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Summary Notes for Catalog Records

OLAC Cataloging Policy Committee
Summary/Abstracts Task Force

Sheryl Holmes, Chair, 2001-2002
Lisa Bodenheimer, Chair, 2002
Jeannette Ho
Rebecca Lubas
Sueyoung Park-Primiano
Virginia Rasbold
With additional assistance from
Gene Kinnaly, Karen Plummer
and Robert Bratton

August 2002



Literature Review
    Summary notes
General Guidelines for All Formats
Guidelines for Specific Types of Materials and Collections
    Motion Pictures and Videorecordings
    Graphic Materials
    Electronic Resources
    Specific Guidelines for Web Sites
    Three-Dimensional Artefacts and Realia
    Sound Recordings
    Archival Materials
Appendix--Additional Examples of Summaries
    Motion Pictures and Videorecordings
    Electronic Resources
    Three-Dimensional Artefacts and Realia
    Sound Recordings
    Archival Materials


A summary note is a brief description of a resource. In most formats, it is an optional note under AACR2, but it becomes especially important when contents cannot be easily examined, as in videos, motion pictures, sound recordings, archival collections, and electronic resources. An abstract is more extensive, and can be a stand-alone source of information about the resource. It is a rich source of keywords for electronic retrieval. The two terms are increasingly used together or interchangeably in guidelines for catalogers for use of the MARC tag 520, and the definitions are sometimes merged to allow for more detail and precision in the content of the note.

The quality of summary notes found in online bibliographic records varies greatly, and the audiovisual cataloging community has recently discussed the issue on the OLAC-LIST. In April, 2001, in response to a query, catalogers wrote about their practices in evaluating or creating original summary notes. Responses criticized the use of evaluative or editorial language, "giving away the ending of the story", and poor grammar and spelling. The overall consensus was that catalogers read summaries carefully and edited them if they found them unsuitable. Catalogers cannot rely on commercially produced commentaries or information found on publishers’ web sites to accurately and objectively describe any resource. In the future, machine scanning, and use of artificial intelligence for text summarization may be helpful for creation of summary notes, but it is likely that a human interface will still be needed to determine what to say and how to say it and to winnow out inappropriate language.

There are only a few formal instructions for style and content of this note and it is presumed that catalogers would benefit from a comprehensive set of recommendations with examples. AACR2 provides the following advice: Give a brief objective summary of the content of an item […] unless another part of the description provides enough information (Chapters 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11). OCLC Bibliographic Inputs and Standards documentation states that use of the 520 summary note is optional. Its definition combines summary, abstract, annotation, and other types of similar notes. While the note usually uses one subfield, subfield a, USMARC allows subfield b for expansion. There is also provision for a display constant that labels the note Summary, Abstract, or Review. The note can be repeated when there is more than one piece to be described or when it is useful to include summaries in several languages. The OCLC Internet Cataloging class, now offered online, gives the following recommendation: "Summary/Description (520) The cataloger may provide a concise, objective, free-text description of the resource. This has value for providing both a fuller description of the resource contents and additional free-text subject terms searchable by keyword in many online catalogs. Note: When cataloging the dynamic resource with changing content, a 520 summary note is generally preferable to a formal 505 formatted contents note".

This task force was given the charge of creating a primer of guidelines for writing summary notes and abstracts and providing resources for catalogers to consult in learning how to do this well. Resources available range from cataloging guides for various formats to writing manuals, to web sites for writing news summaries. We present general and format-specific guidelines, examples of existing summaries and some suggested revisions, and a bibliography of resources.


Prior to developing the guidelines, the task force conducted a literature review to examine existing rules and guidelines concerning the writing of abstracts and summary notes. In doing this, the task force examined the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR2), other cataloging manuals based on AACR2, journal articles, the National Information Standards Organization’s (NISO) Guidelines for Abstracts, books on abstract writing, and various examples of guidelines for abstracts and metadata found on the World Wide Web. The following section summarizes the literature examined in two areas: summary notes and abstracts.

