PHYSICAL FORM OF LIBRARY CATALOGUES:
Over a period of time, library experts have tried to develop different physical forms of library catalogue, such as, bound register form, printed book form, sheaf form, card form and modern forms like visible index form, microform and machine-readable form.
Although some of the older forms like bound register, sheaf catalogue are slowly becoming obsolete, the card catalogue continues to be popular, particularly in countries like India.
The unit card principle that came up with the card catalogue has enabled the growth of centralised and cooperative cataloguing. Cataloguing-in-publication can also be traced to this development. Machine-readable catalogues with their versatility and efficiency are replacing the card catalogue.
These catalogues have extended the scope of centralised cataloguing and library networks. A comparative statement of the features of the different physical forms of library catalogue is given to provide an overview of the relative merits and demerits of these physical forms of library catalogue.
In the preparation and production of a library catalogue, two aspects of its form have to be considered. One is the physical or outer form of the catalogue that relates to its external shape, size, appearance of the stationery to he used for recording entries of documents (e.g., card) and furniture or equipment to stock the stationery of bibliographical entries of documents of the library.
The second one is the arrangement in a helpful sequence to retrieve information about documents in the library e.g., dictionary or classified catalogue. Each of these has a bearing on the other. In fact, ease of use, physical shape and size, space requirements, cost of physical production, maintenance, etc., have always influenced cataloguing over the years. Conversely, the preparation of different kinds of entries, provision of cross-references and similar other user oriented requirements of a library catalogue, have also influenced the choice of a particular physical form of a catalogue in libraries. The physical forms of library catalogues can be broadly studied under two groups: Conventional and Non-conventional/Modern.