ALCTS - Association of Library Collections & Technical Services

Committee on Cataloging: Description and Access

Building International Descriptive Cataloging Standards:
The Role of the American Library Association’s
Committee on Cataloging: Description and Access

CC:DA and Cataloging in the United States

Libraries across the world have long been faced with the need to organize their collections in order for users to retrieve the one or more pieces of information that are needed by the individual. International standards have been developed for describing the physical pieces and the writers, people, places and ideas contained in them.

These standards describe books, manuscripts, musical scores, and visual electronic media of all types. As repositories of information spread beyond libraries and are made generally available electronically, the need for commonly shared standards for describing such material becomes even more important. The American Library Association’s Committee on Cataloging: Description and Access serves as the body within the United States which facilitates the continued development of those standards. The Committee on Cataloging: Description and Access (CC:DA) is the American Library Association committee that formulates the official ALA policy on descriptive cataloging. CC:DA includes, as an ex-officio member, the ALA representative to the international committee (comprised of representatives from American, Australian, British, and Canadian library organizations and national libraries) responsible for updating and revising the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd edition, revised (AACR2R).

AACR2R is an internationally accepted standard for descriptive cataloging. It contains rules for describing and providing access to all types of library materials including books, serials, computer files, maps, music, motion pictures, etc. through library catalogs. AACR2R is also a standard for structuring catalogs with headings and references to provide links between items with similar or related characteristics.

The Committee also works closely with the Library of Congress on cataloging policy and problems in the use and interpretation of AACR2R. Representatives from CC:DA work with other ALA Committees to coordinate descriptive cataloging policy with developments in the USMARC formats and subject cataloging.

CC:DA invites collaborative efforts with other American and international organizations to develop descriptive standards within the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules for expanding the structure of the traditional library catalog to include electronic text, digitized images and other emerging technologies.

The Committee is composed of 9 voting members and 35 non-voting representatives from other branches of ALA and other library organizations in the United States, the Library of Congress, OCLC and RLG. The members and representatives have a wide array of experience in cataloging all types of library materials. CC:DA is a committee of the Cataloging and Classification Section of the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS).

Roles of CC:DA

  • To make a continuing assessment of the state of the art and suggest the direction of change in the field of descriptive cataloging.

  • To recommend solutions to problems relating not only to bibliographic description but also to choice and form of access points, other than subject access points.

  • To initiate proposals for additions to and revisions of the cataloging code currently adopted by ALA and to review proposals initiated by other groups or individuals.

  • To develop official ALA positions on such proposals in consultation with other appropriate ALA units and organizations in the U.S.A.

  • To instruct the ALA Representative to the Joint Steering Committee for Revision of AACR regarding the official ALA position and to suggest acceptable bases for negotiations.

  • To develop official ALA positions on proposed international cataloging policies and standards pertaining to the committee’s area of responsibility and to advise the official ALA representative; or, if there is no official ALA representative, to act as the clearinghouse within ALA for review of these policies and standards and to serve as the formal liaison between ALA and the originating organizations.

  • To encourage the US library and information services community, to express opinions on issues under consideration through timely publication of agenda items in the community’s press.

  • To keep the profession informed by reporting committee actions promptly through appropriate communication channels.

CC:DA Welcomes Your Suggestions:

  • In proposing changes to the rules.

  • In streamlining the rule change process.

  • In applying standards for bibliographic control to new and emerging technologies.

  • In employing automated solutions to the development of descriptive cataloging records.

How CC:DA Can Help

How to contact a CC:DA Member or Liaison:
  • Current CC:DA members are listed under ALCTS/CCS/CC:DA in the current ALA Handbook for Organization.

  • Contact ALA's ALCTS office: (312) 280-5035 or toll free at (800) 545-2433 extension 5035.

  • On the World Wide Web link to CC:DA on the ALCTS home page:
How to participate in cataloging issues or questions:
  • Get the file How to Submit a Rule Change Proposal to CC:DA from:

  • Write to the ALCTS office of ALA and ask for a copy of How to Submit a Rule Change Proposal to CC:DA. (American Library Association, Association for Library Collections & Technical Services, 50 E. Huron St.., Chicago, IL 60611)