Summary Notes

The Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR2) provides little guidance and few examples for creating summary notes. In rule 2.7B17 of AACR2, it states, "Give a brief objective summary of the content of an item unless another part of the description provides enough information." This instruction is repeated for the chapters on different formats, including manuscripts (4.7B17), sound recordings (6.7B17), motion pictures and videorecordings (7.7B17), graphic materials (8.7B17), electronic resources (9.7B17), three-dimensional artefacts and realia (10.7B17), and microforms (11.7B17). In Chapter 9, language is modified to include purpose as well as content of the item. In Chapter 6, it is made clear that the rule is to apply to sound recordings "other than those that consist entirely of or predominantly of music." Rules for summary notes are omitted in Chapter 3 for cartographic materials, Chapter 5 for music, and Chapter 12 for serials. The Library of Congress Overseas Office policy to create "subject notes" for their accession lists provides more extensive guidelines. More specific guidelines can be found in Saye and Vellucci’s Notes in the Catalog Record: "1) Make a concise statement, mentioning only major points of the contents. Phrases, rather than sentences, may be used when clarity and good taste permit. 2) Include objective statements only, avoiding any explicit or implicit evaluation of the contents from any point of view. If it is the contents of the works that show a bias, which it is important for the subject note to bring out, word the note carefully so that it is clear the author's bias, not the cataloger's, is the one being related. 3) Depending on the particular contents of a work note that it is important to bring out such information as a) coverage of a time period or of a geographic area; b) educational level or slant of the material, e.g. ‘for home study…’or ‘college-level instruction…’; c) obvious purpose of the contents; d) genre of the contents, e.g., ‘handbook,’ ‘government report,’ ‘guidelines’; e) any other major information considered important" (p. 365-366).

Various publications provide examples and more detailed guidance on the creation of summary notes. For instance, Saye and Vellucci (1989) compile the rules and rule interpretations for all formats and provide many examples of summary notes for different kinds of materials. More examples for different formats can be found in Cataloging of Audiovisual Materials and Other Special Materials (Olson 1998), which also states the usefulness of summaries as sources of information when assigning subject headings and call numbers. Other publications focusing on the cataloging of specific formats include Rogers and Saye’s 1987 Nonprint Cataloging for Multimedia Collections, Dodd and Sandberg-Fox's 1985 manual on cataloging computer files, the 1982 Graphic Materials: Rules for Describing Original Items and Historical Collections, Fox and Wilkerson’s Introduction to Archival Organization and Description (1998), Hensen’s 1989 manual on archival materials, and Nancy B. Olson's 1991 manual, Cataloging Motion Pictures and Videorecordings.

Journal articles have also provided guidance on writing summary notes. With regard to videos, Sheila Intner's 1988 article Writing summary notes for films and videos contains a rationale for writing summary notes, in that they permit the browseability of films and videos and promote cost recovery. She recommends sources catalogers may use to write summaries (containers, accompanying materials, reference sources, and acquisition materials), and presents examples of summary notes and evaluations for different genres of films and videos. She also provides guidance for catalogers, both when paraphrasing information from outside sources, and when writing original summaries. Other journal articles include Michael J. Fox's 1990 article on cataloging archival materials, in which he describes the creation of the "Scope and Content/Abstract Note" and Laurel Jizba’s 1997 article Reflections on summarizing and abstracting: implications for Internet web documents and standardized library cataloging databases. Jizba provides an excellent review of both the cataloging and abstracting literature, as well as recent developments in the areas of bookseller databases and metadata. She recommends that traditional abstracting and summarization models from different disciplines be examined, along with new database models which employ summary notes (i.e., Borders, In addition, she recommends the development of uniform content standards for catalogers, web authors, editors, and programmers, and education on the value of summary notes. In the article, she presents the guidance she gives in her Internet cataloging workshops on creating summaries: 1) Answer the What is it? question, 2) Be succinct, use specific wording, avoid full sentences if possible, 3) Describe embedded media, 4) Describe user interaction with action verbs, if possible, 5) Bring out searchable keyword concepts not found in the description or controlled vocabularies, and, 6) Briefly compare outstanding differences with previous formats. Finally, she explores using artificial intelligence and machine scanning applications to extract summary information from Internet documents. Jizba cautions that it remains questionable whether these programs will be able to exercise the kinds of critical thinking skills necessary for creating informative summaries with coherent text that link terms, relate concepts, and provide context for traditional human seekers. Additionally, a report of the CENDI Agency Indexing methods ( describes use of Machine Aided Indexing (MAI), where finished abstracts are automatically processed to present lists of concepts that can be selected as terms by human indexers.


There have been numerous books on indexing and abstracting and journal articles that have surveyed the abstracting guidelines in use by database producers. These evaluate guidelines and standards available from different sources. In 1997, the National Information Standards Organization published a revised version of its Guidelines for Abstracts (ANSI/NISO Z39.14-1997), intended for abstracts written to accompany a publication, such as a journal article, book, proceeding or technical report. In it, an abstract is defined as "A brief and objective representation of a document or an oral presentation." (p. 1) In addition, it lists the general purpose of abstracts: to enable readers to a) identify the basic content of a document quickly, b) to determine its relevance to their interests, and c) to decide whether they need to read the document in its entirety. In addition, it "facilitates free-text searching in an electronic environment and supports the application of controlled indexing vocabularies in access services." (p. 2) It divides abstracts into two types: informative and indicative. Informative abstracts, used for "documents pertaining to experimental investigations, inquiries or surveys" include purpose, methodology, results and conclusions. Indicative abstracts are used for publications that do not contain methods or results, such as "editorials, essays, opinions, or descriptions; or for lengthy documents, such as books, conference proceedings, directories, bibliographies, lists, and annual reports." These abstracts, probably the most similar in nature to summary notes in library catalogs, are written to describe the purpose or scope of the contents, and "may describe essential background material, the approaches used, and/or arguments presented in the text." (p. 3) Guidelines are presented for style, length, paragraphing, the general use of complete sentences, first sentences, the use of active verbs, and terminology. An extensive bibliography and list of examples is presented at the end of the Guidelines. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association presents its own abstracting guidelines, which call for statements to be accurate, self-contained, concise, specific, nonevaluative, coherent and readable, to use active rather than passive voice, and to be stated in third person.

