Guidelines for National Bibliographies in the Electronic Age: Introduction

In 2001 the IFLA World Library and Information Congress took place in Boston, Massachusetts. The IFLA Section on Bibliography celebrated the completion of two major pieces of work: the report, by Bell and Langballe (2001), on the compliance of the world’s national bibliographies with the recommendations of the International Conference on National Bibliographic Services, 1998; and Knutsen’s survey of the changes to national bibliographies since 1996 (Knutsen, 2001).

The committee also discussed how national bibliographies should respond to the growing significance of electronic media and, in particular, web publications. As the meeting was drawing to a conclusion, a guest from Azerbaijan suggested that the Section give advice and assistance to national bibliographic agencies not yet familiar with the proper methods of producing national bibliographies.

This publication is the outcome of that meeting. A working group was established in 2002 to investigate the development and update of guidelines, with examples and references, to help national bibliographic agencies start or improve bibliographic services. In the following year the scope of the Working Group’s remit was extended to include guidelines for electronic national bibliographies. The Working Group was tasked to:

  • develop guidelines to help national bibliographic agencies start or improve bibliographic services
  • develop guidelines for publishing bibliographies in electronic form
  • develop guidelines on the inclusion and presentation of electronic resources in national bibliographies. 

These seemingly separate strands have intertwined as the work of the group has progressed. The change wrought by the World Wide Web and the explosion of electronic media have called into question many of the assumptions on which national bibliography has been founded. A map is needed to guide us through these uncharted territories.

The intended audience for this document is wide: in the first place, it addresses those charged with the management of national bibliographic services, particularly implementing new national bibliographies. Secondly, this document will be of interest to managers and staff of established national bibliographic agencies who are responding to opportunities and challenges posed by new technology and media.

It is emphasized that the document is not intended to be prescriptive: bibliographic control varies widely from country to country; local requirements may be influenced by financial, legal or practical constraints. A number of potential options are presented to enable different levels of application or uptake according to circumstances, and examples are given to illustrate the range of approaches taken by different national bibliographic agencies.

The document consists of relatively independent chapters, each of them addressing a separate issue. At the same time the publication was planned as a whole. Readers can use this publication in both ways: reading all the chapters in sequence or only individual chapters.

IFLA Division IV Bibliographic Control provided funding, which enabled the Working Group to meet on four occasions. These meetings were essential in moving forward the work of the group and could not have taken place without the generous hospitality of the national libraries of the Czech Republic (2004), Lithuania (2006) and France (2007 and 2008). Members of the Working Group communicated by email and were also able to meet at the IFLA world congresses. Reports on the progress were presented during the Bibliography Section open sessions.

The Working Group is pleased to acknowledge the support and contribution of colleagues from other IFLA sections, including Cataloguing, Classification & Indexing, and National Libraries.

The document was available for world-wide review from June to September 2008. Comments were received from Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, IFLA ISBD Review Group, Danish Bibliographic Committee, Marcelle Beaudiquez, Pat Riva, Library of Congress, and National Diet Library. This document benefited considerably from suggestions and recommendations of these reviewers.

Considering that the environment is evolving fast, this document is expected to be revised periodically by the Bibliography Section to reflect the changes.

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Last update: 21 November 2014