A catalog listing all the holdings of a library. A library catalog is an index into these holdings, because when you locate something in the catalog, it will tell you how to (physically or electronically) find that item. So, it's more than a simple list.

In the past, library catalogs were always card catalogs, with all the books, magazines and so on typed on index cards -- maybe even 10 or 20 per book! -- and organized in little drawers. There would be one card for the Title index, one for each author for the Author index, and often multiple cards for the Subject index (depending on how many subjects the item is classified under). Gawd, what a lot of work!

These days, library catalogs are maintained and accessed electronically. It's still alot of work, because the number of information-bearing things in the world keeps increasing exponentially.

A library catalog is a file of materials held by the library which is arranged according to a definite plan. It is the search engine that is used for library’s resources. Simply said, catalogs are guides for users.

The purpose of the catalog is to help users of the library find the location of the items that they know they want, and to find items they are not even aware of. It helps you to find materials whether you know the author, the title, or even the subject. The catalog displays the library’s holdings by a given author, or on a given subject or by kind of literature. Examples of kinds of literature include poetry, drama, fiction, etc. The catalog assists users in choosing materials by describing the materials for easy identification. They give information that includes things such as the author, the title, and the edition. The library catalog enables the user to locate the material on the library shelves.

There are several types of library catalogs.

Online Catalogs are often available via the internet. The most notable of these being the Library of Congress. An online library catalog is an interactive database of the library’s resources that is accessible with a computer.

Union Catalogs are databases which contain the holdings of more than one library or networks of libraries. Citrus College is a member of the Union Catalog called Link+. Union catalogs are usually online catalogs.

Non-digital catalogs come in many forms such as dictionary, microform, printout, or card catalogs. These are all being replaced as time goes on with the easier to use online catalogs.

Source: Class notes, Introduction to Cataloging.

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