2003 version — Original version
  • CDL Conventions for Cataloging Electronic Resources Mar 2003 version — Original version
  • Memory Aid for Cataloging Online Resources

The Task Force recommends adhering to national standards for cataloging California Digital Library (CDL) resources, with additional fields and suggested wording to aid in consistent presentation and clustering in MELVYL and the California Periodicals Database (CPD).  Accurate content designation and cataloging consistency are especially important to facilitate migration to successor systems. Some data elements described here are required only for the Central Cataloging Agency (CCA) which creates the “official” CDL record, to be distributed to CDL/T and to campuses. (See Report and Recommendations for information on the role of the CCA). 

All records, for both serial and nonserial materials, should contain the data elements specified in the CDL Conventions for Cataloging Electronic Resources. Name and series headings should conform to the forms found in the LCNAF or, if not available, established according to AACR2r as interpreted by LC. Content designation should conform to the USMARC Format for Bibliographic Data, as implemented by OCLC. LCSH and MeSH headings are required where appropriate. When copy cataloging, it is not required to upgrade the descriptive information to conform to AACR2r.  The underlying philosophy is to work efficiently by applying a “retrospective conversion standard:” Use authorized headings and accurate tagging while accepting description and choice of access points found on existing records.  Latest entry description will not be used.  The online resource will always be consulted in the cataloging process but the print version will only be retrieved when needed for problem solving. 

Two approaches to cataloging electronic versions have developed. The “single record” technique may be used when an online version of a print (or microform) publication exists. The gist of this approach is to use the record describing the print publication, with notes and hot links to the electronic version. This approach is used by The Government Printing Office, the Library of Congress, and many CONSER participants.  For the CDL, the print record is used regardless of whether the print version is owned by a UC Library. 

The “separate record” approach calls for creating a record describing the electronic version itself. This technique is, of course, used when no print version exists. When a print version exists, the electronic version is described in a separate record and notes and/or linking entries are made between the two records.. This approach is the one prescribed by AACR2r (now under review). One record describing various electronic versions (e.g., ASCII, PDF, HTML) should be created, not separate records for each presentation format. 

The majority of the records for CDL-licensed materials will be created using the “single record approach,” as recommended in the initial HOTS Task Force on Electronic Resources report and following the precedent set by the full text project. However, when no print record exists or when the nature or content of the print and electronic versions differ substantially, separate records will be used. 

The CDL Conventions for Cataloging Electronic Resources contain all the instructions needed to catalog according to the “single record approach.” These guidelines elaborate on the “Interim Guidelines for Online Versions of Serials” presented in the CONSER Cataloging Manual Suggested wording and CDL-specific fields are also included for separate records. 

Separate serial records should be cataloged according to the CONSER Cataloging Manual, Module 31, Remote Access Computer Files

Separate monograph records should be cataloged according to the most recent edition of Cataloging Internet Resources : A Manual and Practical Guide, edited by Nancy Olson.

When creating separate records that describe the electronic resource, there are several points to be considered that are not thoroughly addressed in those manuals: Type code, bib level, and field order. 


In June 1997, MARBI redefined code “m” to limit its usage and the new definition was implemented in OCLC in March 1998. The limited use of leader/06 code “m” has meant that almost all online serials and texts are coded “a” for “language material” and include a serial or books 008 field and a computer file 006 field. 

Code “m” is now used only for the following classes of electronic resources: 

  • Computer software (including programs, games, fonts)
  • Numeric data
  • Computer oriented multimedia
  • Online systems or services

The phrase “online systems or services” is narrowly defined to include listservs, bulletin boards, and Internet service providers. Library catalogs, databases, and most web sites are coded as text. 

Materials cataloged before June 1997 are often on the computer file workform. Libraries doing copy cataloging should correct the record.  They should change the type code in their local system and fill in the new fixed field.  They should also request a Type code change by OCLC to promote proper merging in MELVYL (and, in the case of serials, to assure that the records are in the California Periodicals Database).   The Type code change may be reported using the 952 error command on OCLC. 

Note that the Type code change does not impact the choice of GMD. Electronic resources cataloged separately should include the GMD [computer file] regardless of the workform. (The Task Force on the Harmonization of ISBD(ER) and AACR2 has recommended that the GMD be changed from [computer file] to [electronic resource] and that terminology should be updated on separate records when implementation of the change is announced). 

For additional information, see: 


The definition of serial requires that the resource be issued in parts and bear numbering. Therefore many databases and web sites are cataloged as monographs. (This issue is under discussion by cataloging authorities. The ISSN Centres and the National Library of Medicine are experimenting with treating databases as serials). For additional guidance, see: 


Fields in serials records are given in numeric order regardless of the Type code. 

For nonserial electronic resources, when inputting a new record into OCLC, use the following order for notes: 516 (Type of computer file), 538 (System requirements), 538 (Mode of access), 500 (Source of title),  530 (Other physical forms available), 505 (Formal contents), 520 (Informal contents), 506 (Access limitations). For prescribed order of less frequently used notes, see: 

This order is not required for copy cataloging since most local systems and MELVYL rearrange the notes in numerical order.