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Section V: Documentation and information retrieval

5.1 Introduction to FIAF cataloguing rules
5.2 The special problems of cataloguing moving images in an archive
5.3 Final report on the minimum level of description of a sound recording for an entry in a catalogue or a discography August 18, 1988
5.4 Intellectual control
5.5 Towards standards for audiovisual materials
5.6 The cataloguing of AV-media

5.1 Introduction to FIAF cataloguing rules

Harriet W Harrison, Library of Congress

This manual consists of a set of rules for cataloguing materials held in moving image archives. Its immediate purpose is to provide a means of facilitating the exchange of information between and among archives, so that cataloguing records, created in one archive, may be readily interpreted and understood in another. This goal supports the basic aims of FIAF, which lists the following goals in Article I of its Statutes and Internal Rules: "to encourage all countries to create and develop cooperation between its members and ensure international availability of films and documents," "to promote film art and culture and encourage historical research into all aspects of cinema," and "to promote the collection and preservation of films, as works of art and/or as historical documents."

The creation of catalogues is perhaps the least visible activity of a film archive. Cataloguing work includes the complex, professional tasks of gathering and arranging data within system (as well as the creation of those system) upon which the entire organization and operation of an archive depend. Indeed, accurate, well-organized descriptions of both filmographic and technical information about an archives collection serve as the basis for informed preservation, collections development, and outreach or screening program. They further constitute the key to the use of collections by scholars, researchers and the general public - both now and for future generations.

Although not highly visible, professional cataloguing work is expensive, and archivists have long dreamed of being able to avoid duplication of effort by sharing completed cataloguing, work, thereby reducing costs. Developments in the related fields of automation and telecommunication over the last three decades have now given us the tools through which to bring this dream of shared cataloguing into the realm of the possible.

History and Development of the FIAF Cataloguing Rules

When FIAF established its Cataloguing Commission in 1968, the new Commission set, as its first task, the creation of a compendium of advice on practical cataloguing matters - including the identification of essential and desirable elements of information, training requirements for cataloguers, location and technical controls, machinery and methods, etc.

On completing this background work, the Commission turned, in 1980, to the next task - that of providing precise rules for the style, content, and format of cataloguing records. While the members of the Commission recognized that established archives, many with long-existing formats and cataloguing systems, could not easily abandon past practices in order to adopt an international standard set of rules, they nonetheless felt that work on such rules was essential for several reasons:

1) Computerisation and telecommunication costs, which had initially been beyond the means of most archives, were decreasing rapidly, bringing with them greatly increased possibilities for effective international cooperation and communication, and effective cooperation and communication requires the use of standards.
2) Developing archives, who were just beginning cataloguing work, were looking to the Commission to provide them with recognized standards upon which they could rely.
3) Work to provide international rules for cataloguing moving image material had already been undertaken by professionals from the related discipline of librarianship. The results of their work, the International Standard for Bibliographic Description for non-Book Materials (ISBD(NBM) (London, IFLA, 1977, rev. 1987), had already achieved recognition among library professionals worldwide.

Relationship of FIAF Cataloguing Rules to ISBD (NBM) and Principles of Library Cataloguing

The principles of organization found in the FIAF Cataloguing Rules differ in several respects from library cataloguing principles as codified in ISBD(NBM). These differences stem from the need in moving image archives to describe in one record, data covering several physical pieces, perhaps bearing different identifying indicia, but belonging to the same moving image title. These separate physical pieces may be either copies (in whole or in part) of the original or they may be other manifestations; there is little of the "normal" concept for a single, ideally complete, physical unit. Catalog records for books and other non-archival library materials describe complete items, usually produced separately, edition-by-edition (or, in some cases, issue-by-issue), and thus the records reflect their different bibliographic indicia more or less faithfully. This normally means transcribing exactly one title, one sequence of statements of responsibility, one edition statement, one set of publication details, and formulating one physical description - per record.

