cdIs it important to catalog electronic materials? How do I process an e-book? How can software be effectively circulated? These are common questions faced by librarians dealing with electronic materials management.

Rather than creating a new policy to handle electronic materials, start with your current collection development policies. Consider elements that need to be added or expanded to handle electronic materials.

eye means readRead the off-site article Which Online Resources Are Right for Your Collection? by Jane Pearlmutter from School Library Journal (6/1/1999).

eye means readRead the following materials related to collection development and management:

Read to the following sections of this page to learn more about managing electronic materials: Acquiring Materials, Cataloging Materials, and Processing Materials.

Acquiring Electronic Materials

Electronic materials are acquired and processed just like an other material found in the library. Once you've selected items you're ready to purchase, it's time to focus on acquiring, cataloging, and processing materials.

Watch the YouTube video Buffy Hamilton on the Arrival and Setup of The Unquiet Library's New Kindles to see one library's experience processing Kindle e-book readers.


Before Ordering

As you explore catalogs and online sources, verify that you're ordering the correct item. Computer software comes in different formats such as Mac and Windows. It also comes in different media such as floppy disks, CDs, and DVDs. There may also be different versions such as "basic edition" "school edition" or "deluxe edition". There can also be old and new versions.

Acquiring Materials

The process of acquiring the items will vary depending on specific guidelines for purchasing set up by the fiscal agent of your institution. Most centers use purchase orders, but some institutions require a requisition be completed first. Larger organizations may have open accounts and charge cards available for purchases.
A series of steps should be followed in the acquisition of electronic materials.

Verify Item. Check the bibliographic information for the item, identify present holdings, check availability. Double check the format (i.e., CD, DVD, floppy).

Place Order. Select a distributor, complete the requisition and/or purchase order form, send the order

Receive Order. Match items to packing slip before opening the shrink wrap. Compare order with invoice. Do a “quick viewing” to be sure the product matches the packaging and it is not damaged. Check for backorders. Maintain record of receipt of materials.

Test Order. Computer software commonly have manufacturer defects. Do a quick check before processing.

eye means readRead the off-site article The Creatures from the Back Room by Angela Murphy-Walters in School Library Journal (12/1/2000). It provides suggestions for processing nonbook materials.

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Cataloging Electronic Materials

Once materials have been acquired, they'll need to be added to your collection.

Watch the YouTube video Kindle in the Library to see how one library added the Kindle device MARC record in Destiny Library Manager.

You can also watch a video on the topic How The Unquiet Library is Cataloging the Actual Kindle eReader Device.

Cataloging Materials

Cataloging your electronic materials is easy. Use the same procedures as with print materials. Like print materials, you can use online resources to locate MARC records. Use the title main entry rather than the author main entry. Use the same subject headings as with books.

Many busy librarians choose to have their cataloging and part of their processing done by the vendor. As a result, the cataloging process may only involve editing the MARC record provided on disk or online. Other librarians will go through the process of cataloging and classifying the item. Most librarians now do full cataloging on all items including software and include them in the automated catalog.

Some libraries use code prefixes in the call numbers. Here are some examples:

MARC Records for Software

MARC records for electronic materials are available on the Internet three ways. First, you can subscribe to a large organization such as OCLC online. Many libraries use the copy that provides their automation system such as Follett. Second, you can purchase your materials preprocessed from audio or video vender. Third, you can search the web for MARC records. For example, many libraries have their catalogs online. Some producers provide MARC records for free.

Learn more about MARC standards at Library of Congress and OCLC.

eye means readRead Where's Waldo: An OPAC Adventure by Karen Steinberger.
Karen provides a wonderful walk-through MARC records related to the Where's Waldo books and software.

PBS Teacher Source provides MARC records for PBS programming you tape off-air. Examine the MARC record for Newton's Dark Secrets.

Try World Cat at
For the complete MARC record, explore the records provided by different libraries.

Go to the Library of Congress for a software example such as SimCity or Kidspiration. Do a search for "Freddi Fish" to see many different electronic resources in this series of software for kids.

Software Cataloging Basics

If you'd like more detailed explanations, try It's MARC.

Chief Source. Start with the item itself including the (CD-Audio, DVD, CD-ROM) title and/or startup screens. Next, examine the label and container if they are original elements of the package. Other materials include accompanying material, other packaging, and finally other resources.

Statement of Responsibility. Usually the producer can be listed.

Publication Area. Use the name of the publisher (or distributor), date of publication (or distribution, release, version (such as Windows XP or Word Version 9).

Notes. These can be extensive. Included form, language, statements of responsibility, edition, publication, physical description, accompanying material, series, audience, summary, contents, numbers, copies

Description. Use computer file, video recording, or sound recording, whichever is most descriptive. If you want to be very descriptive you can use 1 computer laser optical disc for a CD. Others just use the word compact disc.

