Rationale for Cataloging Nonprint Collections

The integration of bibliographic records for nonprint resources into library catalogs is fundamental to serving the information needs of library users. Standardized cataloging for all library materials allows access to both print and nonprint resources through common retrieval techniques. The application of internationally accepted cataloging standards to nonprint resources also ensures that characteristics unique to nonprint items are readily apparent in bibliographic records. The growth of distance education and remote use of the catalog make it particularly important that the catalog accurately and comprehensively reflect available materials.


In an increasingly complex and technologically advancing society, nonprint resources offer unique expressions of information and innovative methods of learning and entertainment. While nonprint resources have existed for many centuries (e.g., maps, drawings, etc.), the 20th century has seen an explosion of nonprint formats--from photographs, sound recordings, newsreels, and videorecordings, to interactive multimedia and electronic resources--all of which are an integral part of our historical record. Libraries also may provide access to nonprint materials not physically held, such as electronic journals or Web-accessible databases. Complete representation of these unique and significant materials should be present in the library catalog.

Full and standardized bibliographic description of nonprint resources facilitates:

    • a heightened awareness of the full range of information resources a library offers its user population;
    • a consistent means for both the local and remote user of the catalog to search the entire collection through a single interface;
    • identification of material that represents a significant expenditure of library funds;
    • international efforts in cooperative cataloging by sharing bibliographic records in the utility databases (e.g. RLIN, OCLC, WLN).

The Online Audiovisual Catalogers, Inc. (OLAC), an international organization of nonprint cataloging specialists representing a diverse library constituency, fully endorses the integration of nonprint holdings and accessible information resources in library catalogs. Furthermore, OLAC strongly encourages all library staff, administrators, trustees, and others who maintain an interest in meeting the complete information needs of their users to support the integration of nonprint holdings in library catalogs and to expend the resources required to fully catalog their nonprint collections.