Life Cycle of a Book (continued): Part 3 Cataloging and Processing

Written by: 
GCLD Staff

Earlier in this series, we described how easy it is for someone to buy a bestseller and have it ready-to-read on the bookshelf all in the same day. As you will see in this article, the process of getting a book, audio book or DVD on the shelf in the library, so that everyone can easily find it, is a lot more complicated.

The first step in getting library materials to the shelf is cataloging.  Cataloging involves a description of the item: i.e. author, title, publisher, copyright date, number of pages, size, ISBN, etc. Most of our materials are also owned by other Colorado libraries and available through Marmot or Prospector.  For them to be searchable, we need to make sure that our items are listed under the correct cataloging record.  You may have noticed that there are sometimes multiple listings for the same title in the Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC); this is because books and other media have different ISBN numbers depending on format, edition, and publication date.  The unique ISBN (International Standard Bibliographic Number) is the key to identification of all forms of published media and key to correct cataloging.

Cataloging also involves providing local information about a given item.  This includes a unique barcode number, location information, and a call number. All of this cataloging information makes it easier for you to locate the materials you want via the OPAC or on the shelf.  At you can see if an item is on order, checked out, on the shelf in your local branch, or available by request from libraries outside of Grand County via Marmot or Prospector.  In the end, cataloging provides our customers with a wealth of information regarding availability of our library materials.

After an item is cataloged there is still one step left before library materials can actually be put on the shelves.  In the library world we call this step “processing.”  This involves adding a unique branch barcode number to the item, applying call number labels, taping spines of paperbacks, covering hardback dustcovers with a Mylar jacket, placing audio books in plastic cases with individual sleeves for each disc, and applying a property stamp or genre and “new” stickers where applicable.  All of these processing steps serve to both protect library materials and help you actually find them on our shelves.

Whether you visit your local library to browse the shelves and leave with a book in hand, or visit our virtual library at to request items outside of Grand County, the cataloging and processing procedures that go on behind the scenes are crucial to delivery of materials to our customers.

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