MARC Tag. Include the following areas of the MARC record:

  1. 245 Title and statement of responsibility
  2. 250 Edition statement
  3. 260 Publication and distribution information
  4. 300 Physical description
  5. 4XX Series statement
  6. 5XX Notes (system requirements)
  7. 6XX Subject access
  8. 7XX Tracings
  9. 8XX Series

If you're forced to make your own for class and you haven't taken cataloging, use the following model to "fill in" and do your best:

245 00 |a Kid pix studio |h [computer file].
246 30 |a Kidpix studio
256 __ |a Computer data and programs.
260 __ |a Novato, CA : |b Broderbund, |c c1994.
300 __ |a 1 computer laser optical disc : |b sd., col. ; |c 4 3/4 in. + |e 1 user's guide (70 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.) + 1 installation instruction sheet + 1 installation card (12 cm.)
538 __ |a System requirements: IBM or 100% compatible 386DX 33MHz (486 recommended) with 4 MB of RAM; 12 MB hard disk space; Windows 3.1; MS/PC-DOS 5.0 or higher; Super VGA (640x480, 256 colors); MPC-compliant sound card; mouse; hard drive; CD-ROM (double-speed recommended); printer support, Windows 3.1 printer drivers.
500 __ |a Title from disc label.
520 __ |a A paint and animation program suitable for children age 3 to 12. Includes sounds from a collection of over 80 song clips and sound effects.
500 __ |a Juv. CD-ROM.
521 __ |a Ages 3 to 12.
650 _0 |a Computer graphics |x Juvenile software.
650 _0 |a Computer art |x Juvenile software.
650 _0 |a Computer animation |x Juvenile software.
650 _1 |a Computer graphics |x Software.
650 _1 |a Computer art |x Software.
650 _1 |a Computer animation |x Software.
710 2_ |a Brøderbund.

Use the following resource to locate MARC records for nonbook items.

Library of Congress MARC

Links to Other Library Catalogs from Library of Congress

If you're looking for MARC records related to electronic materials, try the catalogs of the following libraries:

CATNYP from New York Public Library

CLEVNET from Cleveland Public Library

Columbus Metropolitan Library from Columbus Ohio (good for software)

Use the following resources to learn about different aspects of cataloging and classifying non print materials:

Links to Cataloging Resources

Cataloging Guidelines and Resources

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Processing Materials

The desire to preserve your collection should be balanced with patron needs for access. You can eliminate some problems with damage by carefully packaging items before circulation. Removing extra items, putting small pieces in zip locks, and repackaging flimsy items can save time and money later.

Firmly affix labels on DVD's, CDs, and other materials that will go into machines. Or, use permanent markers or stamps instead. A list of the contents on the lid of the container will help too. Consider whether people will be returning items in a drop box and whether they will fit. Carefully packaging and processing will extend the life of a media collection. Explore creative ways to store and circulate items to encourage their use.

From ripped book pages to CD scratches, all materials deteriorate over time. Establish criteria for what constitutes normal wear and tear. Continually assess media. Develop a consistent policy for dealing with damaged items. A fair policy will encourage reporting of damage and reduce frustrations. If there are penalties, they need to be clear and posted. When an item is damaged or lost, there should be a process to determine whether it will be repaired or replaced.

Processing involves getting the material ready to put on the shelf. Developing a processing procedure can save time. Special considerations need to be taken with each media type.
Identification. Be sure to carefully label all the materials that come with the item. For example, place stamps on both the tape and the accompanying materials. It's safe to use a felt-tip permanent marker on a CD or DVD. Do not use a ballpoint pen. Adhesive labels aren't a good idea on CDs and DVDs. They can easily be caught in players.

Packaging. Audio and video materials often need to be repackaged or re-enforced. Sometimes, empty cases are placed on display. The original DVDs or CDs are kept behind the desk in notebooks and/or plastic sleeves. Some libraries have innovative programs where they place audiobooks in plastic carrying bags or entire thematic kits in inexpensive backpacks. Check out the Buddy Family Backpack Project website. Be sure to circulate items in a rigid case such as a "jewel-case" rather than a flimsy plastic sleeve.

Security & Barcode. Many libraries require a security strip and inventory barcode. It's important to identify a standard location for these labels that doesn't interfere with reading directions or using the software.

Reminders. Place copyright warning on item. Add a label reminding people to rewind tapes.

Other Items. Add labels, pockets, cards as needed.
Processing Services. When selecting a service consider what they offer. If you order from a library service, they may provide MARC records, bar code labels and everything you need to process the materials for various automation systems.

Watch the YouTube video Reflections on the Initial Process of Preparing Kindles for Circulation at The Unquiet Library to see how one library is processing e-book readers.

For more videos related to e-book reader processing, go to

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