Category Archives: ETL505

ETL505 – Critical Reflection

Not wishing to repeat my knowledge and understanding of the concepts and principles of information resource description (Modules 1-3), please refer to my Descriptive Cataloguing blog (Ellis, 2016). ETL505 has solidified my knowledge that one purpose of a TL is to deliver essential resources which: provide teaching and learning support in the context of syllabus and curriculum requirements; deliver students and teachers with quality print and digital material that supplements and provides individual learning and recreational reading, all of which sustains the development of an educational program meeting the needs of the school community (NSW Department of Education, 2005). While School Cataloguing Information Service (SCIS) provides a plethora of reliable and consistent features, the Teacher Librarian (TL) is still ultimately responsible for ensuring these records are accurately integrated into their local system and make cognisant decisions about any necessary change to records to enhance accessibility or create records when one is not available (SCIS, 2015).



Image Credit: Funny library jokes

Specifically, this subject has taught me to cater for user needs which are efficiently and effectively met, by systematically arranging and cataloguing resources to be easily retrieved (Australian School Library Association, 2014, Ellis, 2013, Hider, 2012, p. 3). To assist a swift retrieval, the TL needs to meticulously describe, classify and analytically house resources physically and virtually. Despite good intentions, this does not always occur as users may “fail” to enter authorised headings (Kaplan, 2009, p. 2). Google provides a service by enabling “hits” to resources based on a simple keyword search, although the quality, reliability and validity of this information can be questionable (Next-generation library catalogs, n.d.; Hider, 2012, p. 183).  The future trend of information organisation and consequently, metadata in libraries is complex. While content-based information retrieval is reasonable and appreciated by information professionals, metadata-based methods still provide access in ways that search engines struggle (such as for book indexes, pictures and music) because they need to be constructed by humans (Hider, 2012, p. 183). There obviously needs to be a compromise and many academic libraries are working to integrate their meta-data based catalogue with interfaces similar to Google to entice users back to the library (Next-generation library catalogs, n.d.).

Comprehending the Dewey Decimal Classification system and undertaking the creation of SCIS subject headings has given me a greater appreciation for the rules and standards required to successfully accession and research an item. I now have the confidence to manually generate subject headings and create a DDC number for an item that does not appear in SCIS (n.d.) if SCIS are unable to assist. I fully appreciate the Australian SCIS influence and need for TLs to alter call numbers to promote access by its local users. It is interesting to note that while SCIS dictates the call number, it is left up to individual libraries to allocate prefixes or location symbols to suit the needs of the user in finding a resource (SCIS, 2016, p. 3-5). It is ultimately about making decisions to appropriately classify resources to promote usefulness to school libraries. I strongly uphold the ethos of SCIS in promoting specifically Australian based resources to encourage the education of Australian students (SCIS, 2016, 3:D6 – Local emphasis) and will in future be sending resources to be properly catalogued as I now appreciate their invaluable role to school libraries.


Australian School Library Association (ASLA). (2014). What is a teacher librarian? [Website]. Retrieved from

Ellis, S. (2013, May 30). The future of school library collections [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Ellis, S. (2016, October 4). Descriptive cataloguing [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Hider, P. (2012). Information resource description: Creating and managing metadata. London: Facet Publishing.

Kaplan, A. (2009). Cataloging for non-catalogers. Westport, Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited.

New South Wales (NSW) Department of Education (2005). Library policy – Schools [Website]. Retrieved from

Next-generation library catalogs: A resource guide. (n.d.). Retrieved from Fuller: David Allan Hubbard Library:

Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS). (n.d.). SCIS Catalogue [Website]. Retrieved September 25, 2016, from

Schools Catalogue Information Services (SCIS). (2015). SCIS Standards for cataloguing and data entry. Retrieved from

Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS). (2016). SCIS Subject Headings [Website]. Retrieved September 25, 2016, from

Image Credit

Funny Library Jokes [Online image]. (n.d.). Retrieved September 21, 2016, from

Leave a comment

Filed under ETL505

Descriptive Cataloguing


An information resource is any item that comprises information. It covers a variety of media, including print and digital sources such as, books, charts, physical and virtual artefacts, websites and DVDs, encompassing a variety of fiction and non-fiction genres, like novels, images and plays. Information resource description is the deliberately considered choice a library staff and/or teacher librarian (TL) make in describing and categorising any information resource to make it easily available to find, identify, select and obtain, based on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR), explained in more detail later on (Hider, 2012, p. 18). This essay discusses and analyses the following four key concepts and principles in information resource description: information organisation, the requisite for information organisations to classify information, what organising information involves and the role of metadata standards.

