Cataloging Nonprint Resources in the United States and China

Cataloging Nonprint Resources in the United States and China: A Comparative Study of Organization and Access for Selected Electronic and Audiovisual Resources, and Chinese American Newspapers and Periodicals in the United States

Yan MA, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
School of Library and Information Science
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Audiovisual and especially electronic resources are growing in number and importance in libraries worldwide today. This study is based on the preliminary results of a survey conducted on current library practices in organizing and providing access to nine specific types of electronic and audiovisual resources in the United States and the People's Republic of China, and is conducted from a cataloging point of view. An analysis of the survey data has yielded valuable comparative information about how large libraries in the two countries treat nonprint resources, including: how many of these resources they own; how many they catalog; what standards they use for bibliographic description, authority control, and subject analysis; and how they classify, shelve, and circulate them.

Methodology for the Comparative Study:

Specially designed questionnaires were sent to the one-hundred libraries with the largest collection size in both countries. Some questions were specially designed to gather data for cataloging standards and practices in China.

Each questionnaire consisted of questions about library type, collection size, catalog, descriptive cataloging practice, subject analysis, classification, and user access for the following nine types of nonprint resources:

  • Computer Files: Computer Discs [floppy discs], CD-ROMs, Electronic Files [e.g., Internet]
  • Sound Recordings: Compact Discs, Cassette Tapes, Vinyl Records
  • Visual Materials: Video Tapes [videocassettes], Video Discs [laserdiscs], Motion Pictures [film reels]
Survey Results:

A total of forty United States libraries and forty-two Chinese libraries responded to the survey.

The majority of the surveyed United States libraries collect all nine types of nonprint resources, do full-level cataloging of them, and include them in their catalogs along with their print resources. Although most of the surveyed Chinese libraries collect relatively fewer of these resources, the majority do catalog those they own, with the exception of films. The Chinese libraries on average, however, perform less authority control and subject analysis for their nonprint materials, resulting in relatively poorer user access than in the American libraries. This is partially due to the fact that American libraries automated their cataloging systems earlier than those in China, and centralized, automated systems such as OCLC in the United States make a standardized database of authority files and subject headings more readily available to a large number of libraries. For statistical analysis of the data, please refer to the fuller version of the paper.

Note: The project was supported by a grant awarded by the Graduate School of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

[This is a summary of the paper presented at the 62nd General Conference of the International Federation of Library Associations, Beijing, China, August 1996. The fuller version of the paper will be published in International Cataloguing and Bibliographic Control in 1997].

Copyright © 1996 Yan MA.
Submitted to CALA E-J on October 25, 1996.