In alignment with our February newsletter theme, partnerships, we explore the relationship among IFLA’s metadata Sections – Bibliography (BIB), Cataloguing (CAT), and Subject Analysis and Access (SAA) – how these IFLA sections are related and work together, and how their work intersects with the work of IFLA’s Review Groups: Bibliographic Conceptual Models (BCM), ISBD, LIDATEC, and UNIMARC. We also highlight their individual Section projects, which contribute globally to the area of the bibliographic universe.

We speak to the Chairs of each Section to learn more about their work: Mathilde Koskas, Bibliography; Vincent Boulet, Cataloguing; and Athena Salaba, Subject Analysis and Access.

Q: What is the focus of your Section’s work?

[BIB]: We focus on National Bibliographies – a permanent record of the cultural and intellectual output of a nation or country, as witnessed by its publishing output. By nature, national bibliographic services are unique in their territory, so the IFLA Bibliography Section provides a space for practitioners worldwide to connect and share experience. Through our WLIC sessions, meetings and articles, we share these experiences and address questions. Through the National Bibliographic Register, we gather and make available technical information on National Bibliographic services worldwide, and through the Common Practices for National Bibliographies in the Digital Age, we make available a toolbox for creating, maintaining and updating a National Bibliographic service.

[CAT]: The Cataloguing Section analyses the functions of cataloguing activities for all types of material and media, including both bibliographic and authority information, for the benefit of all users. The Section proposes and develops cataloguing rules and principles, vocabularies, guidelines, tools and standards for bibliographic information, taking into account the development of electronic and networked digital environments to promote universal access to, and the exchange of, bibliographic and authority information.

Also, the Cataloguing Section monitors relevant and innovative approaches in or related to cataloguing, namely linked data capabilities, cooperative creation of metadata, new professional skills or metadata reutilisation.

[SAA]: Our focus is on knowledge organisation systems (KOS), including genre/form, subject, and other controlled vocabularies, classification schemas, their use in subject analysis and access, and relating technologies. Through our WLIC sessions, meetings, webinars, and other activities we disseminate our work to and provide a forum for library and information professionals, including creators of KOS, creators of subject metadata, indexing and retrieval system designers, terminology services, and scholars and information professionals working in the area of subject representation, analysis, and access. In our work we strive to collaborate with other, closely related national association units and international organisations in knowledge organisation.

In addition, SAA’s current work focuses on four areas: (1) promotion of  genre/form representation through the maintenance of a vocabulary registry, a bibliography, and  a survey of genre/form vocabulary usage; (2) monitoring developments and projects using automated indexing methods and  promoting best practices; (3) promoting education and training in knowledge organisation systems, subject analysis, subject indexing, and subject access; and (4) survey and develop best practices for the recording and presentation of change in KOS, to enhance KOS conceptual and data modelling, representation, use, and exchange.

Q: How is collaboration amongst BIB, CAT, SAA integral to the success of these individual Sections?

[BIB]: We form the IFLA metadata community because we share topics, standards and questions, with the same people. Not having these conversations with the whole of the IFLA metadata community (not only the three sections but other IFLA Units and people) would be unproductive.

The Bibliography Section could be viewed as applying standards and practices developed by the other two sections and Working Groups (WGs). We have slightly different viewpoints that make for more fruitful exchanges. There’s a form of specialisation, for instance, the SAA sessions on the semantic shift or respectful terminology touch on topics that are very relevant to our work, but on which Bibliography would not organise a session on our own.

Of course, working together also means there are more people to do the work. It’s primordial within IFLA, as it is volunteer work, and essential to the success of the many sessions and satellites we organise together and separately. In the same way, the IFLA Metadata Newsletter is stronger and more useful to readers by being the common newsletter of the three sections.

[CAT]: The common challenge consists in moving from a world where bibliographic records have to be standardised in order to be exchanged, to a world where data has to be structured in order to be shared. This implies that WGs are open to representatives from the two other sections (for instance : the WG on competencies).