The phenomenon of sets of single details needed per catalog record is also reflected in archival moving image materials, as when the archive holds only the original in one copy. Frequently, however, such simplicity is not possible. The moving image archivist may have several manifestations of a work, each incomplete, but which when taken together approximate a single whole item. It also may hold in separate physical items various manifestations that are dependent, e.g. a separate sound track. Thus a single record may include an original title and original release details, plus associated variation information, followed by the physical descriptions for the original and later variations with minor changes all grouped together in a listing, one physical description after the other.

A moving image archive considers that these sets of multiple details need to be given in one catalog record: a complete "item" may be the sum of these parts. Under this concept the details relating to the original title are the basic part of the record, with other details added for later variations - even when the original is not in the archive (in that case a physical description for the original is omitted). All these details are given whether or not the pieces of film or video material being catalogued actually bear them. This introduces another major departure from traditional library cataloguing: the recording of data from reference sources without the contradistinction normally made between such data (off a "chief source" or outside the item) and data transcribed from formal statements on the material. In most cases then, there will be no bracketing of any data (traditionally signifying a source other than the item itself), except possibly a word or phrase made up by the cataloguer.

Attention must be called to the multiple physical descriptions the system described above entails. As mentioned already, not only are different pieces of various versions accounted for in archival records but also differing copies: negative and positive copies, master and viewing copies, etc. A film and/or television archive can have as many as forty or fifty physically separate items, all of which are essential parts of a single feature film. All elements must be described accurately and carefully, with a shorthand which draws component parts of negatives, masterpositives, sound tracks, prints, etc. together and provides a quick method for comparing each set, one with the other. This interrelationship is expressed by providing multiple lines of physical description, each arranged in a standard manner.


As has been explained above, the incorporation of variation information into a record enables this one record to carry within it all the details relative to the differing components of a whole. This technique is not used for every case of different editions, versions, or variations. A detailed explanation follows.

It is essential to users of archival moving image material that information describing the original item and information describing the item in hand are presented in a manner that clearly delineates this relationship. The relationship in library terms is described as the concept of "edition." For moving image materials, the terms most analogous to edition are versions with major changes and variations with minor changes. Separate editions of printed library materials are catalogued separately, and usually no attempt is made to determine whether edition statements always indicate major changes in content. In moving image archives, both the occurrence of a change in the content and the extent of the change are important. In most cases, for moving image materials, the changes are a function of some form of editing.

Versions with major changes. If the cataloguing agency has determined that the item in hand differs significantly from the original work, i.e., major editing has been done, the item is described in a separate cataloguing record. The item in hand is designated a version of the original work with major changes, e.g., short version, classroom version, etc., and the distribution information for the separate version is recorded. The relationship to the original work is indicated in the edition/version statement, and, in most instances, in a note. Distribution information relating to the original work may also be indicated in a note.

Variations with minor changes. When the cataloguing agency determines that an item, although designated as being reedited, e.g., a 'new edition," has not indeed been changed significantly, it may express this relationship recording the statement of responsibility for the original in area one, the variation and statement of responsibility for the variation in area two, and the production, distribution information for both the original and variation copies in area three. Multiple edition/version/variation statements may be given when cataloguing multiple variations with minor changes.

Choice of original release title in country of origin as main entry

The manual includes prescriptions and guidelines for the choice of main and added entries, which can act as index or access points to the cataloguing record. Of these, the single most important access point - around which the entire bibliographic description is arranged - is the main entry. These rules follow the precepts already outlined in Film Cataloguing by defining main entry as the original release title or broadcast title in the country of origin, i.e., the country of the principal offices of the production company or individual by whom the moving image work was made. Owing to the complex interrelationships of persons and corporate bodies in the creation of a moving image work, the original release or broadcast title is chosen as the single element which can provide the level of consistency and standardization requisite for any national and international networking or sharing of cataloguing data. Variant titles, e.g., translated titles, rerelease or reissue titles, titles on the item or accompanying material, etc., are noted, and linking references from variant titles to the original release title are provided.

Because, however, it is not always possible for a cataloguer to determine an original release title, the rules also provide guidelines for choice of main entry when either: the concept of original release title is not applicable (as in the case of unedited footage, or when a cataloguer is unable, through research, to determine the original release title.

