Category Archives: Universal Bibliographic Control

national bibliographic control in the digital era

National Bibliographic Control in the Digital Era

By Eduardo da Silva Alentejo

In a growing universe of information alternatives, emerging technologies on the Web have been adapted and applied to the ways in which human beings control what they produce. That is, what is organized, preserved and disseminated to society through successive generations of bibliographic systems. Considering that in libraries and documentary centers, the physical availability of documents results from a logical and unique organization; on the other hand, on the Web, whose logic is the network, thousands of information resources can be accessed and intertwined because of semantic interoperability, a current characteristic of various bibliographic communication formats and protocols. With digital technology constantly evolving, the agility of information communication has become a primary objective for the data producer to remain relevant, the information system effective and the dissemination of knowledge efficient. Since the digital environment has been changing the way humanity interacts, the terrain of Web technologies and information systems architecture has been changing and institutions of all types are increasingly using information systems that, sometimes , do not easily fit into the traditional labels under which information systems architectures have been conceived. If there is an understanding that technologies are powerful for driving digital transformation processes for national bibliographic control activities, bibliographic organization processes also bring notes and challenges to combat information inflation in the Digital Era as well digital exclusion processes. From these perspectives, national bibliographic agencies are dealing with the evanescence and mutability of electronic documents, growing at an exponential rate and speed, apparently without any national affiliation, however, establishing a global network for exchanging bibliographic information. The notion of bibliographic control for instances of culture, especially libraries, has become imperative to combat information overload (bibliographic explosion, according to Paul Otlet), having as reference the printed book and the use of information as a means for development of societies (Parent, 2004). Bibliographic Control presupposes complete control over the materials that record knowledge, aiming to identify, locate and obtain it. And because it is not an end, it is related to the ability to face information inflation under the application of computing and automation in libraries since the 1950s (Davinson, 1975). National bibliographic control aims to produce a current national bibliography, enabling the intellectual progress of a nation to be verified (Bell, 1998). At an international level, Universal Bibliographic Control would be achieved by the exchange of official bibliographic records between national bibliographic agencies, responsible for their constitution and dissemination (Roberts, 1994). These scopes of bibliographic control require an operational system supported by instruments that allow the census, organization and dissemination of what is called national bibliographic heritage, whose operations oversee a bibliographic agency, generally a national library, as is the Brazilian case. In the history of each country, or group of countries, undertakings for bibliographic control occurred in different ways and with different technological resources. Each country has developed its own information policy and control of intellectual production (Parent, 2004). With the systematization of the Universal Bibliographic Control Program (UBC), in the 1970s, developed by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), librarians and other information professionals have adapted and applied technologies for the task of organizing and disseminating knowledge, from local to national and from there to global reach, based on cooperation and emphasis on international bibliographic standardization. The first worldwide conception of cooperative and decentralized bibliographic control was expressed with the UBC Program and had social and political purposes: universalization of knowledge, dissemination of bibliographic records and preservation of national and global intellectual memory as a result. This ideal was based on the creation of an internationally integrated, distributed network based on the contribution of each country’s national bibliographic control through the regular sharing of the ‘current national bibliography’ component (Alentejo; Ramanan, 2017). Córdon García (1997) explains that national bibliographic control is guided by three mutually dependent pillars: legal deposit, national bibliographic agency and current national bibliography. The triple combination of bibliographic agency, legal deposit and, current national bibliography demonstrated a strong structure that provides the bibliographic control necessary for current affairs as it has been since the beginning of the 1980s. This was developed in the context of global publishing which was characterized by the diffusion of documents in all their forms (Beaudiquez, 1998). The conception of UBC played an important role in the ideals of universalizing knowledge. It was built based on the principle that each country was responsible for identifying and describing publications in its own territory, following an international standard of bibliographic description. It also played a key role in developing a universal, machine-readable bibliographic description format for exchanging bibliographic information (Parent, 2004). Stemming from the latest recommendations provided by IFLA for the current national bibliography (Takhirov; Aalberg; Žumer, 2008), of which the Web-based current national bibliography would be the primary source for a country’s official bibliographic directory, the sense of bibliographic heritage is supports collecting based on the accumulation of materials, via legal deposit, from national libraries due to their ability to provide bibliographic services for dissemination and access to a country’s bibliographic and documentary heritage. National bibliographies accessible in the Web environment have allowed expanding understanding regarding the development of systems based on user experience, through the possibility of employing technological resources capable of improving their social functions of access to knowledge, such as: Semantic Web, Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain. With the availability of new digital sources of information on the Web, there is potential competition between national and international bibliographic agencies with other bibliographic services, mainly with worldwide commercial bibliography, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. National bibliographic agencies, for example, have offered other bibliographic services that other bodies cannot offer, mainly in the possibilities of metadata reuse and cooperative international and local cataloging. Therefore, the successive national bibliographic control architectures sheltered the UBC Program from its social ideals, international cooperation, technical and technological improvements, premises for the exchange of bibliographic data without barriers and were sustained in the light of human rights; even in times of political and economic conflicts with global impact, applying and adapting Web versioning technologies for the purposes of universalizing knowledge. This demonstrates that national bibliographic agencies have become essential to produce current national bibliography and responsible for its dissemination under a generation of bibliographic services and products aimed at: control and preservation of the national bibliographic heritage and its sharing for the objectives of the knowledge universalization program, defended based on open access to information, free from barriers and digital exclusion. Since the 1950s, the IFLA Bibliography Section has consolidated itself as an international group interested in techniques for identifying content, organizing, producing, disseminating and preserving bibliographic information in national bibliographies, namely through national bibliographic services. IFLA’s first guidelines for current national bibliography date back to the 1950s and 1970s. In 2008, IFLA aimed to update the current national bibliography guidelines with new recommendations for publishing national bibliographies in electronic format on the Internet and including resources electronics in a variety of formats – websites (including blogs and other emerging resources), online databases, electronic journals, e-books, software, etc. Given the wide range of information systems available (online search systems, applications, databases, digital libraries, etc.), national bibliographic agencies are facing even more pressure to sustain national bibliographies and ensure that they are socially relevant (International Federation Of Library Associations And Institutions, 2008). However, with the Social Web and Semantic Web versioning, for example, there is an understanding among national bibliographic agencies about the potential of digital technologies applicable to Current National Bibliography, considering that the most varied digital formats can also be included in a common way. Within a rapidly evolving editorial and technological context, one of the objectives of this update was to understand what uses could be expected from the online national bibliography and what its usefulness is today, as its characteristic is to be a fully descriptive bibliographic resource in the form of an online product. Such IFLA guidelines introduced at least six dimensions to increase the social usefulness of national bibliography in the context of the digital environment: 1) Interface, Interoperability and functionality; 2) Information Retrieval; 3) Better cataloging procedures; 4) New scope of data recording; 5) Exchange of best practices and cooperation, 6) Organizational model and measurement of effectiveness (International Federation Of Library Associations And Institutions, 2008). Additionally, there are two paths to national registries. Some countries differentiate their national bibliographies from the national catalogue. Others consider that everything added to their collections by law does not require distribution of the caliber of a separate publication like a national bibliography, so their national catalog is sufficient. In both cases, the national bibliography is essential for the selection and acquisition of materials and, consequently, an important promotion of the publishing industry (Lewis, 1991). But the current web-based national bibliography can be published and accessed on the same online platform, portal, digital library or even in a national collective catalogue, as is the case with the Brazilian national bibliography today. The social relevance of the results of national bibliographic control can be understood by the relevance of current national bibliography, how and with what frequency official bibliographic records are searched by users in a country, which requires permanent application and evaluation of Web technologies, collection techniques and data analysis. Perhaps this is the seed for new generations of national bibliographic control systems towards the universalization of knowledge.

