ERIC Identifier: ED254213
Publication Date: 1984-11-26
Author: McLaughlin, Pamela
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources Syracuse NY.

Managing Computer Software Collections. ERIC Digest.

As libraries of all kinds acquire software for both in-house use and their circulating collections, issues in the management of software collections and options for cataloging and processing microcomputer software must be considered.


The treatment of microcomputer software by libraries and other institutions is highly dependent on several factors, among them:

--Type of library

--Size of the collection

--Variety of the collection (for example, all commercially produced, locally produced, more than one program per disk, more than one version of the program)

--Purpose of the collection (in-house use only, circulating collection, other)

--Type of access to be provided (card catalog, online catalog, cards generated by mirocomputer, wall charts, or lists)

--Type of organization (Dewey Decimal, Library of Congress, locally developed scheme)

Each repository has its own set of requirements and a thorough analysis should be done to determine the most effective means of handling each collection.


The long-awaited GUIDELINES FOR USING AACR2, CHAPTER 9 FOR CATALOGING MICROCOMPUTER SOFTWARE, published by the American Library Association, was prepared "to assist librarians in applying the second edition of ANGLO-AMERICAN CATALOGING RULES (AACR2) to the description of microcomputer software and data files."

These guidelines are to be viewed as an interpretation of, rather than a substitute for, Chapter 9, "Machine-Readable Data Files," and should be used in conjunction with it. They also cover only commercially produced software. The guidelines cover:

Sources of Bibliographic Information (Rule 9.0B)

The chief source of bibliographic information to be used is that which is recorded internally, on the program itself. This makes access to the compatible microcomputer necessary in order to catalog such materials. In lieu of that, other potential sources include the labels on disks or containers, accompanying documentation, or published descriptions other than advertising.

Title and Statement of Responsibility Area, General Material Designation (Rule 9.1C)

The use of "machine-readable data files" as a general material designation to directly follow the title is specified, although dissatisfaction with this GMD as inaccurate is acknowledged (Intner 1983; Richards 1983).

Edition (Rule 9.2)

Includes a list of generic words which may be used to indicate a change in the program that resulted in a new issue. These include such terms as edition, version, level, release, or update. This rule also discussses supplemental material, and cautions against transferring edition information from documentation to software.

File Description (Rule 9.5)

To be taken from explicit statements in accompanying documentation, this statement can include numbers of files, or number of logical statements, if given; physical medium; progamming language; or the model or number of machine on which the program was designed to run. Other system requirements are given in the optional notes area. Rule 9.5D outlines the treatment of subordinate files as accompanying materials, along with other documentation such as user manuals, textbooks, and program guides.

Notes (Rule 9.7B15; Optional)

"System Requirements and Disk Characteristics" includes description of the make and model of hardware, amount of memory required, operating system, and the kind and characteristics of any peripherals that are either needed or recommended. Following the notes is a discussion of the cataloging of individual programs in a collection, with examples, and an extensive glossary of relevant terms.


Some libraries and other organizations have developed procedures for dealing with their software acquisitions that suit their needs and are noteworthy.

GUIDELINES FOR PROCESSING AND CATALOGING COMPUTER SOFTWARE FOR SCHOOLS AND AREA EDUCATION AGENCIES was prepared for the Iowa Department of Public Instruction (Martin and others 1982). The authors base their ten suggestions for the order of processing software on ACCR2 and practical experience. Especially helpful in this publication is the inclusion of sample catalog cards, book cards, pockets, and labels.

Other states have also published their procedures. The Ohio Media Association's MICROCOMPUTERS IN THE MEDIA CENTER includes a chapter entitled "Cataloging and Storing Microcomputer Materials." In this chapter, Kathy Kneil offers suggestions for interpreting AACR2 for a high school media center and suggests using the alternative media designators, MCP (microcomputer program) or CP (computer program) to describe such materials.

Another media designator suggested by North Carolina ("For the Librarian..." 1983) is Courseware. This brief how-to-do-it guide for cataloging and sorting software also describes the practice of choosing a classification number and subject headings, setting up the card catalog, and processing and packaging instructional software.


Other promising practices include the use of database management software for microcomputers to create online catalogs, produce master lists for circulation, or create charts (Baker 1983; Dewey 1984).

Baker's description of her elementary school's needs assessment, objectives, selection criteria for database management programs, types of lists produced, necessary documentation, and evaluation methods provides a fascinating case study.

The creation of a "Software Directory Wall Chart" (Dewey 1984) for public libraries provides descriptions of possible software for the task with technical details. Microcomputer-based production makes for easy updating and a variety of listings.

The practice of tracing computer programs as subjects offers card catalog users a complete listing of software possibilities and is a practical approach to this problem for small collections.


There are any number of ways to tackle this soon-to-be-larger issue. These introductory items will form a solid foundation for a system designed to fit your needs.

And, if we have all done our jobs, we will have used Betty Minemier's "'Stranger, alike and large' rule. (1) Can a stranger, by using the regular library key, whether it be electronic, manual, or book catalog, find all our computer programs? (2) Can a user easily find all like materials--book, audiovisual, or conputerized--on a particular subject in the regular library key? (3) If we get a much larger collection, will this scheme still work?" Or, perhaps better yet, her "'Heavenly home tonight' rule: If I am transported to my heavenly home tonight, will my successor condemn me to hell for the arrangement?" (Action Exchange 1983).


American Library Association. Committee on Cataloging: Description and Access. GUIDELINES FOR USING AACR2 CHAPTER 9 FOR CATALOGING MICROCOMPUTER SOFTWARE. Chicago: ALA, l984.

"Action Excange." AMERICAN LIBRARIES (September l983): 512.

Baker, Patti R. "A Software Filing System for Elementary Schools." EDUCATIONAL COMPUTER MAGAZINE (September 1983):46-50,91.

Dewey, Patrick, and Marvin Garber. "Organizing and Storing Diskettes." SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL (April 1984):32.

"For the Librarian: How to Catalog Computer Courseware." ELECTRONIC LEARNING (October 1983):40.

Intner, Sheila. "Suggestions for the Cataloging of Machine-Readable Materials." LIBRARY RESOURCES AND TECHNICAL SERVICES (October-December 1983):355-370.

Martin, Elizabeth and others. GUIDELINES FOR PROCESSING AND CATALOGING COMPUTER SOFTWARE FOR SCHOOLS AND AREA EDUCATION AGENCIES. Des Moines, IA: Iowa State Department of Public Instruction, 1982. ED 223 256.

MICROCOMPUTERS IN THE MEDIA CENTER. Columbus, OH: Ohio Educational Library Media Association, l983.


Richards, Mary. "Issues in Microcomputer Software Cataloging and Processing." WISCONSIN LIBRARY BULLETIN (Summer 1983):68-69.

Library Reference Search

Please note that this site is privately owned and is in no way related to any Federal agency or ERIC unit.  Further, this site is using a privately owned and located server. This is NOT a government sponsored or government sanctioned site. ERIC is a Service Mark of the U.S. Government. This site exists to provide the text of the public domain ERIC Documents previously produced by ERIC.  No new content will ever appear here that would in any way challenge the ERIC Service Mark of the U.S. Government.

Popular Pages

More Info