[SAA]: We often participate in the same Review Groups but also attend each other’s business meetings. The most outward collaboration is in the planning of what used to be the “Metadata” session during WLIC. This session is planned as a forum to provide updates across all sections and review groups relating to broader metadata matters. During the pandemic the three sections, along with the IFLA ISBD and BCM Review Groups and the Advisory Committee on Standards, organised a successful “Metadata webinar.” This virtual practice has given us a platform to attract wider audiences, beyond those who typically attend WLIC, and affords us the opportunity to invite speakers who may not have been able to present at WLIC. Other sessions offered by Bibliography and Cataloguing are of interest to the SAA members and audiences.

In addition, we often collaborate through cross-membership to our Working Groups. For example, the SAA Genre/Form working groups is co-chaired by one SAA and one Cataloguing SC member; the SAA TESA WG includes a representative of the Cataloguing SC.  Together, the three sections are able to cover a broader variety of topics, organize events, and also accomplish more by exchanging ideas and having section volunteers participate in other’s projects.

Q: In what ways do you collaborate with the IFLA Review Groups (RGs)?

[BIB]: SC members participate in Review Groups (RGs). Currently, the chair of the ISBD Working Group is a Bibliography SC member. In the past, SC members have been involved in BCM and other RGs as well, and, in the fullness of time, will be again.

We are involved in the work on competencies and on the integration of the different IFLA metadata standards spearheaded by CAT. As Vincent said, we share the challenge of moving from a world where bibliographic records have to be standardised in order to be exchanged, to a world where data has to be structured in order to be shared. The RGs and WGs are the formal part of that work.

[CAT]: CAT has proposed to CoS to work on the integration of the different IFLA metadata standards. CoS has approved it and a new “transitional group” which is charged to present recommendations on this question at the next WLIC in Rotterdam. This group is composed of representatives from all IFLA RGs and from the three sections.  If IFLA wants to keep its international role in creating and maintaining common professional practices at an international level, a more integrated approach between the different standards has to be imagined. This is quite crucial for IFLA to embrace the evolution of its metadata standards in a consistent approach, and in an integrated process of elaboration and maintenance. This point is important for the three sections, each of them with its own approach and specialisation.

[SAA]: As the Functional Requirements for Subject Authority Data (FRSAD) conceptual model was the product of an SAA Working Group (previously Classification and Indexing), SAA continues to participate and contribute to the work of the BCM RG. The process of collaboration and building of a strong connection between these two groups, must be consistently maintained.  In addition to CATS, BIB, and the RGs, SAA’s work is closely related and we collaborate on projects and sessions with the Information Technology (IT) Section and the Big Data SIG.

Q: What projects and initiatives do you work on with external partners?

[BIB]: We primarily focus on IFLA partnerships. However, we are invited to take part in other international projects or initiatives from time to time, such as the DARIAH-ERIC Consortium. Each of the individual National Bibliographic Agencies that get in touch with us with questions or information about their National Bibliography is also a partner. We try to help them solve their issues and find tools for their National Bibliographies, and to share the outcomes on the Bibliography blog and in the IFLA Metadata Newsletter. Other areas of collaboration are the translation of the Common Practices into different languages and National Bibliographic Register (NBR) files.

[CAT]: All IFLA Section initiatives and events are open to external representatives who are working to address the same challenges : open WLIC sessions, satellite meetings, IFLA Metadata Newsletter et al.  The IFLA Repository plays an important role in publishing papers from these events, which highlights this cooperation. We also have liaisons with other bodies working on metadata : RSC (RDA Steering Committee), ALA (American Library Association) and others.