Selected Bibliography

ALENTEJO, Eduardo da Silva; RAMANAN, T. National Bibliography in Brazil, and Sri Lanka in Digital Age: a comparative study. Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Libraries Journal, [Limerik], v. 6, n. 2, p. 217-227, June 2017.

BEAUDIQUEZ, Marcelle. National Bibliographic Services at the Dawn of the 21st Century: Evolution and Revolution. Copenhagen: International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, 1998. p. 1-13.

BELL, Barbara. L. An Annotated Guide to Current National Bibliographies. 2 nd ed. München: Saur, 1998.

BRANCHEAU, James C.; WETHERBE, James C. Information architectures: Methods and practice. Information Processing & Management, [Doha], v. 22, n. 6, p. 453-463, 1986.

CORDELL, Ryan. Machine Learning + Libraries: A Report on the State of the Field; Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 2020.

CORDON GARCÍA, José Antonio. El registro de la memoria: el Depósito legal y las bibliografias nacionales. Gijón: Treas, 1997.

CORDÓN-GARCÍA, José-Antonio. El depósito legal y los recursos digitales en línea. Salamanca: Documentary Repository of the University of Salamanca, 2006.

COYLE, Karen. Semantic Web and Linked data Research Interests. In: COYLE, Karen. (ed.). Linked Data Tools: Connecting on the Web. Chicago: American Library Association, 2012. p. 10–14.

DAVINSON, DAVINSON, Donald Edward. Bibliographic Control. London: Clive Bingley, 1975.

INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF LIBRARY ASSOCIATIONS AND INSTITUTIONS. Guidelines for National Bibliographies in the Electronic Age. Paris, IFLA Working Group on Guidelines for National Bibliographies, 2008.

