Review of the year in art cataloging, 2009-2010

While Resource description and access (RDA, aka AACR3) dominated the airwaves in descriptive cataloging, we are still awaiting the test version. Several ARLIS/NA catalogers are at the forefront as our watchdogs, including Elizabeth Lilker (NYU) as the ARLIS/NA representative to the Committee on Cataloging: Description and Access (CC:DA) and Sarah Quimby (Minnesota Historical Society), Liz O'Keefe (Morgan), and Penny Baker (Clark Art Institute) as testers. More information from (the official site) and (the Clark's testing site, a real barrel of enjoyment) MARBI has also discussed a number of papers at its recent meetings in preparation for RDA implementation. Some of the things you'll notice right away in RDA records are fewer or no Latinisms and more concise description of carrier, medium and format. As long as we're building MARC records, we are likely to see records that are pretty familiar.

The Joint Steering Committee has prepared a list of "Issues deferred until after the first release of RDA" (Aug. 2009), available from the CC:DA website at ALA has issued a response, also available on the CC:DA site.

LC is working on its guidance (aka rule interpretations and option decisions) for RDA. LC asked us about the need for LCRI 21.1B2 relative to art catalogs depending on the number of artists (related to 21.17B for works on individual artists) and we agreed that we could start with RDA as written.

Linked open data was on the agenda at Big Heads at ALA Midwinter and some of the developments mentioned there and elsewhere show considerable promise in providing more bibliographic control of the vast amounts of data on the Internet. There are some links in my notes on the Big Heads meeting in my ALA Midwinter report:

Exhibition Publications

The Cataloging Advisory Committee has about finished work on another chapter of its online publication Cataloging exhibition publications: best practices. CAC was very happy when the first three units (titles and statements of responsibility, notes, subjects) were added to Cataloger's Desktop. The three sections were combined by LC CDS into a single PDF document, and they are available individually from the ARLIS/NA website.

Subject Analysis

LC is enlisting the help of the Subject Analysis Committee (SAC) to refine the listings of free-floating subdivisions, specifically SHM memo H 1095. Some of the subdivisions are truly free-floating, that is, they can be appended to almost any subject heading. Others are limited either by context or by rule to places, types of objects, classes of persons, or other sorts of subject headings. Clarifying these lists should aid, in conjunction with complementary MARC coding, in automated validation of subject strings. The work on H 1095 subdivisions is about to kick off; Janis Young, the LC representative to SAC, is spearheading the effort.

The Music Library Association is working on disambiguating genre/form and medium headings. In art subject headings, we mostly eliminated trying to differentiate by making our medium headings chiefly in the singular form, e.g., Painting, Drawing, Prints. Music catalogers use "Opera" for works about operas and "Operas" for headings on operas.

Readers of the PCCLIST were reminded that hyphenated nationalities are only established in LCSH for U.S. groups, e.g., Ukrainian Americans, British Americans, African Americans. For non-U.S. groups, the practice is to do a heading for the nationality divided geographically, e.g., Ukrainians -- France, British -- India, Africans -- Spain. George Prager (NYU Law) suggested that LC might want to revise H 1919.5 on this topic in light of the internationalization of SACO participation.

Perhaps favorite new subject heading: Art rejected for exhibition, sh2009004992, with scope note: Here are entered works on artistic works that are published or exhibited after having previously been refused for exhibition or publication.

"Artist files" was rejected by the LC subject heading editorial team, principally because it might open the doors to all sorts of other pamphlet files. The Frick Art Reference Library uses the "Artist files" as a 655, coded AAT.

SHM H 1334 sec. 4.a(4) covers buildings established as street addresses. LC will revise the section to clarify that a spelled-out version of the number will not be routinely added as a reference; the reference will only be made if the spelled-out form is used in the item or other sources consulted.

Performance Art and New Media

Heather Gendron (UNC) recommended three sites, in an exchange on ARLIS-L, for help with performance or media art:

"New media art" was added to LCSH in the late spring of 2009.

CPDG in 2011, VRA

Meghan Musolff (UMich) and I talked at the VRA conference in Atlanta about a combined cataloging discussion group at next year's joint ARLIS/NA-VRA conference in Minneapolis. Papers from the 2010 VRA conference in Atlanta are available on SlideShare: Among the topics are: embedded metadata, semantic web, navigating the blogosphere, data dictionaries, metadata interoperability.


Cathy Quinn (NGA) and others have confronted difficulty in filing a revised record where a reference exactly matches the authorized heading on another record. In these situations, it will be necessary to contact LC about the duplication rather than preparing for the duplicate situation as we had done in RLIN and earlier in OCLC. I think that OCLC has initiated more duplicate checking.

Bibliographic file maintenance from Art NACO participants or other art catalogers may be sent to me and I will compile it for sending to LC. Examples are duplicate authority records or conflicts between authority and bib records.

SACO participation guidelines were changed a couple years ago so that you had to be a registered SACO participant in order to submit a proposal to LCSH. This is true even if you are a NACO participant. If you would like help on a subject proposal, do not hesitate to contact me. If you want credit for your proposal, you will have to have a participant application on file at LC.

LC PSD has revised the instructions in SHM H 405 to allow for establishing entities as names when so needed even if the entity would normally be established as a subject heading. This comes out of ARLIS/NA's concern about buildings, parks, and other categories of headings that normally fall in LCSH. The procedure is to establish the heading with a 667 in the record, as follows:

PCC Catalogers: If a Group 2--Subject Authority Group heading is being used as a main or added entry, create a name authority record according to subject cataloging rules. Add a 667 note to the NAR with the statement “Subj. Cat. Manual/AACR2” If a Group 2 Heading for the same entity exists in the LCSH Authority File create an NAR (cf. DCM Z1 Appendix 1: Ambiguous Entities, Section, 3.1) and send a notification to your PCC liaison to delete the existing subject authority record.


The BIBCO Standard Record has been developed and it replaces the Core record. LC is implementing this standard for its non-rare book records. From its announcement: "The BSR is defined as a 'floor' record containing a mandatory set that replaces both the PCC BIBCO core and full level record standards; institutions and individual catalogers may supplement the BSR with additional elements based on cataloger judgment, awareness of additional local user needs, local business factors, local system or program needs, etc."

ARTstor is working on Shared Shelf which will include various cataloging tools and a vocabulary warehouse, as well as image storage (hosting) and web capability. More info at The SAH collection SAHARA includes some built-in name authority capability.

Subfields $3 and $x were approved for use in 260, 490 and 8XX. PCC issued guidelines for punctuation in these fields and the basic instruction is to include a colon after the text in the $3 and to use AACR/ISBD punctuation before $x in 8XX. Examples:
490 $3 v. 1-3: $a Studies in cataloging trivia
8XX $a DHEW publication. $x 0090-0206
(available from PCC page:

The LC Policy and Standards Division issued guidelines on citing the Virtual International Authority File in 670s in NACO records. Those examples are in DCM Z1 and were also added to my compilation of 670s at

There was an interesting exchange on the arlis-cpdg list about altered books and it was generally felt that the altered work should be treated as an adaptation of the original work, that is, entry under the adapter with added entry for original. Cataloger judgment is, naturally, important here.

Sherman Clarke
freelance and itinerant cataloger, based in Alfred, New York

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