Among the several books written on indexing and abstracting, Chowdhury (1999) and Lancaster (1998) in particular provide detailed guidance on writing different kinds of abstracts. Lancaster includes a chapter on indexing and abstracting imaginative works, including works of fiction and feature films.

The task force also examined two studies that surveyed different abstracting guidelines of various database producers. Armstrong and Wheatley's (1997, 1998) surveys examined abstracts found in three types of electronic databases (print-sourced online databases, Internet subject trees or directories, and Internet gateways) and their abstracting guidelines in order to compare quality and content. The researchers concluded that there was little agreement or common standards. They concluded that abstracts do not need to be lengthy in order to be high quality, and that there is a need for different established schools of abstract writing (print sources, gateways, and subject trees) to learn from each other. Meanwhile, an older survey by Fidel (1986) examined the abstracting guidelines used by 123 database producers and found 57 (46%) included instructions for enhancing free text retrieval. With regard to content, all database producers agreed that "important" concepts should be included to facilitate free text retrieval and enhance the subject indexing, and that terms should be coordinated with index terms assigned from a controlled vocabulary. Guidelines varied on the issue of whether to use the exact language of index terms or whether to use natural language terms to complement them. Most guidelines chose concepts to complement descriptors, with the rationale being that access would be improved with a variety of synonyms or more specific terms.

Finally, the task force examined one of the newer "models" described by Jizba: the description element in the Dublin Core element set. According to its guidelines at, the description element is "an account of the content of the resource. Description may include but is not limited to: an abstract, table of contents, reference to a graphical representation of content or free-text account of the content." It recommends the use of this field when possible, in order to provide a source for indexable vocabulary, and allows metadata providers to take the information from the item itself, if there is no abstract or other structure information available. Jizba has observed that it would be useful to create summary note guidelines for web sites that could apply to both MARC and the Dublin Core element set, as the fields for these two standards may be mapped to each other in both library and Internet databases.

Overall, an examination of the available literature showed that there are few formal guidelines for writing summary notes, and few common abstracting standards used by individual publishers and database producers.


The summary note in the MARC bibliographic record provides a brief, concise description of the material in hand. The summary needs to be objective, avoiding any interpretation or evaluation. It is usually best written in phrases rather than complete sentences, using familiar language. The use of slang, colloquial terms or jargon is not advisable. The style should be in active voice and in the present tense. It helps keyword searching and retrieval to include more specific terms, names of people or characters, etc, that are not present in the description, or to include synonyms of controlled vocabularies in the summary note. If the geographical area or time period is known, include that information in the note.

The summary note contains the basic, essential details about the content of the item, such as the nature of item, its point of view, scope, and purpose. This description may also include information which usually would be entered into its own MARC bibliographic tag, such as the audience, educational level, or award. If the inclusion of this information clarifies the summary, use the facts in the summary note instead of in the additional note field. The repetition of information from other parts of the bibliographic record is not necessary.

In addition to these general guidelines, several formats have additional specific characteristics to include in the summary note. The following explores some of these specific characteristics.


Motion pictures and videorecordings

  • Rewrite the description from the container or accompanying fact sheets in an objective style.
  • Remove promotional and emotional language.
  • Include essential aspects not mentioned anywhere else in the bibliographic record.
  • Include information from other note fields for clarity.
  • Include any significant technical or artistic aspects of the production.
  • Show the relationship of significant persons to the work if this connection is not clear from the rest of the description.
  • Identify the genre and target audience as appropriate.

245   00     A cry in the woods |h [videorecording]
300            1 videocassette (ca. 29 min.) : |b sd., col. ; |c 1/2 in.
520            Discusses the logging vs. environment battle over the forest lands in the Pacific Northwest. Looks at the sociological impact on the families and communities involved in the logging industry.

245   00     Playing it safe |h [videorecording]
300            1 videocassette (ca. 27 min.) : |b sd., col. ; |c 1/2 in.
520            Presents factual information on sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) in a commercial radio programming format that encourages communication about safer sex between a woman and her partner. Also provides hotline numbers at the end of the program to obtain more information on STD’s and AIDS.

