Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA
Historic Documents

Draft of AACR3 part I - Background

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January 12, 2005

AACR3: Resource Description and Access

Part I. Description

Background to the December 2004 Draft


The Joint Steering Committee for Revision of AACR, with the endorsement of the Committee of Principals, is undertaking the preparation of a new edition of the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules. The new edition of AACR is envisioned as providing the basis for improved user access to all media in an online search environment. It is being designed with a view to compatibility with other standards for resource description and retrieval and for use worldwide both by libraries and by other information agencies. The intent is to produce a new edition that will be easier and more efficient for cataloguers to use and interpret, both in a printed format and in an enhanced electronic form.

More information about AACR3 is available on the JSC website at: In particular, see the presentation on AACR3 at:

The first step taken in this process by the JSC and the editor has been to produce a draft of part I, covering rules for description. This draft has recently been made available to members of the constituent bodies represented on the JSC. These are the organizations charged with representing the community’s views on development of AACR and the ones most closely involved with the development process. One of their specific roles is to assist with AACR revision.

However, the JSC is very interested in comments from working cataloguers on the main issues reflected in the draft of part I. To make this possible, the present document explains the objectives and principles of the draft and some of its major features. Instructions on how to submit comments are included in the final section of the document.


Objectives and principles

The Joint Steering Committee has formulated a statement of objectives and principles to guide the drafting of part I of AACR3. The first section covers objectives and principles relating to the scope, structure, terminology, etc. of part I as a whole. The second section covers objectives and principles relating to the functionality of the descriptions produced through the application of the rules.

A. Scope, structure, terminology, etc.

Objectives: comprehensiveness; consistency; clarity; rationality; currency; compatibility (with established principles, models, and standards); adaptability; ease and efficiency of use; capable of being presented in print or digital format

Principles: generalization of general rules; specificity of supplementary rules; non-redundancy; terminology consistent with FRBR; reference structure consistent with design of rules

B. Functional requirements for descriptions based on the rules

Objectives: responsiveness to user needs; cost efficiency; format independence

Principles: differentiation from other resources; sufficiency in meeting user needs; relationships with other resources; based on representation within the resource itself; accuracy; uniformity of conventions for order, punctuation, capitalization, abbreviations, terminology, etc.; terminology of non-transcribed data should reflect common usage


Highlights of major changes from AACR2

Major changes in the organization and scope of coverage of the rules include:

  1. Organization of the rules
  2. Part I of AACR3 is divided into three sections. The first section (section A) includes general rules applicable to all resources exhibiting the characteristics covered by that rule, regardless of the type of content embodied in the resource or the medium in which it is conveyed. The second (section B) covers supplementary rules applicable to specific types of content, and the third (section C) covers supplementary rules applicable to specific types of media. The chapters in sections B and C only contain instructions that supplement those provided by the general rules in section A; they do not repeat the general instructions.

    The following is an outline of the sections and chapters in part I:


      Section A. GENERAL RULES

        A1 General Rules for Description

        A2 Resources Issued in Successive Parts

        A3 Integrating Resources

      Section B. Supplementary Rules Applicable to Specific Types of Content

        B1 Text

        B2 Music

        B3 Cartographic Resources

        B4 Graphics

        B5 Three-Dimensional Resources

        B6 Sound

        B7 Moving Images

      Section C. Supplementary Rules Applicable to Specific Types of Media

        C1 Print and Graphic Media

        C2 Micrographic Media

        C3 Tactile Media

        C4 Three-Dimensional Media

        C5 Audio Media

        C6 Projected Graphic, Film, and Video Media

        C7 Digital Media

  3. Focus for the description
  4. The AACR2 rule pertaining to the basis of the description (1.0A2) has been replaced by a reworked and expanded set of instructions in the introduction to part I on determining the focus for the description and a corresponding rule in chapter A1 (A1.0A1) that relates the focus for the description to the choice of a chief source of information.

    According to these rules, the focus of the description may be:

    • a single-part resource
    • a resource comprising two or more parts issued simultaneously
    • a resource issued in successive parts
    • an integrating resource
    • a separately titled component part
    • an assembled collection of resources

  5. General material designations
  6. The rules pertaining to general material designations have been revised to distinguish between designations that indicate the type of content contained in the resource and those that indicate the medium in which the resource is conveyed. The new rules permit the use of either a content designation or a medium designation, or both.




    cartographic resource












    mixed content



    moving image


















  7. Resources in an unpublished form
  8. There is no longer a separate chapter corresponding to chapter 4 of AACR2. For the most part, the rules in the new part I are designed to apply equally to resources in a published form and to those in an unpublished form. In some cases, AACR2 rules from chapter 4 have been recast as general rules. In other cases, where the rules applying to resources in an unpublished form differ from those applying to resources in a published form, instructions applying to the former are included as separate subrules under the general rule for that element or as a supplementary rule in one of the chapters in section B. Rules from AACR2 chapter 4 that are inconsistent with the general rules have been deleted.

  9. Resources issued in successive parts
  10. AACR2 chapter 12 has been replaced by chapters A2 (covering resources issued in successive parts) and A3 (covering integrating resources). The rules in the new chapters, for the most part, cover both continuing and finite resources. In a few cases, AACR2 rules from chapter 12 have been incorporated into the general rules in chapter A1. For example, the rules pertaining to the numbering area for serials have been transferred to chapter A1, and their application has been broadened to cover all multipart resources with numbered issues or parts, whether issued successively or simultaneously.

  11. Assembled collections
  12. AACR2 rules pertaining specifically to assembled collections (primarily from chapter 4) have, for the most part, been incorporated into the general rules in chapter A1.

  13. Early printed resources
  14. The "extra" rules in chapter 2 of AACR2 (2.12-2.18) for the description of early printed books, etc., have been incorporated either into the general rules in chapter A1 or into the supplementary rules for print and graphic media in chapter B1, to the extent that they have been consistent with the corresponding general or supplementary rule. The general introduction to AACR3 will direct specialist cataloguers to manuals providing more detailed instructions on the description of early printed resources.

  15. Technical description

The AACR2 rules pertaining to the physical description area have been renamed as rules pertaining to technical description and have been realigned either as general rules (in section A) or as supplementary rules applicable to specific types of media (in section C). The general rules for the physical description area from chapter 1 of AACR2 have been significantly expanded in order to provide a substantive set of instructions applicable to all types of resources. The lists of specific material designations from chapters 2 through 11 have been amalgamated into tables accompanying general rules A1.5B1 and A1.5B2. In the process of amalgamation, the AACR2 specific material designations have been realigned to provide a more consistent division between those that pertain to physical units, on the one hand, and those that pertain, on the other hand, either to presentation units (e.g., pages) or to logical aggregations of content (e.g., score, part).


Comments on the draft

If you have comments on any aspect of the draft as described in this document, please send your comments to one of the following:

In Australia: the ACOC representative to the JSC, Deirdre Kiorgaard at

In Canada: the CCC Secretariat at

In the United Kingdom: the CILIP/BL Secretary, Katharine Gryspeerdt at

In the United States: the Chair of ALA CC:DA, Mary Larsgaard at

Outside the AACR constituencies: the JSC Secretary, Nathalie Schulz at

The deadline for comments is February 14, 2005, to allow time for the comments to be compiled for consideration by the JSC at their meeting on April 24-28, 2005.
Last updated: 1 July 2009

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