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Special Collections & Archives Descriptive Cataloging Levels and Codes


Levels of cataloging define how completely, and with what degree of verification, catalog records are produced in Special Collections. LC's definition of Full and Minimal-level MARC encoding is documented here.

Full (ELvl I) records should be used for the majority of our cataloging, with the following exceptions:

  • Brief records (created in Millennium, with author, title, and imprint only) are created for attaching order records when no copy exists in OCLC
  • Minimal (ELvl K) records (essentially, those without in-depth subject analysis) are created initially for unprocessed archives and manuscript collections.

The expectation is all brief and minimal records will ultimately be upgraded to full records.


Special Collections catalogs using RDA (following the BIBCO Standard Record (BSR) and CONSER Standard Record (CSR)) augmented by the Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials (DCRM) suite and DACS for archives and manuscript collection level records. See the BSR for guidance on creating hybrid RDA and DCRM records and hybrid RDA and DACS records. Listed below are types of materials the library collects with the appropriate descriptive cataloging code to use.


Type of Material

Descriptive Cataloging Standard and Code Used

Pre-1800 imprints

Use the appropriate DCRM manual and RDA

  • Books DCRM(B) add $e rda $e dcrmb to 040
  • Cartographic materials DCRM(C): add $e rda $e dcrmc to 040
  • Graphic materials DCRM(G): add $e rda and $e dcrmg to 040
  • Notated Music DCRM(M):  add $e rda $ dcrmm to 040
  • Serials DCRM(S): add $e rda $ dcrms to 040

Books, serials, and maps

1801-present imprints

RDA: add $e rda to 040 (or RDA and DCRM as appropriate (catalogers’ judgement))

Collection level recs for archives/manuscripts

RDA and DACS : add $e rda and $e dacs to 040

Graphic materials (all dates)

RDA and DCRM(G) : add $e rda and $e dcrmg to 040

Notated music (1801-present) and sound recordings

RDA and MLA Best Practices  (see RDA toolkit): add $e rda to 040

Manuscripts (individual)

RDA add $e rda to 040 (or RDA and DCRM(MSS) as appropriate  (cataloger's judgement)): add $e rda and $e dcrmss

Moving image materials

RDA and if appropriate OLAC Best Practices for DVD and Blu-Ray or Streaming Media

Electronic resources

RDA : Add $e rda to 040

If following provider neutral guidelines, add $e rda and $e pn to 040.


Revised by Daved Marsh, September 22, 2015; Michelle Mascaro, June 14, 2017
Approved by the Roger Metadata Policy Subgroup