Research and chief source of information

Owing to the mutable nature of film and video materials, some amount of research must almost always be performed to identify and verify the original release title accurately. Titles can be readily changed, misidentified by a well-meaning collector, or completely eliminated before moving image material reaches an archive. Archival cataloguing should include a complete filmographic description of the original work expressed as exactly as possible. The "chief" source of information is not always the item itself, but may also include the standard and specialised reference works consulted by the cataloguer.

These rules are not intended to provide instructions on conducting intensive film and television research because the assumption is made that cataloguers are familiar with both the principles of cataloguing and with film and television information. Instead the rules provide guidance in organising information obtained by viewing the material and by examining accompanying material and other sources, for example by prescribing that the source of the title be carefully documented in the notes area.

Choosing a form of name for added entries and providing subject access.

These rules provide guidance concerning the types of names to be chosen as additional access points, but exclude provisions for choosing the forms these names should take. For guidance in choosing between various forms of names, the use of appropriate existing national or international standards are recommended eg. IFLA's Form and Structure of Corporate Headings and/or the Anglo American Cataloguing Rules 2nd ed., etc. Following already recommended standards for the form of name in chosen access points will enable data to be shared more widely through existing national and international bibliographic information systems, while at the same time addressing the special needs of archives through an organisation of the description according to archival principles.

In the same way, the rules include guidance for describing the content of a moving image work, but do not address issues related to providing subject access. Subject indexes may be provided through the assignment of classification numbers from standardized classification schemes such as the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC) through the assignment of natural language terms from standardized thesauri, or, in the case of automated records, through the use of software designed to index and retrieve words (either singly or in a variety of combinations) already found in the catalog record. The international standardization of subject access for moving image archives remains an issue for discussion and future work by the Commission and other interested moving image archivists. While certain types of subject access may be appropriately handled through classification schemes and thesauri borrowed from other fields (thus reaping the advantages noted above in sharing standards for form of name), the creation of thesauri for other types of subjects, such as film and television genres, film schools and movements, etc., will require additional work from cataloguing and subject specialists in our own field.


Because national and international copyright regulations for moving image materials govern not only the copying of materials for subsequent use, but also the screening and/or viewing of such materials. Information concerning copyright ownership is considered of paramount importance to most film and television archives. These rules introduce a separate area - area four - for the recording of information about the copyright status of moving image materials. The rules include provisions for recording both original and current copyright ownership, as well as for indicating when the cataloguer has not been able to find any information concerning copyright status. Since copyright issues are complex legal matters, some archives prefer to maintain separate legal files, or sometimes even to leave the resolution of copyright issues entirely to the responsibility of the user or client. For these reasons, the use of the copyright area has been designated "optional."

Alternatives and options

Certain of the individual rules or parts of rules in this manual are introduced by the words, "alternatively" or "optionally." Optional provisions arise from the recognition that different solutions to a problem and different levels of detail and specificity are appropriate in different contexts. Some alternatives and options should be decided as a matter of cataloguing policy for a particular catalogue or archive and should therefore be exercised either always or never. Other alternatives and options should be exercised case by case. It is recommended that all cataloguing archives distinguish between these two types of options and keep a record of their policy decisions and of the circumstances in which a particular option may be applied.

The necessity for judgment and interpretation by the cataloguer recognized in these rules. Such judgement and interpretation may be based the requirements of a particular catalogue or upon the use of the items being catalogued. The need for judgement is indicated in these rules by phrases such as "if appropriate," "if important" and "if necessary." These indicate recognition of the fact that uniform legislation of types and sizes of catalogues is neither possible nor desirable, and encourage the application of individual judgement based on specific local knowledge. This statement in no way contradicts the value of standardization. Such judgments must be applied consistently within a particular context and must be documented by the individual archives.