245   00     Using your library to write a research paper |h [videorecording]
300            4 videocassettes (ca. 300 min.) : |b sd., col. ; |c 1/2 in.
520            Guides the viewer through the process of writing term papers, from selecting a
topic through doing the research to handing in the paper.

245   00     Raising Arizona |h [videorecording]
300            1 videodisc (94 min.) : |b sd., col. ; |c 12 in.
520            An ex-convict and a police officer decide to get married and start a family. To their dismay, they discover that they can neither have nor adopt children. Desperate, they resort to kidnapping one of the newborn quintuplets of the wealthy Arizona family. However, their attempt at living a normal life is complicated by neurotic co-workers, two fugitives, and a mysterious bounty hunter.

245   00     Films by Ed Emshwiller |h [videorecording]
300            1 videocassette (32 min.) : |b sd., col. and b&w ; |c 1/2 in.
520            Three short experimental films that use camera movement, multiple exposures
and controlled lighting to construct images that set men and women in larger, sometimes cosmic contexts.

245   00     Chase the devil |h [videorecording] : |b religious music of the Appalachian Mountains
300            1 videocassette (53 min.) : |b sd., col. ; |c 1/2 in.
520            Examines the aspects and byways of isolated mountain music and culture in Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Focuses on the Holiness church experience depicting the exuberant singing and preaching. Includes performances, interviews, and footage of traditional baptisms in a river.

Graphic materials

  • Provide an objective note describing the object.
  • Explain in more detail the general material designation, or the specific material designation in the physical description.
  • Include the type of material, medium and style.
  • Include the significant persons, events, places and dates related to the item.

245   00     Holography |h [transparency]
300            15 transparencies : |b color ; |c 10 x 12 in.
520            Deals with the field of three dimension camera-less laser photography called holography. Introduces wave optics and describes holographic systems and applications.

245   00     Hidden communication barriers |h [transparency]
300            15 transparencies : |b color ; |c 10 x 12 in.
520            Describes the ethnic, ghetto, and cross-cultural protective mechanisms which
often interfere with communication among people.

245   04     The Dancing skeleton |h [filmstrip]
300            1 filmstrip (73 fr.) : |b col. ; |c 35 mm. + |e 1 sound cassette (8 min.)
520            An ornery dead man refuses to stay in his coffin and causes a disturbance when the best fiddler in town comes to call on his widow.

245   00     Chinese horse |h [picture]
300            1 poster : |b col. ; |c 30 x 41 cm.
520            Photographs of original paintings in the Lascaux cave created more than 17,000 years ago.

Electronic resources

  • Take the note information from the material, its introduction or first few paragraphs.
  • Write the summary in a non-evaluative style.
  • Include the interaction of the user with the program.
  • Mention any specific effects, such as laser display or animation, used to convey the information.
  • For those computer files only understood by computer software, write a brief, concise description of the purpose of the file.

    Specific guidelines for web sites (in addition to those above)
  • Include a brief statement about the other sites connected to the main page.
  • Describe any unique features of the original site.
  • Show how the user interacts with the web site.

245   04     The Piers Plowman electronic archive. |n Vol. 2, |p Cambridge, Trinity College, MS B.15.17 (W) |h [electronic resource]
300            1 CD-ROM ; |c 4 3/4 in.
520            Early scribal version of the alpha family of B text of Piers Plowman. This SGML version allows for structured and complex searches of the text itself and the manuscript's paleographic and codicological features.

245   00     Fundamentals of physics, 6/E |h [electronic resource] : |b CD-physics 3.0
300            1 CD-ROM ; |c 4 3/4 in. + |e 1 user’s guide.
520            Study aid for physics students. Contains the complete contents of the textbook Fundamentals of physics by Halliday, Resnick, and Walker as well as content from the student solutions manual and study guide. Features interactive problem solving software, simulations taken from key concepts in the textbook, and video tutorials.

245   00     Quicken home & business 2000 |h [electronic resource]
300            1 CD-ROM ; |c 4 3/4 in. + |e 2 manuals + 1 card (folded)
520            Personal and small business checking and financial program that facilitates creating and tracking budgets, reconciling accounts, preparing reports with graphics, analyzing investments, and extracting data for tax preparation.

245   00     Ariel |h [electronic resource]
300            1 computer disk ; |c 3 1/2 in. + |e 1 user's guide (iv, 62 p.) + 1 installation guide (7 p.)
520            Document transmission system which provides fast, inexpensive, high-quality document delivery over the Internet using WinSock protocols. Integrates scanning, sending, receiving, and printing into a single, easy-to-use system.