Information organisation is the often complex concept involved with information management (Hider, 2012 p.11). A key purpose for any library system is how physical information resources and digital information resources are systematised and then described and organised to maximise effective user access and usage. Information resources can be described and organised in a multitude of ways. The choices in organising print and digital resources will have implications on the effective search, access and retrieval of an item by its user.

The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) endorses library specialists to create effective “information access and use through systematic and user-centred description, categorisation, digitisation, storage, preservation and retrieval” (ALIA, 2014). The ever increasing amount of information available in both print and digital format make it progressively more difficult to access and determine its place in a catalogue (Hider, 2012, p.xi). It is therefore necessary for an information agency to organise information that will assist its clients to effectively find, specific quality resources that satisfy their research goal be it for entertainment (such as reading for pleasure), investigation of a particular inquiry topic or a random and vague enquiry.

There have been historical, political and social reasons that various information agencies have been established to contextualise concepts and principles of information resource description. Hider (2012, p.12) stresses the importance of a common standard to be adopted because detailed and consistent data input usually results in a more effective information retrieval system. Once common standardised data has been universally accepted by prominent international library agencies, library services can profit from a unilateral provision which benefits all library users. Australian TLs need to understand and appreciate the significance of Resource Description and Access (RDA), FRBR and the Schools Library Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) because combined, they provide the foundational structure upon which most current Australian library systems operate.

Outlining a brief history of RDA is essential, as it has significantly changed user access to resources by expanding results of a search. Prior to computers, physically present resources were catalogued on a card system where one could access a resource primarily based on author, title, subject, date of publication, edition and other elements (not all of which were direct access points) that conformed with the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR), the second edition of which was updated in 1978 to AACR2 (Bowman, 2003, p. 9). This was adopted by many countries across the world as a standardised system for providing rules and access points for library resources, which worked successfully.

The introduction of computers and keyword searches critically changed how users locate resources, as it included online resources. It was concluded by the Joint Steering Committee in 2004, that a revision of AACR2 to accommodate these needs was not enough and that a whole new system was necessary (Hart, 2010, p. 2). RDA, has become an innovative standard to describe information resources and provide effective and consistent access, designed for the print and digital realm (Joint Steering Committee for development of RDA, 2010). As a result, the RDA Toolkit, an online cataloguing resource was introduced to the library community in 2010 (RDA Joint Steering Committee, 2010). Embodying the foundations of AACR2, RDA delivers a comprehensive set of instructions and guidelines, with access and detailed resource descriptions that cover a multitude of content and media.

Fundamental to RDA is FRBR which recommends that a library catalogue do more than just locate the whereabouts of a particular resource (Welsh & Batley, 2012, p. 8). A FRBR-based catalogue not only describes in detail the item to be recorded but links it relationally as a work, expression, manifestation or item (Group 1 entities) to any other bibliographic record that also may be of use to the end user. This concept is based on an entity relationship model which links Group 1 entities to other items of interest to users of bibliographic data such as other people who had a secondary role with respect to the resource (Group 2 entities) and the “subjects of those products of intellectual and artistic creation” (Group 3 entities) (Oliver, 2010, p. 17). This is similar in many ways to how search engines are structured and why so many users initially look on the internet because they are guaranteed of getting a “hit” when keywords are entered. The quality of the “hit” may be dubious, which is why it is important for digital and physical libraries to have, consistent databases and catalogues that yield instant high-quality resources.

SCIS is a cost-effective service that provides “access to the largest database of school-related catalogue records in the Southern Hemisphere”, to which most Australian school libraries belong (Education Services Australia, 2013). Their cataloguing system is based on the principles of both RDA and FRBR (Beilharz, 2012). Economically, buying into a standardised catalogue is fiscally practical because it enables TLs to acquire and record an item in the same format as a neighbouring library, rather than having to produce identical records individually (Bowman, 2003, p. 9). Both libraries are following the same rules and codes as both are based on the same comprehensive database. Library users benefit because catalogues in a different situation are the same, making it easier to use as they are not manipulating a new system.

Organising information entails implementing a standardised and consistent library cataloguing system with the prime outcome of making information discovery easy, productive and efficient for its users. Library catalogues or Online Public Access Catalogues (OPACs) are a central component of the information access provided to libraries. While resource description is not a primary role of TLs as it is usually outsourced to information agencies such as SCIS, it is important for TLs to understand the principles of information resource description. This knowledge enables TLs to evaluate the effectiveness of access to resources within a school library via the catalogue and educational databases and how that access can best be utilised and promoted to its users. While SCIS provides a plethora of reliable and consistent features to include in a library catalogue, the TL is still ultimately responsible for ensuring these records are accurately integrated into their local system and make cognisant decisions about any necessary changes to records to enhance accessibility or create records when one is not available.

