Objectives of a Library Catalogue
Charles Ami Cutter described the objectives of a library catalogue in 1876 when he published the first edition of his book Rules for a Dictionary Catalogue. His views on the subject are often quoted and are relevant even today.
According to him, a catalogue should:
1) enable a person to find a book of which the author, or the title, or the subject is known
2) show what the library has by a given author on a given subject in a given kind of literature
3) assist in the choice of a book as to its edition (bibliographically) as to its character (literary or topical).
All the above mentioned objectives are valid even today. As a library today acquires various types of reading and reference materials, it may be necessary to replace the word 'book' by. 'document' representing paper-print material as well as microforms and machine-readable forms.
The first objective of a library catalogue is to inform the availability/non availability of a particular reading material in the library. The readers may approach the catalogue through the name of an author or title. The author or title entry should provide the reader all the pertinent information. In case the entry is under some other name or word, a cross-reference entry should be provided. The title entries in the catalogue cater to the title approach of the readers.
The name of a subject is another access point. In a great number of cases, the reader does not approach or search the catalogue through the name of an author or title of a document. His interest is in a particular subject. In such cases the subject entry in the catalogue furnishes him the requisite information. The concepts of a subject may be described in varied terms. Only standardised terminology is used in preparing subject entries in a library catalogue.
The second objective is to show what a library has. The catalogue lists all the works of a particular author available in the library collection, all the documents available in a given subject or in a given kind of literature.
The third objective is known as descriptive cataloguing. According to the rules of descriptive cataloguing, the characteristics of the documents are fully described so that one document can be identified and isolated from amongst several similar documents. This type of description is .provided in the catalogue entries only in case of need. If the rules of descriptive cataloguing are applied indiscriminately, it would lead to large expenditure.
In brief, whatever may be the approach of a library user, the library catalogue should convey full information regarding the items of the person's specific interest.