110   2       Colgate University. |b Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology.
245   10     Anthropological resources on the Web |h [electronic resource]
520   8       Site contains links to significant collections of sociology and anthropology resources and links on the Web, as well as links to electronic journals in the field.

245   00     Women of the West Museum |h [electronic resource]
520   8       The Women of the West Museum, located in Denver, Colorado, features online exhibits about the role of women in the development of the American West. The site highlights details of the museum's programs, exhibits, and educational resource center. Includes online store and gallery.

245   00     Equality Now |h [electronic resource]
520   8       Equality Now, headquartered in New York City, is an international human rights organization dedicated to action for the civil, political, economic, and social rights of girls and women. Equality Now features information about specific abuses and ongoing violations. Details on membership are included.

245   00     CommerceTrends webhouse builder |h [electronic resource]
520            Tracks electronic marketing campaigns on a company's World Wide Web (WWW) site and provides real-time analysis of visitors' behavior and preferences.

245   00     Education world [electronic resource] : |b where educators go to learn
520            A search engine for educational web sites where educators can find information without searching the entire Internet. Supported by several corporate sponsors, this website offers a database indexing over 100,000 Web sites with a K-12 focus. The site includes lesson plans, directories of schools and colleges, news stories, professional development, and many additional sources of information.

Three-dimensional artefacts and realia

  • Include the interaction of the components mentioned in the physical description as the items relate to context of the whole item.

245   00     Reading fluency |h [kit] : |b the headway program : level B
300            30 fable sheets, 128 outlaw flash cards, 19 picture exercise cards, 2 printers boxes (180 cards each), 58 story sequence cards, 49 word line cards, 185 word list cards, 2 word matching games (120 cards each), 1 teacher’s guide ; |c in container, 26 x 48 x 18 cm.
520            Designed to teach children to read and write independently, to acquaint children with outstanding literary selections, and to provide a meaningful correlation of all the language arts.

245   00     Wise guy self-learning machine |h [game]
300            1 robot, 6 question cards, 6 answer cards, 5 question/answer sheets and guide.
520            Provides a visual-auditory learning experience for kindergarten students who are deaf.

245   00     Dome Mountains |h [model]
300            1 model : |b col. ; |c 30 x 37 x 5 cm.
520            Shows the physical features and stratigraphic layers of dome mountains.

245   00     Slavo [watch] |h [realia]
300            1 watch ; |c 2 cm.
520            Battery powered man’s watch with expandable metal watchband, with rectangular shaped silver-colored watch face. Watch face contains Arabic numerals and a month and day calendar.

Sound recordings

  • Exclude the summary note for those recordings that are solely musical.
  • For nonmusical sound recordings, retrieve summary note information from the cassette or any accompanying description.
  • Include any unique or artistic characteristics in the summary note.
  • Explain the relationship of the artists or authors to the contents if not clear from the rest of the description.

245   00     Swiss gnomes and global investing |h [sound recording]
300            2 sound cassettes (ca. 2 1/2-3 hr.) : |b analog.
520            Introduces the strengths of the Swiss banking industry, including strong rights to privacy, and a highly stable currency. Also puts forth the case for global investing in being able to reduce risk and increase returns, and discusses the techniques and insights of John Templeton, George Soros, Jim Rogers, and other experts of international investing.

100   1       Kitson, Jane.
245   10     Fabulous holiday & seasonal fingerplays |h [sound recording]
300            1 sound cassette (ca. 30 min.) : |b analog + |e 1 book (vii, 50 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.) in container 24 x 16 cm.
520            Collection of fingerplays about seasons and holidays, designed to build positive self-esteem, foster creativity and divergent thinking, and enhance oral language skills in young children.

100   1       Brey, Ron.
245   12     A gun, a ski mask, and a fast car |h [sound recording] : |b budgeting essentials
300            1 sound cassette : |b analog.
520            Speakers from Austin Community College describe the budgeting process at their institution's library. Focuses on how to convince higher administrators to support library budgets and activities by addressing their needs and requirements, and using library performance statistics.

Archival materials
  • Can divide into sub-elements consisting of first, a broader scope and content note in subfield $a, to be followed by a more specific and detailed expanded note in subfield $b. Structure note with first indicator 2, which generates the print constant Scope and content:.
  • List specific types and forms of materials present.
  • Provide the most important information for the collection.
  • Describe the reason and function of the collection.
  • Include the significant people, places and events, and topics covered.
  • Include the span of dates covered by the collection even if they are approximations.
  • Describe the consequences, products and results of the events documented.
  • Present the typical and unique characteristics of the collection
  • If creating a summary note for one item, describe the item, its nature, scope, and purpose.

