The use of “National bibliographies in the digital age : guidance and new directions” in working with selection principles etc. in the Danish National Bibliography

by Hanne Hørl Hansen, Bibliographic Consultant, DBC as

The last couple of years, discussions have been going on in Denmark whether to include internet resources in the traditional national bibliography. Can a national bibliography be selective instead of exhaustive? How do you find and select the right resources to include since having an overview of all relevant candidates on the internet is impossible? How do you handle the great amount of relevant resources? Which is the right level of cataloguing? How do you maintain the records created when the resource described moves on or disappears from the web?

I was commissioned by The Danish Agency for Libraries and Media under the Ministry of Cultural Affairs to prepare a report dealing with these issues. The report includes specific selection criteria, recommendations for levels of cataloguing etc. for internet resources to be included in the Danish National Bibliography. The report has just been approved by the Danish Bibliographic Council under the Danish Agency for Libraries and Media.

For inspiration in the initial discussions as well as in the actual work with the report I consulted the guidelines National bibliographies in the digital age. I find the guidelines useful in the following ways:

  • The guidelines introduce relevant areas to be analyzed in relation to internet resources in the national bibliography.
  • I find it very important that the guidelines reconsider the role of the national bibliography. This is of particular relevance when it comes to internet resources because the cultural heritage angle can be covered by legal deposit harvesting. The big question to be considered is whether the main function of the national bibliography is to serve as an exhaustive historical documentation of the output of the country or could be looked upon as a contemporary means to help libraries and end users access relevant resources. The guidelines state that the mission of the national bibliography is to support contemporary functions and that pragmatic (not necessarily exhaustive) formal selection criteria should be defined. I have built upon this confirmation of the national bibliography having a contemporary function providing access as an argument for recommending inclusion of selective internet resources in the national bibliography at all.

The guidelines as a whole have been an inspiration during the process, but I would like to point out the chapters of selection principles and cataloguing as being more than an inspiration to the  recommendations of my report.

Working with my report also reveals some shortcomings in the guidelines:

  •  As a whole the guidelines are very focused on material including text.
  •  The guidelines state that “the one size fits all approach is no longer sustainable” when it comes to cataloguing. It is also stated that processes must be simplified and automated when possible and that collaboration across sectors could reduce duplication. Do such initiatives and the recommended levels of associated metadata correspond with demands for core elements etc. in the cataloguing standards and codes? Do we need to modify and be more pragmatic in the cataloguing codes and standards when it comes to internet resources in order to handle the amount of material?
  •  The guidelines include a lot of historical background. A summary specifying areas to be considered and specific recommendations when starting working with including materials on the web into the national bibliography would be useful.