Descriptive cataloguing

Descriptive cataloguing provides access points for the documents in the Swiss National Library (NL) so that they can be accessed in the online catalogue Helveticat.

The bibliographic description allows each document in the NL to be clearly identified. It is carried out according to the international RDA (Resource Description & Access) standard using the international format MARC 21. Name authority data are linked to the German Integrated Authority File (Gemeinsame Normdatei, GND). These data are checked for each bibliographic record.

RDA NL Supplementary Rules

Since October 2016, descriptive cataloguing at the NL has been carried out in accordance with the RDA (Resource Description & Access) standard and since November 2023 according to the RDA DACH standard (Application Guidelines RDA for German-speaking Regions).

In order to take account of some specific Swiss characteristics, e.g. multilingualism, the NL has defined additional rules in its RDA NL Supplementary Rules.

The standardised access points for persons, corporate bodies and congresses are linked to the GND (Integrated Authority File).

The standardised access points in Helveticat, the NL’s catalogue, are only being updated to correspond to RDA standards if they are actually used again; otherwise the records remain unchanged and correspond to previous cataloguing rules (AACR, VSB).

MARC 21 German-language manual

The MARC 21 (MAchine Readable Cataloging) format is the result of harmonising two formats from 1999: USMARC and CAN/MARC. MARC 21 consists of the following formats:

  • Format for Bibliographic Data
  • Format for Authority Data
  • Format for Holdings Data
  • Format for Classification Data
  • Format for Community Information

MARC 21 was published in English by the Library of Congress and the Library and Archives Canada. An official version in French is also published in Canada.

Content and scope

The National Library’s web edition of MARC 21 contains the following formats:

  • Format for Bibliographic Data
  • Format for Authority Data

Particular features

The current edition contains the fields used by the NL. The indicators, subfield codes and coded values that are not used by the NL are shown in italics in the fields concerned. A list of the subfield codes used at the NL, shown in bold, can normally be found at the start of the description of a field. The “Input Conventions” and “Content Designator History” sections at the end of the field description in the original version are not included in the German translation.

Current status of updating the MARC 21 German-language manual

Updates 1(2000) – 26 (2018) have been added to the base version. Only the fields used at the NL are listed in the current version.

Language rules

For ease of use, the masculine form is generally used in the current version of the MARC 21 manual. All terms referring to people therefore apply equally to both men and women.

Cataloguing of digital publications

The bibliographic data of the digital publications are transmitted by the suppliers and automatically included in the online catalogue Helveticat. The standardised access points are processed manually. The records obtain a link to the digital collections of the NL. All digital content can be found by full text search.

Open access to certain content is restricted due to copyright reasons. These documents can be consulted in the public rooms within the NL. Information about the access status appear in the search results.

SLB-METS, Version 2.6, 18th December 2019 (in German) (PDF, 964 kB, 25.08.2021)The NL’s internal data format is based on the structure of the METS standard (Metadata Encoding & Transmission Standard, Version 1.3.)

Last modification 16.01.2024

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