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Associations and InstitutionsAnnual 

64th IFLA Conference Logo

   64th IFLA General Conference
   August 16 - August 21, 1998


Code Number: 061-74(WS)-E
Division Number: IV.
Professional Group: Cataloguing
Joint Meeting with: -
Meeting Number: 74.
Simultaneous Interpretation:   No

ISBD(ER) Project Definition and Process

John D. Byrum
Library of Congress
Washington DC
E-mail: jbyr@loc.gov


The author describes the project to prepare the International Standard Bibliographic Description for Electronic Resources (ISBD(ER)). It was initiated by the IFLA Sections on Cataloguing and Information Technology in 1994 to take account of the impact of rapidly changing technology on formats and types of digital publications and similar materials. The project reached its conclusion in August 1997, with publication of the ISBD(ER), having had the benefit of substantial input from experts who comprised the Review Group set up to deal with the work as well as corresponding members and from many libraries and bibliographic agencies that participated in the world-wide review.


The first edition of the International Standard Bibliographic Description for Computer Files (ISBD(CF)) was published in 1990 and mainly focused on two principal aspects of computer files: software programs and machine-readable databases. ISBD(CF) proved successful in its effort to provide internationally acceptable provisions; the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, Second Edition (AACR2) , for example, incorporated many of its recommendations and stipulations.

Technology, however, evolved quickly thereafter, and by 1994 the IFLA Sections on Cataloguing and on Information Technology, the groups which had jointly sponsored development of the ISBD(CF) , had decided to begin updating the existing standard. The ISBD(CF) Review Group was formed to include experts from the Library of Congress, Uppsala Universitetsbibliotek, Bibliothèque national de France, and Biblioteca Nacional (Madrid), with John Byrum, Library of Congress, as chair and Ann Sandberg-Fox, Cataloging Consultant and Trainer, as editor. Several corresponding members volunteered to participate, including specialists from the United Kingdom, Canada, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, and Croatia.

The Review Group was charged to examine the ISBD(CF) in all its provisions in order to ensure its ability to meet the current bibliographic needs of users in this highly volatile area. In particular attention was directed to four developments:

  1. The emergence of interactive multimedia;

  2. Developments in optical technology;

  3. The rapidly increasing availability of remote electronic files;

  4. Finally, reproductions of computer files presented a bibliographic concern of growing urgency.

With IFLA sponsorship and additional funding from the Research Libraries Group, the Review Group initiated its work program by meeting at the Library of Congress in April 1995. In preparation for this session, the editor prepared a series of seven "white papers" which addressed a broad spectrum of cataloging issues affecting computer files that had been the subject of study by cataloging groups as well as considerable debate on electronic discussion lists. Issues covered in the "white papers" were: interactive multimedia; the general material designation (GMD); sources of information; reproductions; file designations; publication issues; and a compilation of points and queries relating to definitions, dates of publication, and specific material designations.

Based on responses received, the editor then readied a first draft of the revised ISBD(CF) . Decisions taken at an April 1995 meeting were then incorporated into a draft revised text that was subsequently issued -for world-wide review in September 1995.

Over 30 responses were submitted by individuals, library associations, and national libraries during the six-month review period. The total of these commentaries numbered about 110 pages of single-spaced text. In reviewing the responses, the editor found extensive statements regarding the issues covered in the "white papers". These comprised a mixture of positive comments (in support of the proposed text) and negative comments (non-support of the proposed text), accompanied by suggestions for changes and, in some cases, by actual proposed rewording of the text. For each bibliographic area, the editor developed an issue paper to relay the specific comments in brief form to Review Group members. Ultimately, all problems were resolved, and the Review Group approved the resulting draft. Subsequently, the ISBD Maintenance Group, which is responsible for ensuring consistency among the ISBDs, studied the text and suggested a few changes to bring it into closer alignment with the general ISBD framework; the text now incorporates these changes. This final version of the ISBD(ER) was voted on by the members of the IFLA Standing Committees sponsoring the project. The text was unanimously approved, and in mid-July 1997 the text was submitted to the firm of K. G. Saur which published the ISBD(ER) in late August.