An investigation into the theoretical foundations of library cataloguing and a critical analysis of the cataloguing of the South African national bibliography, 1981-1983

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This thesis proposes that the foundations of the library catalogue are not rooted in a coherent, encompassing and comprehensive theoretical structure. Instead, it shows that it rests upon a number of principles that evolved during the nineteenth century from the work done by cataloguing experts such as Panizzi, Jewett and Cutter. These principles are shown to be either principles of access or of bibliographical description, and they still form the basis for the construction of modern catalogues according to the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd edition (AACR2). The South African National Bibliography (SANB) is then used as an example of an actual catalogue constructed according to the AACR2. A study is conducted of the cataloguing records in the SANB in order to establish how these Rules are put into practice, and how usable a catalogue may be produced according to these Rules and principles. It is concluded that the SANB is a high quality catalogue according to the standards set by the AACR2, but that such a catalogue may not be optimally useful from the point of view of the user. Certain ideas from Artificial Intelligence are then employed to find out to what extent a user is able to utilize the library catalogue as a channel of communication in order to gain maximum benefit from the information available in the catalogue. It is found that the user is indeed not equipped to make full use of the catalogue, and it is suggested that the potential for increased access facilities brought (v) about by computer technology may be employed to bridge the communication gap between the user and the cataloguer. The thesis therefore concludes that the established principles according to which catalogues are constructed, are inadequate for the formulation of a comprehensive theory of cataloguing, but a search for such a theory is shown to be ultimately inappropriate. Cataloguing is essentially a problem-solving pursuit which aims at the production of a tangible object; a usable catalogue. Modern computer technology has brought the library catalogue to a crossroads in its development, and a detailed study of user needs will have to form the basis for the development of additional principles according to which the new technology will most successfully be applied to library catalogues.

Includes bibliographical references.