Library Services


Retrospective Cataloguing Strategy


The vision for UCL Library Services is to enhance access to all of its collections by ensuring that material whose existence is currently effectively hidden is recorded in the relevant online catalogues


To underpin the Library Strategy by raising awareness of the scope and content of these collections, in particular:

  • To promote the use of Special Collections material, both in support of teaching and learning and as a research resource (paras 23 & 53)
  • To contribute to raising the Library's national and international profile (para. 121)

Definition and scope

Retrospective cataloguing covers the addition to the online catalogue of records for material that has either not previously been catalogued or is currently recorded only on cards or in other non-machine-readable formats. The material concerned includes print (in particular monographs, pamphlets, and periodicals) and archival collections.

Much of this material is rare or otherwise of considerable importance, and is either held at UCL Special Collections or else forms part of the specialist collections held at other sites; there is also a substantial amount of material, published after 1850 and housed in the Library's remote store, to be added to the online catalogues.

Strategic context

The Retrospective Cataloguing Strategy operates within the framework of the Library Strategy, and should be considered alongside other UCL Library Services strategies and policies, in particular:

Research context

Researchers now expect to have online access to library catalogues. These need to be comprehensive both to increase awareness of the full scope of the wealth of material available and to enable specific items to be identified and located. The Uncovering Hidden Resources report stresses that resources that are not included are increasingly likely to be overlooked or ignored.

Social context

As part of its commitment to outreach and education, the Library works in partnership with local schools (eg, by providing access to contemporary material relevant to the syllabus for History and English). The usefulness of online catalogue records in this context was highlighted by the Britain in Print project, in which UCL was a partner and which used the records created as part of the project to identify source material for inclusion in a number of study packs for schools.

Key components

The Retrospective Cataloguing Strategy has three principal components:

  1. Priorities for retrospective cataloguing:

    1. Support for research and scholarship, teaching and learning at UCL
    2. Enhancing UCL's reputation for excellence
    3. Support for digitisation projects
  2. Relationships and partnerships
  3. Business processes

Priorities for retrospective cataloguing

Prioritising individual collections for retrospective cataloguing will take into account the following considerations:

Support for research and scholarship, teaching and learning at UCL

As indicated in the Library Strategy, many of the collections of rare books and related material are of considerable academic value but are under-used, both as a research resource and to support taught courses.

The Library will consult with academic departments at UCL to establish their priorities in this area for research and teaching, and will where necessary prioritise the collections concerned for retrospective cataloguing.

Enhancing UCL's reputation for excellence

The strength of the Library's collections is a major asset for UCL, attracting researchers from elsewhere in the UK and from abroad. It is a strategic aim of UCL Library Services to seek Designation status in recognition of this strength.

Designation status is awarded by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, which requires that the collections concerned are catalogued to a high standard.

The Library will give priority to cataloguing collections to be put forward for Designation status.

Support for digitisation projects

UCL continues to receive substantial external funding to participate in projects to digitise important collections of primary source material. It is generally a requirement that the items concerned should be recorded in the online catalogue, with a link to the full text.

The Library will give priority to cataloguing material selected for digitisation.

Relationships and partnerships

The Library will continue to work closely both with external partners and with partners from other parts of UCL (in particular UCL Museums & Collections) on collaborative projects.

The Library will develop partnerships with external funders whose priorities for enhancing access are in accord with those of UCL.

The Retrospective Cataloguing Steering Group, which reports to the Library's Senior Management Team, will meet regularly to consider and advise on operational and policy issues relating to retrospective cataloguing.

Business processes

The Library is in the process of adding details of collections, including level of priority for retrospective cataloguing, to its Collections Assessment database, and will seek funding to continue this work and to make the contents more widely available.

The Library will clarify ownership and retention status before undertaking any retrospective cataloguing work (including submitting bids for external funding).

The Library will ensure that the collection is in a fit state (in particular that the preservation status has been assessed) before undertaking any retrospective cataloguing work (including submitting bids for external funding).

The Library will ensure that the records that are added to the Library's online catalogue meet internationally agreed standards.

The Library will wherever possible forward its records for inclusion in the Copac and SUNCAT union catalogues, so as to further enhance resource discovery and retrieval.

The Library will continue to provide recurrent funding to ensure that high-priority items are readily identifiable via the catalogue.

The Library will submit bids to external funding bodies for additional resources to supplement this work.