1. scope, purpose and use of FIAF cataloguing rules

1.1. Scope

The FIAF Cataloguing Rules specify requirements for the description and identification of archival moving image materials, assign an order to the elements of the description, and specify a system of punctuation for that description. They are designed for use by moving image archives as a guide in the preparation of cataloguing records and as a standard for the exchange of bibliographic or filmographic information. Their provisions relate to the bibliographic records of moving image materials for generalized film and television archives, and may require elaboration in more specialized archives whose holdings are exclusively of a single format or type, e.g., commercials, newsfilm, unedited footage, etc. Moving image materials include a range of documents upon which sequences of visual images have been recorded or registered and which create the illusion of movement when projected, broadcast, or played back (by means of a television set or equivalent device). such images may, or may not, be accompanied by sound. The definition includes motion pictures and videorecordings of all types, e.g., features, shorts, news footage (whether film or video), trailers, outtakes, screen tests, educational and training documents, experimental or independent films or video, study films or video, harm movies, unedited materials, television broadcasts, commercials, and spot announcements. It also covers both live action and animation.

The FIAF Cataloguing Rules are based upon the prescriptions found in the International Standard Bibliographic Description for Non-Book Materials (ISBD(NBM)) (London: IFLA International Office for UBC, 1977, rev. 1987) in order to achieve as much standardization as possible with the guidelines and principles of the international library community. They do, however, differ in several important ways, owing to differences between the way in which library materials and archival moving images are produced and distributed. In its preliminary notes, the first edition of ISBD(NBM) states that its definition of non-book materials applies "for most part to materials published in multiple copies." As regards the materials held by moving image archives, the situation is often quite different. owing to the ease with which moving image documents may be altered and copied in a variety of formats, copies are often made in response to specific orders rather than in anticipation of demand. Thus, production of copies on a one-for-one basis is not at all unusual and is particularly characteristic of archival preservation activities. The ease with which the documents can be altered (erased, cut, spliced, resequenced, etc. for repair or other deliberate purposes) has led to the situation, common in archives, where there are few, if any, examples of "ideal" copies, i.e., complete items, usually produced separately edition-by-edition or issue-by-issue (i.e., printing-by-printing).

Archival cataloguing for moving images has therefore centered around the construction of unitary cataloguing records based upon the description of an ideal 'original release,' coupled with the elaboration of details which describe the variations represented in the holdings of archives. This principle leads to differences in the rules for "principal" or "prescribed source," concepts of "edition" and "version," and in the necessity for performing research in addition to examining items as prerequisite for the creation of bibliographic records. These differences are reflected in the rules.

1.2. Purpose

The primary purpose of the rules is to aid in the exchange and international communication of bibliographic data for moving image documents held international held in archives throughout the world. This purpose is very similar to and supports that outlined in ISBD(NBM) (2d ed.):

to (A) make records from different sources interchangeable, so that records produced in one country can be easily accepted in library catalogues or other bibliographic lists in any other country; (B) assist in the interpretation of records across language barriers, so that records produced for users of one language can be interpreted by users of other languages; and (C) assist in the conversion of bibliographic records to machine-readable form.

It is for this reason that every effort has been made to parallel ISBD (NBM) wherever possible, particularly as to the prescribed order of elements and as to punctuation.

1.3. Use

The FIAF Cataloguing Rules are intended to provide a framework for the maximum amount of descriptive information required in a range of archival cataloguing activities existing in a great variety of national and local environments. The elements listed in the outline of areas and elements are therefore divided into two categories, mandatory (if applicable) and optional. The elements listed as mandatory should be considered the minimum necessary for the effective exchange of bibliographic information, and archives are encouraged to include as many of the optional elements as goals and circumstances permit.

This set of rules is intended to cover rules for description and bibliographic access; subject access to the materials is not addressed, nor are rules presented for standardized personal and corporate names. For guidance in these areas, archives should refer to national or multinational cataloguing codes, such as the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd ed. and to International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) publications, such as Form and Structure of Corporate Headings (London: IFLA International Office for UBC, 1980).

2. Order of the elements of description

The order of the elements of description is based as closely as possible upon the order prescribed in ISBD(NBM). Elements are grouped into the following areas:

- Title and statement of responsibility Edition/version/variation
- Production, distribution, etc.
- Copyright statement
- Physical description
- Series
- Notes

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