Bibliographic Cataloging: Overview

Use the Bibliographic Cataloging sections in conjunction with the following sources:

What LSCM Catalogs

  • Material Distributed, in any format, through the FDLP: records must always include an item number in the 074 field, unless the title was distributed prior to the implementation of item numbers in the Monthly Catalog of U.S Government Publications. The digitized version of these titles also would not contain an item number; in such cases a note is included to indicate why an item number is not present in the record. Some records will contain a 776 linking entry field, even if the link goes to a non-distributed format. Examples of typical records without 776 linking entries are: Aleph system numbers 688136, 708062, 908632, 919948.
  • Material Within Scope of the Cataloging & Indexing Program (C&I): publications issued by the Federal Government but not distributed through the FDLP. The C&I Program aims to create a comprehensive index of all Federal documents that are not confidential in nature. For example, a record for a publication marked for administrative use only will not include an item number in the 074 field but will contain a SuDoc number in the 086 field. Likewise, the record for a tangible version of a title distributed to the FDLP online will not include an item number in the 074 field but will contain a SuDoc number in the 086 field. A 500 note that reads "Format not distributed to depository libraries" should be included in the record.
  • Historic Material: publications from the legacy collections, including GPO's Historic Shelflist, the Monthly Catalog, and cooperative cataloging partnerships with depository libraries.

In order to ensure the data integrity of the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP), LSCM staff should NOT import records from OCLC or other library catalogs for titles that do not fall into one of the above categories. OCLC records outside of those categories will not have Holdings or display “Held by GPO.”

All new records created by LSCM will contain holdings and item records in the CGP.

Separate Record Policy

LSCM creates bibliographic records following the separate record approach. The switch from the single record approach in 2008 was undertaken at the request of the Federal depository library community. The separate record approach refers to separate records for each format or manifestation: print, microfiche, CD-ROM/DVD, or online (remote electronic). The single record approach refers to one, single record being used to describe more than one format or manifestation.


In the 1980’s, GPO began adding distribution notes for microfiche versions to records for the print publications. The first GPO procedures for cataloging electronic resources were developed in the early 1990’s, and focused on resources available from the Federal Bulletin Board (FBB). The FBB resources were cataloged separately from the tangible versions of those publications. In 1995 CONSER adopted the single record approach, which is described in the CONSER Cataloging Manual module 31. GPO began applying this approach in the same year, and developed the first set of comprehensive instructions for cataloging electronic resources, "Preliminary Instructions on Recording Access Information for Remotely Accessible Files". These instructions were designed to minimize the amount of time devoted to cataloging remote electronic resources because of their transitory nature, and called for the inclusion of 530 and 538 notes in the tangible record. Links to the online resource (URLs or PURLs) were added to the tangible record, resulting in a single record approach. With GPO’s adoption of FDsys, and its need to meet the requirements of FDsys for individual records, as well as the adoption of an Integrated Library System (ILS) with which GPO could finally record comprehensive holdings, GPO found a greater need for separate records for each format.


GPO follows BIBCO and CONSER policy for cataloging print, microfiche, and electronic resources, as appropriate for monographs or continuing resources. Reciprocal links between separate formats via the 776 field are included.

When adding a 776 link to a tangible document record found in OCLC, an important distinction must be made between a record for which the cataloger does not have the item (or piece or format) in hand, and a record for which the cataloger does have the piece in hand. The concept of “having an item in hand” includes access to shelflist cards, Monthly Catalog entries, surrogates, and bibliographic records received from partner libraries. In such cases, regardless of whether or not that format is distributed, that format is given full cataloging treatment. The cataloger will add all relevant information to the record, claim the record via his/her appropriate 955 code, and export the record to the CGP. The appropriate procedures are followed, according to whether the format is distributed, or cataloged for C&I only (meaning not distributed), has a brief bibliographic record, and is a monograph, serial, or integrating resource.

If none of the conditions of having the format in "hand" exist, the cataloger must still search OCLC for records for the tangible format which is not in hand. The cataloger selects the best record for this format, and merely adds a 776 linking entry that points to the GPO online record. The GPO online record should contain a reciprocal link to this record for the tangible format, even though it will not be in the CGP. Once the 776 link is added to the OCLC master record of a format not in hand, that record is Replaced. The record will show no holdings from GPO.

Unlike the formats in hand, this record is not exported to the CGP. It is left in OCLC. Since this record is not being exported to the CGP, the cataloger cannot claim the record via the appropriate 955 code. Consequently, the cataloger should only spend the short time needed to add the 776 field to the record, and replace it in OCLC. The time spent doing this is reported in the Cataloger’s Daily Statistics under Database Maintenance, even though the database, in this case, is not the CGP but OCLC.