245   00     Bonsack family miscellany, |f 1842-1903.
300            1 vol.
520   2       Handmade scrapbook created by Mary Bonsack and other members of the Bonsack family of Roanoke, Virginia. It includes newspaper clippings, receipts, household hints, moral axioms, financial accounts, wages paid, poetry and prose, a pencil drawing, partially water colored, and diary entries from Jan.-Mar. 5, 1849.

245   00     Deeds, indentures, land grants and other miscellaneous documents collection, |f 1622, 1735, 1774, 1784-1785, 1798, 1808, 1815, 1819, 1852, 1862, 1954, n.d.
300            23 |f oversize items.
520   2       Includes a copy of a charter, deeds and indentures, an estate account, land grants, leases, a military commission, plats and surveys, and transcriptions of some of the listed documents from 1852-1862. Most of the material is from South Carolina but the states of Alabama, Georgia, Illinois and Pennsylvania, as well as the country of Great Britain, are also represented.

100   1       Norris, Daniel Keating, |d 1846-1905.
245   10     Daniel Keating Norris Papers, |f 1904.
300            10 items.
520   2       Reports and oversize blueprints from Ladshaw and Ladshaw, Civil and Hydraulic Engineers, to Norris as chairman of the Executive Committee of the Clemson College Board of Trustees, concerning repairs following the failure of a dike to protect bottom land below Cemetery Hill during 1967.


These suggested guidelines represent an effort to bring consensus to the How? What? When? And Who? questions that need to be answered to create a description of materials that is both efficient for catalogers and useful for patrons. It is essential to provide as much information as possible, yet not overwhelm the researcher trying to decide the appropriateness of the materials. Since the 520 summary note is keyword searchable, it can not only form the basis for the formulation of subject headings and call numbers, but it can bring out keyword concepts for which adequate subject headings have not yet been established. In her article Reflections on summarizing and abstracting: implications for Internet web documents and standardized library cataloging databases, Laurel Jizba argues that natural language summaries will increase in usefulness as more and more materials are made available online and on the Internet. Indeed, contents of summaries and abstracts can provide keywords for smart retrieval by search engines as well as researchers.

The Task Force hopes that this document will help streamline the process of creating and evaluating summary notes and thus increase their use, and that catalogers will be active in educating information providers about the importance of well written summaries and abstracts. It is our intention that this report can serve as a springboard for further discussion and evaluation.


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Publication manual of the American Psychological Association. 4th ed. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 1994,

Radev, Dragomir. Bibliography of research in text summarization. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, School of Information, 2000?

Rogers, JoAnn V., and Jerry D. Saye. Nonprint cataloging for multimedia collections: a guide based on AACR2. 2nd ed. Littleton, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1987.

Saye, Jerry D., and Sherry L. Vellucci. Notes in the catalog record based on AACR2 and LC rule interpretations. Chicago: American Library Association, 1989.

Wellishch, Hans H. Glossary of terminology in Abstracting, Classification, Indexing, and Thesaurus Construction. 2nd ed. Medford, NJ: Information Today, 2000.

Wheatley, Alan, and Armstrong, C.J. A survey of the content and characteristics of electronic abstracts. UKOLN (UK Office for Library and Information Networking) April, 1997.

APPENDIX--Additional examples of summaries

Motion pictures and videorecordings

245   04     The Cubist epoch |h [videorecording]
300            1 videocassette (53 min.) : |b sd., col. ; |c 1/2 in.
520            Surveys cubist art in the context of its period by focusing on The cubist epoch exhibition originally shown at the Los Angeles County Art Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Examines works by Picasso, Braque, Gris, Léger, and others.

245   04     Die Mauer |h [videorecording]
300            1 videocassette (96 min.) : |b sd., col. with b&w sequences ; |c 1/2 in.
520            A film from the documentary filmmaker and painter Jurgen Böttcher about the Berlin Wall, its last days and its destruction.

245   00     --und deine Liebe auch |h [videorecording]
300            1 videocassette (92 min.) : |b sd., b&w ; |c 1/2 in.
520            Story of a young German girl and her relationship with her two brothers in 1960's Berlin.

245   00     Artists' presentations of previous work and proposals for South Carolina Botanical Garden |h [videorecording]
300            1 videocassette (110 min.) : |b sd., col. ; |c 1/2 in.
520            The artists discuss their previous work and present drawings of their proposals for site-specific artwork.

245   00     Body, voice, and architecture |h [videorecording]
300            1 videocassette (128 min.) : |b sd., col. ; |c 1/2 in.
520            Acconci discusses installations involving space and the human body, people in public places, pieces with sound and voices, and pieces with vehicles for viewers to make a space. Includes presentations on seating, lighting, shelters, and a number of water projects.