[SAA]: We partner with other subject access groups, external to IFLA. For example, we collaborate, exchange ideas, and exchange volunteers for committee or working group membership with the International Society for Knowledge Organization (ISKO). Currently, we have SAA representation in the ISKO Subject Metadata Guidelines working group, ISKO and SAA have collaborated and presented on the topic of knowledge organisation education, relating to the work of the SAA TESA (Training and Education in Subject Access) WG. We also have representation from the CILIP Metadata Committee on the TESA Working Group. Last, a liaison from the ALA Subject Analysis Committee (SAC) represents SAC on SAA.

Read more about BIB, CAT and SAA Section projects below…

Section Projects


National Bibliographic Register

The National Bibliographic Register is a collection and analysis of profiles of existing national bibliographies that provides a survey of the state of the field and provides comparators and models to follow. Work for this project involves soliciting new and updated profiles, especially from under-represented regions.

Common Practices for National Bibliographies in the Digital Age

The Common Practices for National Bibliographies in the Digital Age provide a review of all aspects of the provision of a national bibliography, highlighting issues and decisions that are needed. The Common Practices were published in 2021 and have been translated into multiple languages.  Contact our Chair if you are interested in providing a translation for your country or region.


Key Competencies

To assist cataloguing librarians the Section is developing an IFLA white paper on key competencies for metadata librarians, to support them in their work in an evolving and technical environment.  The aim is to identify the competencies and provide targeted professional development guidance.

Maintenance of Cataloguing-related materials

Subject Analysis and Access

KOS Modeling Survey and Best Practices

The KOS Modeling survey will provide the necessary awareness and knowledge of current standards and best practices, and will identify needs for additional metadata regarding concepts or classes recorded in various systems. The findings of this survey will inform the future work of the Unit, namely the potential of developing Best Practices for the recording of subject information, taking into account changes over time.

Genre/Form Bibliography and Survey

The Genre/Form Working Group created a bibliography of references and thesauri relating to genre/form access to bibliographic records. The bibliography is an open, cooperative endeavour, with the ability of incorporating contributions from the wider professional community. The bibliography was updated in May 2021, but not yet made public. The working group intends to publish and advertise the bibliography as well as establish mechanisms for ongoing regular additions and enhancements to the bibliography. The working group will also conduct a survey on genre/form application/use, building on a previous version from from 2017 to look for trends and possible future actions for the group.

In May 2022, SAA hosted a webinar on current trends in genre/form applications and research to support library professionals in need of targeted knowledge on how to apply genre/form concepts with special consideration for diversity and equity .  Genre/form facets in discovery systems are still in an early stage of development and library professionals globally have a need for knowledge and understanding of genre/form term applications. The webinar brought together speakers who addressed issues of current interest, including managing legacy metadata and diversity and equity.

Knowledge, Competencies and Skills for Subject Access Report

Due to a lack of agreement in international competencies and skills for subject analysis and access professionals and curriculum in LIS programmes, the working group will report on the findings of a gap analysis to create guidelines for Knowledge, Competencies and Skills for Subject Access.  The survey, analysis, and report will help promote subject analysis and access as a field of expertise within our own profession in both the academic field and the field of practice. The resulting recommendations will help improve LIS programme offerings in preparing its graduates for professional library practice. See our TESA page for more information.

In August 2022, SAA hosted a panel discussion on competencies and skills in knowledge organisation and Subject Access.  This seminar brought together and provided a platform for knowledge organisation experts from within IFLA and beyond to present their findings and views with respect to issues of subject indexing training and education. Panel discussion was led by content experts and provided library professionals and educators with information needed to bridge the issues of subject indexing training and education.

Automated Indexing

The Unit contributed to a special issue of CCQ (Cataloging & Classification Quarterly – vol. 59, issue 8), a initiative by the Automated Indexing Working Groups entitled “Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automated Processes for Subject Access,” which was guest-edited by Athena Salaba and Caroline Saccucci (SAA Secretary). This peer-reviewed issue included ten articles and one introductory article. Following on from this issue was the subsequent webinar “Where Do We Meet? Perspectives from Software Developers and Subject Specialists on Creating Machine Learning Projects”