Exceptions to the separate record approach are few. If the cataloger knows that a single issue of a serial was distributed in a tangible format (usually microfiche or print), in order to fill the holdings of an electronic resource record, a separate record need not be created for that format. For example, a single missing issue of an online serial is procured in print, sent for filming, and distributed to depository libraries in microfiche. A separate microfiche record need not be created. Instead, data (such as a 500 distribution note and a 074 for the format) for the distribution of that particular issue should be noted in the online record.

A second exception to creating or utilizing separate records may be made when a cataloger is performing retrospective work. This frequently occurs when correcting errors in old records, in response to customer inquiries. Whenever possible, the cataloger should create separate records for such retrospective work, where separate formats have been processed by GPO. When searching OCLC, the cataloger may find one of the following four situations: no records are found, a record for the format in question is found, a record is found for a different format that describes only that different format (separate record approach), or a record is found for a different format that also has information for the format in question (single record approach). In the last situation, an exception may be made to the separate record approach when expediency, other priorities, or workload requirements make the creation of a separate record inefficient. In such cases, usually where old, longstanding GPO records exist, the cataloger may make the necessary corrections or updates to the single record which technically describes a different format, but includes information for the format in question. For example, an old multipart monograph print record, in the CGP, is held by GPO on OCLC with many holdings (say 163) and the record has a PURL. The customer notes that part 2 is not available in the PURL. The cataloger adds part 2 to the PURL, which solves the customer’s inquiry without the need for any cataloging. It should be noted, however, that in most cases, a new online record can be cloned from the tangible record and created in well under an hour. 

When correcting errors in an old single-approach record (for example, typos, punctuation, MARC indicators, tag numbers or subfield codes, access points, SuDoc or item numbers, etc.), it is not necessary to create an additional record for the secondary format described by the record (usually online or microfiche). Other situations may be decided on a case-by-case basis by supervisors.

A slight deviation from the separate record approach is GPO’s policy for cataloging ebooks. Federal agencies have been showing an increased interest in providing their content in eBook format. Therefore, GPO has begun including ebooks in the CGP. GPO has decided to treat ebooks as an additional online (remote electronic) format; therefore, the ebook versions of a title are made available through the PURL of the online version record. A separate record is not created for the ebook. The record is based on the PDF whenever possible.

Original Cataloging

Original cataloging is done using RDA. When creating an original record, catalogers follow the steps below.

  • Create an OCLC record.
  • Produce the record in OCLC and update the holdings.
  • Make edits for local practices.
  • Export the record to the CGP.

Exception: If the item is not physically in hand but is part of a historic cataloging project, such as the shelflist, catalogers are allowed to create original PCC records coded AACR2 (See FAQ PCC and RDA, April 1, 2013: 3.1B). Create such an AACR2 record when the item is not physically in hand, and code the Fixed Field Leader/17 (ELvl: Encoding Level) “1,” for “Full-level, material not examined.” These records may still be PCC. If creating an original record for historic microfiche that is not physically in hand, follow LCRI 11.0, if a print record for the same work or expression exists. Note: This policy is only valid until Dec. 31, 2014, the final date for BIBCO and CONSER bibliographic contributions formulated according to AACR2.

Copy Cataloging

As an OCLC member, GPO adapts appropriate OCLC database records to catalog the documents it receives and distributes. As a participant in PCC, BIBCO, CONSER, NACO, SACO and as a National-level Enhanced OCLC member, GPO makes changes to database records where required, but does not make changes that are NOT allowed by these programs. GPO does not create a new record if there is a record already in the OCLC database that matches the document being cataloged. If a cataloger is uncertain about adapting an existing OCLC record after comparing it with the document in hand, a new record is created. Existing records are changed as little as possible. For example, GPO normally does not change the main entry from title to corporate or move information on a corporate body that could be recorded as part of the title, as a statement of responsibility, or as the publisher—unless this information is incorrect according to the cataloging standards used by the original cataloging agency or, if upgrading, must be changed in order to adhere to new standards.

When multiple records for the same title exist in OCLC, catalogers select the most appropriate record to adapt by examining the encoding/authentication level, the date of creation, and the institution creating the record (DLC or PCC records would be given preference). Duplicate records may be reported to OCLC if the cataloger has time by sending a Report Error message (under the Action menu) in OCLC or using a WorldCat and Authority Record Quality Control Request form.