245   00     Cultural excavations |h [videorecording] : |b architecture, infrastructure, and the grotesque : recent work of Kennedy & Violich Architecture
300            1 videocassette (99 min.) : |b sd., col. ; |c 1/2 in.
520            Discussion of four projects: 1) a prototype pedestrian bridge project in Boston; 2) remodeling of the public restrooms at the Boston Center for the Arts; 3) the "Science Playground" at a Boston children's museum; and 4) renovation of an elementary school in Ohio.

245   00     Sonic architecture |h [videorecording]
300            1 videocassette (73 min.) : |b sd., col. ; |c 1/2 in.
520            Discussion of functional, interactive sound sculptures, including projects such as sonic miniature golf, sound playgrounds and parks, musical windmills, a water clock that includes a labyrinth, sound performance pieces, musical pinball, aqua phones, and a wind harp (a wind pavilion).

245   00     Christmas tree diseases |h [videorecording]
300            1 videocassette (19 min.) : |b sd., col. ; |c 1/2 in.
520            Identifies diseases found on nine common species of Christmas trees.

100   1       Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, |d 1756-1791.
240   10     Symphonies, |n K.551, |r C major. |p Allegretto
245   10     Symphony no. 31 in C major |h [videorecording]
300            1 videocassette (ca. 6 min.) : |b sd., col. ; |c 1/2 in. + |e 1 instruction manual.
520            Presents a pictorial interpretation of Mozart's work, photographed in locations and surroundings familiar to the composer.

245   00     Be careful today! |h [videorecording]
300            1 videocassette (ca. 20 min.) : |b sd., col. ; |c 1/2 in.
520            Lumbermen discuss actual accidents to illustrate the need for safety awareness in the different lumbering areas.

245   00     Francis Crick |h [videorecording]
300            1 videocassette (28 min.) : |b sd., col. ; |c 1/2 in.
520            A portrait of Nobel laureate Francis Crick. Dr. Crick describes the events that led to the discovery of DNA. He also discusses his theory of how life originated on earth and his more recent research on the brain and the function of dreams.

100   1       Updike, John, |d 1932-
245   14     The music school |h [videorecording]
300            1 videocassette (ca. 30 min.) : |b sd., col. with b&w sequences ; |c 1/2 in.
520            Dramatizes the John Updike story concerning a contemporary writer's struggle to find a focus in his life. Shows the conflict between the logical thinking man and the chaos of the world.

245   00     Federico Garcia Lorca |h [videorecording] : |b a murder in Granada
300            1 videocassette (ca. 60 min.) : |b sd., col. with b&w sequences ; |c 1/2 in.
520            Examines the life and work of modern Spanish poet and dramatist Federico Garcia Lorca. Traces the development of his work from simple lyrics to complex drama and shows how his art stemmed from Spanish folk and literary tradition.

245   00     Dangerous plants |h [videorecording]
300            1 videocassette (10 min.) : |b sd., col. ; |c 1/2 in.
520            Familiarizes the viewer with plants that are poisonous to eat, dangerous to touch, or cause allergies.

245   00     Germany, Dada |h [videorecording]
300            1 videocassette (55 min.) : |b sd., col. & b&w ; |c 1/2 in.
520            Collage of art, music, and poetry documenting the artistic movement born in Zurich after World War I which was based on irrationality and negation of traditional values.

245   04     The yellow gash |h [videorecording] : |b Jean Paul Sartre on Tintoretto
300            1 videocassette (65 min.) : |b sd., col. ; |c 1/2 in.
520            Discusses Tintoretto's works, innovative style and rebellion against 16th century convention through the words of Jean-Paul Sartre.

245   00     Racism 101 |h [videorecording]
300            1 videocassette (58 min.) : |b sd., col. with b&w sequences ; |c 1/2 in.
520            A discussion of race relations on United States college and university campuses during the 1980's.

245   00     Not my kid |h [videorecording]
300            1 videocassette (97 min.) : |b sd., col. ; |c 1/2 in.
520            Dramatizes a teenager's drug problem, its effect on her family and her journey away from drug addiction.

245   04     The Meiji Period (1869-1912) |h [videorecording]
300            1 videocassette (53 min.) : |b sd., col. ; |c 1/2 in.
520            Discusses Japan's dramatic leap from the Middle Ages to modernity after Japanese ports were opened to the West in 1854.

245   04     The wisdom of the East |h [videorecording]
300            3 videocassettes (295 min.) : |b sd., col. ; |c 1/2 in. + |e 1 worksheet for program 7.
520            Joseph Campbell explores religious experiences of the East through Buddhism and Hinduism. He discusses the elementary ideas that occur universally throughout the history of religion.

245   00     Anthony Shaffer's the wicker man |h [videorecording]
300            2 videodiscs (187 min.) : |b sd., col. ; |c 4 3/4 in.
520            When a young girl mysteriously disappears, Police Sergeant Howie travels to a
remote Scottish island to investigate. But this pastoral community, led by the strange Lord Summerisle, is not what it seems as the devout Christian detective soon uncovers a secret society of paganism.