LEWIS, P. R. The development of national bibliographic services. Issues and opportunities. In: WORKSHOP ON NATIONAL BIBLIOGRAPHIC SERVICES IN THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES, Luxembourg, 1990. Report… Luxembourg: Commission of the European Communities, 1991. p. 11-19. Disponível em: Acesso em: 18 jan. 2024.

PARENT Ingrid. The IFLA UAP and UBC programmes. Alexandria Journal, Cairo, v. 16, n. 2, p. 69-75, 2004.

ROBETS, Winston D. O que é controle bibliográfico universal? Anais da Biblioteca Nacional, Rio de Janeiro, v. 114, p. 149-171, 1994.

TAKHIROV, Naimdjon; AALBERG, Trond; ŽUMER, Maja. An XML-Based Representational Document Format for FRBR. In: BUCHANAN, G., MASOODIAN, M., CUNNINGHAM, S. J. (ed.). ICADL 2008. LNCS. Heidelberg: Springer Verlag, 2008. v. 5362, p. 327–330.

A conceptual model for UBC

By Sandra Martín

The article Conceptual model for universal bibliographic control is available online.


It presents a proposal for a conceptual model of universal bibliographic control based on general systems theory (GST) and considered as a global system with a decentralized, distributed, collaborative, interconnected and linked model structure.   The CBU is reflected on based on the four principles of relevant knowledge proposed by Morin (1999): context, global, multidimensional and complex; and nine dimensions of analysis are proposed: theoretical/conceptual framework, political, legislative, librarian, collaborative, normative, technological, relational, services.


Se presenta una propuesta de modelo conceptual de control bibliográfico universal basado en la teoría general de sistemas (TGS) y considerado como un sistema global con una estructura de modelo de descentralizado, distribuido, colaborativo, interconectado y vinculado. Se reflexiona sobre el CBU a partir de los cuatro principios del conocimiento pertinente planteados por Morin (1999): el contexto, lo global, lo multidimensional y lo complejo; y se plantean nueve dimensiones de análisis:  teórica/marco conceptual, política, legislativa, bibliotecológica, colaborativa, normativa, tecnológica, relacional, servicios.

Martín, Sandra Gisela. (2024). Modelo conceptual para el control bibliográfico universal. Italian Journal of Library, Archives and Information Science, 15(1). ISSN 2038-1026

Conference report: Universal Bibliographic Control at the crossroads, a report on the satellite meeting

By Maud Henry, Mathilde Koskas, and Pat Riva

Universal Bibliographic Control (UBC) is a fundamental principle for national libraries, formulated over 50 years ago by IFLA and UNESCO. IFLA’s last official document on the subject, the IFLA Professional Statement on Universal Bibliographic Control, dates back to 2012, and the federation had not devoted a general meeting to the subject since the Lyon Congress in 2014. In the meantime, the international normative landscape for the production, sharing and dissemination of metadata has continued to evolve rapidly. The question arose: is the principle of Universal Bibliographic Control still valid?

Click here to get the full article – IFLA Metadata Newsletter – Dec. 2023

WLIC 2023 Satellite Meeting – Universal Bibliographic Control at the crossroads: the challenges of unifying IFLA bibliographic standards

The IFLA Satellite Meeting on Universal Bibliographic Control at the crossroads: the challenges of unifying IFLA bibliographic standards took place in Brussels (KBR) on August 18 and 19, 2023.

Universal Bibliographic Control is a fundamental principle for national libraries, formulated over 50 years ago by IFLA and UNESCO. IFLA’s last official document on the subject, the IFLA Professional Statement on Universal Bibliographic Control, dates back to 2012, and the federation had not devoted a general meeting to the subject since the Lyon Congress in 2014. In the meantime, the international normative landscape for the production, sharing and dissemination of metadata has continued to evolve rapidly. The question arose: is the principle of Universal Bibliographic Control still valid? The satellite meeting organized by the Bibliography section with the Cataloguing and Subject Access and Analysis sections at KBR on August 18 and 19 brought together some fifty participants to examine this question. The program, alternating presentations (available here) and workshops, enabled these practitioners and experts from different countries to examine the foundations of UBC, its relationship with IFLA metadata standards (International Cataloguing Principles, IFLA LRM, ISBD, UNIMARC, MulDiCat), and its place in the contemporary context. Artificial intelligence, which was the subject of so many discussions during the congress, also featured prominently.

The conclusion of this day and a half of work is unanimous: yes, the concept of Universal Bibliographic Control is still valid, but the declaration needs to be revised so that it continues to be expressed in a way appropriate to the current context, paying particular attention to its status for IFLA and its place in the universe of IFLA metadata standards. The organizing sections will therefore be working on a framework for the revision in the coming months.

We’d like to thank all the participants, the speakers, KBR, the organizing committee and OCLC for sponsoring this event!

Text written by Mathilde Koskas and edited by Maud Henry