Metadata is “data about data” which includes the diverse features of a resource that are believed to be useful to “access, retrieve and manage it” (Chowdhury, 2010, p.62). Haynes (2004, p. 17), suggests the following five essential roles of metadata. Firstly, metadata provides a consistent information resource description which aids information organisations to facilitate appropriate description and cataloguing of information resources. While a book can be described in terms of the number of pages it has, a video cannot; a website has a URL and a map often contains coloured illustrations. Descriptions need to be reliable and streamlined. Secondly, by accurately describing resources, metadata accelerates information retrieval and resource discovery. Thirdly, metadata plays a central role as the building block of information organisation and content management. It provides more effective ways to organise information and enhances retrieval by making it more intuitive for its users. Fourthly, metadata enables the storage of important information about ownership, provenance, special marks and so on which can significantly highlight the authenticity of resources (digital in particular), useful for resource discovery and management. This is especially important for many school libraries which either have or are in the process of, establishing a digital collection as well as a physical collection. Lastly, the role of metadata is to ensure interoperability and data transfer between systems because metadata formats need to be interpreted and correctly installed on whatever computer platform is found in a library. MARC (Machine-Readable Cataloguing) is the most utilised record exchange system because it has a standardised scheme for encoding metadata to be ‘read’ by any computer (Hider, 2012, p. 122).

Hider (2012) writes that metadata sources come from a variety of people such as resource creators, publishers and information professionals who are specifically trained to enter the correct data. Hider advocates that the quality and standard of metadata is crucial to its distribution as it can make a critical difference to information retrieval. The quality of metadata is based on the principles of functionality, comprehensiveness, accuracy, clarity, consistency and vocabulary and authority control. Companies like SCIS, establish quality control processes to ensure that metadata is checked when records are being created (Chadwick, 2015).

The standardisation of metadata means that it can be used by different information retrieval systems and therefore by different libraries. Significantly, once that metadata has been created, it needs only be done once by information professionals and stored in a centralised place to be accessed again. It is interesting to note that libraries have now begun to share their records with internet search companies in order for their catalogues to be easily accessed across the web (Hider, 2012, p. 98). There are a multitude of metadata standards which are specific to a particular context such as museum archiving, book publishing and E-research and still the purpose of each, is effective and efficient retrieval of a resource by the end user – based on the first principle as stated by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) which is “the convenience of the user” (2009, p. 2).

In conclusion, this discussion has examined the key concepts and principles in information resource description by outlining a brief history of FRBR, a conceptual framework upon which RDA, a standard for descriptive cataloguing and SCIS, the major database of library catalogues in Australian libraries. It is important for a TL to understand what information organisation is and why it is necessary for information agencies to organise information because as the person who is responsible for accessioning, it is valuable knowledge in making informed decisions about how to organise print and digital resources to best suit the end user. The quality and standards of metadata contribute significantly to the role of a library catalogue in providing the end user with information effectively and efficiently.


Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA). (2014). The library and information sector: Core knowledge, skills and attributes [Website]. Retrieved from

Beilharz, R. (2012). RDA new cataloguing rules. Connections, 83. Retrieved from

Bowman, J. (2003). Essential Cataloguing. London: Facet Publishing.

Chadwick, B. (2015). SCIS is more. Connections, 92. Retrieved from

Chowdhury, G. G. (2010). Introduction to modern information retrieval (3rd ed.). London: Facet Publishing.

Education Services Australia (ESA). (2013). About SCIS. In Schools Catalogue Information Service. Retrieved from

Haynes, D. (2004). Metadata for information management and retrieval. London: Facet Publishing.

Hart, A. (2010). The RDA primer: A guide for the occasional cataloguer. Santa Barbara, California: Linworth.

Hider, P. (2012). Information resource description: Creating and managing metadata. London: Facet Publishing.

International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). (2009). Statement of international cataloguing principles [Statement]. Retrieved from

Joint Steering Committee for development of RDA. (2010). RDA: Resource Description and Access [Archived Website]. Retrieved from

Oliver, C. (2010). Introducing RDA: A guide to the basics. Chicago: American Library Association.

RDA (Resource Description and Access) Joint Steering Committee. RDA Toolkit [Website]. (2010). Retrieved August 20, 2016, from

Welsh, A. & Batley, S. (2012). Practical cataloguing: AACR, RDA and MARC 21. London: Facet Publishing.

Leave a comment

Filed under ETL505