The International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD) is intended to serve as a principal standard to promote universal bibliographic control, that is, to make universally and promptly available, in a form that is internationally acceptable, basic bibliographic data for all published and unpublished resources in all countries.

The ISBD determines the data elements to be recorded or transcribed in a specific manner and sequence as the basis of the description of the resource being catalogued, and employs prescribed punctuation as a means of recognizing and displaying data elements in library catalogues and making them understandable independently of the language of the description.

The primary purpose of the ISBD is to provide the stipulations for compatible descriptive cataloguing worldwide in order to aid the international exchange of bibliographic records between and throughout the international library and information community.

The ISBD is also intended for use by national or international committees responsible for preparing codes of cataloguing rules, as the basis for their rules on description of library resources, ultimately to build their national and institutional codes.

Origins and development of the ISBD

The establishment of the International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD) dates back to 1969, when the IFLA Committee on Cataloguing (now the Cataloguing Section) sponsored an International Meeting of Cataloguing Experts. The meeting produced a resolution that proposed the establishment of standards to regularize the form and content of bibliographic descriptions. As a result, the Committee on Cataloguing put into motion work that ultimately would provide the means for a considerable increase in the sharing and exchange of bibliographic data. This work resulted in the concept of the International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD).

First Editions of the ISBD

The first text of the International Standard Bibliographic Description for Monographic Publications ISBD(M), was published in 1971 as a set of recommendations. ISBD(M) was the first of ISBDs created following the mandate of the International Meeting of Cataloguing Experts, organized by the IFLA Committee on Cataloguing at Copenhagen in 1969. Largely adopted by national cataloguing committees and bibliographies agencies in redrafting national rules for description, comments from users of the ISBD(M) led to the decision to produce a revised text that was published in 1974 as the “First standard edition.”

In 1975, the Joint Steering Committee for Revision of the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules proposed to the IFLA Committee on Cataloguing that a general international standard bibliographic description suitable for most common types of library resources should be developed. The ISBD(G), published in 1977, was the result. The ISBD(M) was then revised to bring it into line with the ISBD(G), and the “First standard edition revised” was published in 1978.

Specialized ISBDs (1980 – 2000)

In the following years, the ISBD diversified into specialized ISBDs. ISBDs subsequently appeared for specific types of materials: ISBD(CM) for cartographic materials, ISBD(NBM) for nonbook materials, and a revised ISBD(S) for serials published in 1977; ISBD(A) for older monographic publications (antiquarian) and ISBD(PM) for printed music were published in 1980.

In 1981, plans were made for revising the ISBDs covering monographic publications, serials, cartographic materials, and non-book materials. There were three major objectives set out for this project: (1) to harmonize provisions among the ISBDs, achieving increased consistency; (2) to improve examples; and (3) to make the provisions more applicable to cataloguers working with materials published in non-roman scripts.

An ISBD Review Committee was formed and first met in 1981 to make plans for reviewing and revising the ISBDs. The ISBDs were republished as follows: ISBD(M), ISBD(CM) and ISBD(NBM) in 1987, ISBD(S) in 1988, ISBD(CF) for computer files in 1990, ISBD(A) and ISBD(PM) in 1991, and ISBD(G) in 1992. By the end of the 1980s, the first general review project had been completed. Thereafter, ISBD(CF) became ISBD(ER) for electronic resources, published in 1997.

List of superseded specialized ISBDs

Consolidated ISBD (2007 & 2011)

Starting in 2003, a consolidated ISBD was developed to merge the seven specialized ISBDs into one text. The objective was to apply a harmonization and integration process without losing the specificity of different types of resources.

All of the previous revisions as the revision process for the ISBD(A) in 2006 were taken into account in the preliminary consolidated edition of the ISBD. The resulting text was established by means of collocating related provisions from each ISBD in a new structure. The preliminary consolidated edition was published in the summer of 2007.

By the IFLA 2007 meetings in Durban, the preliminary consolidated edition of the ISBD had been published, and the Material Designations Study Group (MDSG) established by the ISBD Review Group had drafted a proposal for a content/carrier component for ISBD Review Group discussion. The draft took into account version 1.0 of the RDA/ONIX Framework for Resource Categorization (August 2006), and the subsequent drafts of RDA: Resource Description & Access16 incorporating the RDA/ONIX Framework. As a result of this work, a parallel revision of the 2007 edition and a thorough analysis of the FRBR model impact on the ISBD, a Consolidated Edition aligned with IFLA FRBR and ONIX was published in 2011.

List of Consolidated Editions and their translations

Content updating and LRM-aligning revisions (2018 – )

In August 2018 the ISBD Review Group started a four-year work plan in two stages for the revision of ISBD 2018-2021, in the double objective of:

  • aligning the ISBD with LRM to keep a consistency between IFLA standards by providing the overarching conceptual model with an ISBD implementation.
  • ensuring that the ISBD continues to fulfil the needs of its user communities as expressed by the proposals submitted to the ISBD RG.

The task proved to be very complex, and there was no consensus on priorities and solutions. The two objectives were proceeded to ’subsequently’ by a sub-group formed in August 2018, the ISBD Editorial Group (IEG), and re-formed in May 2019 with a new chairmanship and some changes in membership. The work progress and the achievements of both IEGs were communicated as follows:

In a daylong meeting of the IEG and the ISBD RG, following IFLA WLIC 2019, the ISBD Review Group acknowledged the achievements of both IEGs and recognized the challenges to advance the two objectives simultaneously. The ISBD RG, therefore, decided to work the revision, in two parallel tracks with clear terms of references and deliverables each, tackled by two separate Task Forces for more productivity and better focus on the task in hand:

  • The ISBD Content Update Task Force, to produce an Update to the ISBD Consolidated Edition 2011 to provide for the urgent needs of communities of users.
  • The ISBD for Manifestation Task Force, to work out an alignment for the ISBD with LRM on the manifestation level and produce a reflection document on the future ISBD.
Reports from the post WLIC 2019 daylong meeting in Athens

ISBD Related documentation