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The Beginning of the Cataloging Code

The first significant cataloging code was published in 1841. The realization that cooperation and standardization was superior to the earlier form of cataloging encouraged the compilation and distribution of widespread rules. Prior to this time, the activity of cataloging was done on an individual basis. Libraries that considered their collections to be big enough to need a catalog would make one if necessary funds were available to do so. It was expensive to catalog on an individual basis, as this creation was almost never shared between libraries.

Sir Anthony Panizzi was appointed Keeper of Printed Books in 1837, and helped organize the British Museum's cataloging rules in 1839. It was published in 1841, and carried the responsibility of influencing the format of future codes. Panizzi's desire was for anyone to be able to find anything in the library through the use of the catalog. This goal was in mind when he made the guidelines, which were referred to as Panizzi's 91 Rules.

At the beginning of the 1900s, it became nearly impossible to sustain a library collection of all published materials, which encouraged the beginning of the interlibrary loan standards. Scholars, in particular, showed a great need for having access to books that might not be present at nearby libraries. In addition, a backup system was installed in cases of last-resort with the help of the national libraries, which was accomplished and organized with the use of the National Union Catalog. This catalog was successful because it was shipped to more than one hundred major libraries.

Herbert Putnam, Librarian of Congress from 1899 to 1939, believed in serving other libraries in addition to his own. During his time at the Library of Congress, he helped initialize the distribution and sale of catalog cards in 1901. The printed card catalogs improved searchability within the library because of the catalog's flexibility. As soon as new cards were released, the catalog could be updated by inserting these new cards in their appropriate places in the drawers, solving the biggest problem with the book catalog—that it could not be updated. In addition, more than one person could use the card catalog at a time.

Prior to the creation of the standard list for subject headings, catalogers made their own decisions on how to assign headings. The advantages of having this standard list became apparent after the increases in interlibrary loan operations and the distribution of the printed cards. In 1904, Charles A. Cutter released a comprehensive set of 369 rules covering the issues of descriptive cataloging and subject headings. Cutter's Rules became the basis for the dictionary catalog, which was to become the predominant form of catalogs in general libraries in the United States. Cutter's quote by only a few choice words reveals a statement pertinent to the modern age of information science. Because he was one of the first catalogers to develop a set of rules, Cutter was able to influence the future of cataloging codes.

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