While adapting an existing record, GPO does not remove information from existing records in order to apply local practices. GPO will upgrade the record to either I level or PCC level, if possible. In general, corrections will only be made for information that is incorrect or against the cataloging standard being used for the record. GPO will not change information which is correct under either AACR2 or RDA, even if it does not adhere to GPO local policies. Those changes will only be made locally.

PCC level AACR2 monograph records (BIBCO authenticated records) should not be converted to RDA. PCC level AACR2 serial records (CONSER authenticated records) generally need not be converted to RDA, especially if only a few changes are being made. In such cases, AACR2 treatment should be retained. However, if the cataloger is extensively revising the record, and finds it faster to convert to RDA, the cataloger may do so.

Generally, however, PCC level AACR2 records do not need to be re-coded to RDA; AACR2 treatment should be retained. However, for non PCC records (unauthenticated records), catalogers must change/upgrade any record that has been cataloged according to a non-RDA code to RDA. Do this only with the "piece in hand" in order that all necessary bibliographic information is available. Before re-coding the record to RDA, the entire record must be examined and adjusted as needed. Recoding of a PCC level AACR2 record is not necessary and should only be done when it will save the cataloger time. When making minor edits to a record, there is no need to recode.

When updating a record to make minimal or specific changes, such as corrections, clarifications, class changes, adding a 776 field, etc., it is not necessary to upgrade the entire record (either in AACR2 or RDA), particularly when the item is not in hand. Once the needed changes have been made, there is no need for any additional changes to be made to the record.

If, however, the record requires extensive updating of content (3 or more access points) such as are frequently necessary for serials and integrating resources, the cataloger may additionally make stylistic updates to the record. In addition to RDA updates and the new RDA MARC fields, updating certain fields (such as the 246, 77X, 787) and their associated indicators, improves the display of these records in integrated library systems. Otherwise, do not change elements unless they are incorrect, inaccurate, unclear, or outdated. 

When modifying an existing OCLC master record, Replace the record after making the updates, make local GPO changes, and Produce and Update Holdings. Finally, export the record to the CGP.

During exporting, be sure to include the OCLC number in the 001 field. Also, the correct code should be used in the 049 field in order to create an item and/or holding record in ALEPH. The cataloger should also use the correct 955 macro to include their code, the date, and the update level for the record. If the record is part of a cooperative cataloging partnership agreement a 955 field with the words “CATPART” should always be included.

OCLC Maintenance

GPO has been a member of OCLC since July 1976. On a daily basis, GPO contributes bibliographic records to the OCLC database for U.S. Government Publications in all formats. As a member of CONSER (Cooperative Online Serials), GPO continually updates and maintains serial records in OCLC for U.S. Government serial titles. For all other formats, once GPO finalizes its work on a bibliographic record in OCLC, the record is then exported to the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP). Once this transaction is complete, other libraries may utilize GPO’s record in OCLC and modify it if necessary. After other libraries have updated GPO’s records, GPO is not responsible for changes made to these records and will not go back and make major changes to these records at the request of libraries. GPO will only make modifications to GPO records in the OCLC database if at a later date errors are identified through GPO’s quality control processes. The Catalog of Government Publications is the authoritative source for all GPO’s records and cataloging activity.

Authority Records

For work on subject authority records, either new or updates, follow the procedures in: Subject Cataloging: Subject Heading Proposals, Workflow. For work on name authority records, those catalogers who are independent for NACO work may proceed on their own. For catalogers who are under NACO review (NACO trainees) or who wish an individual record reviewed, submit new authority records for review, along with any supporting documents needed to establish the authorized access points. Always include either the tangible publication or the PURL with your authority record. Please complete the bibliographic work prior to submitting an authority record. However, do not produce the corresponding bibliographic record until the authority records have been reviewed and approved by reviewers.

All RDA PCC records must have either RDA or “RDA acceptable” access points. An “RDA acceptable” authority record is one that is coded as AACR2, but the access point would be constructed the same under RDA. This means the record does not contain a 667 note indicating that the record must be reviewed and/or updated when used in an RDA record (“THIS 1XX FIELD CANNOT BE USED UNDER RDA UNTIL THIS RECORD HAS BEEN REVIEWED AND/OR UPDATED”). The authority record for all access points in PCC records must be checked to ensure this 667 note is not present. If present, the authority record must be updated before being used in an RDA record. See PCC and RDA: Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

Congressional publications and other priority titles can be produced at I level with uncontrolled headings, to be updated to PCC later.


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