Introduction: In the vast ocean of information, where knowledge is both abundant and scattered, cataloguing and indexing serve as the compass and map for navigating the sea of data. As society’s repository of information has transitioned from physical libraries to the digital realm, the organization and retrieval of information have become increasingly intricate. Cataloguing and indexing stand as pillars of this digital infrastructure, offering structured systems that not only categorize information but also unlock its accessibility and relevance. From the Dewey Decimal System to the intricacies of metadata in the digital age, the principles of cataloguing and indexing have evolved to meet the demands of a rapidly changing information landscape.
Difference between Cataloguing & Indexing
In the realm of information management, a persistent misconception revolves around the differentiation between ‘subject cataloguing’ and ‘subject indexing’. In essence, cataloguing entails crafting a comprehensive bibliographic description of an entire document, while subject cataloguing and classification collaboratively bestow subject labels that encapsulate the document’s overarching theme. On the other hand, indexing delves deeper into a document, meticulously analyzing its contents to provide access to an array of embedded concepts with heightened precision. While articles in a periodical or specific books may often be listed under only a handful of subject headings, the back-of-the-book index might encompass a multitude of subject terms intricately tied to the content of an individual tome.
Subject cataloguing predominantly pertains to assigning subject headings that encapsulate the broader contents of entire documents, such as books, reports, and periodicals, within the library’s catalogue. Conversely, subject indexing adopts a more versatile terminology; it encompasses the representation of subject matter pertaining to segments of complete documents, as evident in back-of-the-book subject indexes. For instance, a library could place a book under the subject heading ‘noses’ to signify its overarching theme, yet the detailed intricacies of the book’s contents are exclusively unveiled through the comprehensive analysis provided by the back-of-the-book subject index. While the distinction between ‘subject cataloguing’ and ‘subject indexing’ might seem discrete—centering on whole bibliographic entities and parts thereof, respectively—it is noteworthy that this differentiation is artificial, potentially misleading, and beset with inconsistency. The process through which the subject matter of documents is depicted within databases, be it in print or electronic form, is often referred to as ‘subject indexing’, encompassing both complete documents and their constituent parts. In essence, the term ‘subject index’ encompasses the representation of both the comprehensive content of entire volumes and technical reports, as well as the segments of documents like chapters in books or papers within periodicals and conference proceedings. In a contrasting vein, libraries may opt to include portions of books, such as chapters or papers, within the catalogue, a practice commonly known as analytical cataloguing.
Adding to this intricate landscape is the introduction of the term ‘classification’. This term alludes to the process of allocating class numbers from a given classification scheme to documents, primarily to facilitate their orderly arrangement on library shelves and within catalogues. Interestingly, a subject catalogue within a library can manifest in two distinct formats: an alphabetically organized rendition (in the form of an alphabetical subject catalogue or dictionary catalogue) or an arrangement rooted in the sequence of a classification scheme (as observed in a classified catalogue). When a librarian encounters a book centered around ‘banking’, they may opt to assign the subject heading ‘Banking’ or even opt for the Dewey Decimal classification number 332.1. Curiously, while many would label the initial operation as subject cataloguing and the latter as classification, these distinctions lack substantive significance, often muddling understanding due to an oversight of the differentiation between conceptual analysis and translation in indexing. In essence, subject indexing harmonizes conceptually with subject cataloguing, culminating in a process that entails classification—forming categories based on subject matter—and translating these into either verbal representation through predefined subject headings or a thesaurus, or a notational representation through a classification scheme. In the scope of this discourse, the term subject indexing or simply indexing is adopted for the sake of convenience, encapsulating all activities pertaining to subject cataloguing.
|Purpose||Provide an overview of a document’s identity.||Enable precise retrieval of specific information.|
|Focus||Document as a whole.||Granular content, specific concepts, keywords.|
|Scope||Broad, capturing metadata and general details.||Narrow, capturing specific content and details.|
|Level of Detail||High-level, general information.||In-depth, specific details and keywords.|
|Entry Points||Document-level information.||Content-level, specific topics and terms.|
|Usage||Initial selection and location within a collection.||Precise information extraction and research.|
|Application||Library catalogues, databases, OPACs.||Back-of-the-book indexes, scholarly research.|
|Accessibility||Provides a general understanding of a document.||Facilitates pinpointing specific information.|
|User Interaction||Useful for selecting relevant documents.||Facilitates focused research and analysis.|
Sarkhel, J. (2017). Unit-9 Basics of Subject Indexing. Retrieved from http://egyankosh.ac.in/handle/123456789/35769