Formal indexing

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The cataloging (also alphabetical cataloging , descriptive cataloging , title recording and bibliographic description engl. Descriptive cataloging ) is in libraries , part of the working process of cataloging . In the case of formal indexing, the “formal” characteristics of the publications to be cataloged are recorded and entered in the library catalog , while in subject indexing, however, content-related characteristics.

The formal characteristics of a publication entered in the catalog include, for example, the name of the author and the title of the publication, the year of publication, the place of publication, the publisher, the scope and the international standard book number . The formal indexing is intended to ensure that library users can find the desired publications in the catalog using appropriate search terms.

In order to make the catalogs produced by formalists interchangeable internationally, library rules have been established which specify exactly which information should be given in which form.


In the literature on library science, different numbers of questions are usually given, to which the formal indexing should give the library user an answer, if possible. The catalog should at least clearly show that

  • whether the publication you are looking for is available in the respective library or not,
  • which editions of the publication are available,
  • which works by an author are available in the respective library and
  • how and where the publication is accessible.

In order to meet these and other requirements, today's electronic catalogs are linked to one another, but also to authority records . When recording the formal characteristics, a distinction is made between the original form printed in a book, for example, and the specially modified form of the catalog.


Librarian rules indicate in which order and in which form which formal features of the publication are entered in the catalog. The Resource Description and Access (RDA) set of rules has been used for formal indexing in the German-speaking area since 2015 .


Before the introduction of EDP , the formal characteristics of the publications were entered in tape and card catalogs ; today, formalists work on computers and enter the information into the respective catalogs with the help of integrated library systems .


Individual evidence

  1. ^ Engelbert Plassmann et al.: Libraries and information society in Germany. An introduction. 2nd, thoroughly revised and expanded edition. 2011, p. 193.