245   00     The cabinet of Dr. Caligari |h [videorecording]
300            1 videodisc (77 min.) ; |b sd., col. tinted ; |c 4 3/4 in.
520            A combination of German expressionistic and commercial film making, in which a somnambulist commits murders at his master's bidding.

245   00     Popular neurotics |h [videorecording]
300            1 videocassette (59 min.) : |b sd., col. ; |c 1/2 in.
520            This play examines the tentative relationship which develops between two young professionals who meet at an ATM machine.

245   00     Punk |h [videorecording]
300            1 videocassette (57 min.) : |b sd., col. ; |c 1/2 in.
520            A compilation of live concert performances of various punk and new wave bands and performers, primarily British, recorded during 1976 through 1978.

Electronic resources

245   00     Super success for the TOEFL test |h [electronic resource]
300            1 CD-ROM ; |c 4 3/4 in. + |e 1 user’s guide (16 p. ; 12 cm.)
520            Tutorial program for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) with instruction, practice, and tests. Includes four full-length tests, quick tests, practice sessions, 1,000 questions with correct answers and explanations, scores, strategies, and writing preparation.

245   00     Thermodynamics for engineers |h [electronic resource]
300            2 computer disks ; |c 3 1/2 in.
520            Includes over 100 representative solved problems from Schaum's Outline of
Thermodynamics for Engineers.

245   00     AutoCAD land development desktop |h [electronic resource]
300            1 CD-ROM ; |e 4 3/4 in. + |e 1 getting started guide + 1 installation guide + 1 user’s guide + 1 template.
520            Provides the core functionality for land planning and development industries, including project management, points, geometry creation, plan alignments, terrain modeling, volumes calculations, labeling, and three-dimensional visualization.

245   00     Vision lab |h [electronic resource] : |b a multimedia visual experience
300            1 CD-ROM : |c 4 3/4 in. + |e 2 pairs of three-dimensional glasses.
520            Features 19 articles about the anatomy, physiology, and perceptual psychology of vision. Includes 160 pictures, 80 musical selections and sound effects, and 70 animations. Each unit of study ends with a quiz.

245   03     An electronic companion to college algebra |h [electronic resource]
300            1 CD-ROM : |b col., sd. ; |c 4 3/4 in. + |e installation instructions.
520            "Contains a CD-ROM with multimedia representations in both review and self-test modes along with topic summaries and hundred of new exercises, questions, and answers for successful self-paced study"--Container.

245   00     California fiduciary income tax returns |h [electronic resource] : |b calculation and preparation
300            7 computer disks ; |c 5 1/4 in. + |e 1 manual (various pagings)
520            Tool for use by income tax preparers to produce California Form 541 (1995) for California personal income tax returns. Must be used in combination with Shepard's/McGraw Hill's program entitled Fiduciary income tax returns (FIT).

245   14     The Multimedia atlas of videokeratography |h [electronic resource]
300            1 CD-ROM ; |c 4 3/4 in.
520            Covers the basic interpretation skills for the proper use of videokeratography. Offers audio, descriptions, illustrated glossary, abstracts, games, and animations.

245   00     West's business law |h [electronic resource]
300            1 CD-ROM ; |c 4 3/4 in.
520            Study guide and complete text of the eighth edition of West's business law. Includes additional quizzes, video and audio clips, full text of court cases, and point-and-click definitions of key terms.

245   00     Routledge German dictionary of information technology |h [electronic resource] : |b German-English/English-German = Wörterbuch informationstechnologie Englisch : Englisch-Deutsch/Deutsch-Englisch
300            1 CD-ROM ; |c 4 3/4 in. + |e 1 user guide (26 p. : ill. ; 21 cm.)
520            German-English and English-German dictionary of information technology. Features over 25,000 terms and references in each language covering 15 subject areas.

245   00     Balancing the corporate scorecard |h [electronic resource]
300            1 CD-ROM ; |c 4 3/4 in.
520            Introduces balanced scorecard concepts and offers a role-playing simulation that allows the user to apply these principles.

245   04     The history of mathematics from antiquity to the present |h [electronic resource] : |b a selective annotated bibliography
300            1 CD-ROM ; |c 4 3/4 in.
520            A selected bibliography on the history of mathematics. Contains over 4,800 bibliographic entries with annotations.

245   00     UCSB Department of Anthropology Links Directory |h [electronic resource]
520   8       Over 500 links to important sources and information relevant to the field of anthropology including conferences, museums, institutes and university departments around the world.

245   04       The Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland |h [electronic resource]
520            Site includes information about the Institute and its publications as well as a link to Anthropological Index Online.

245   00     Quick look-ups |h [electronic resource]
520            Provides fast, easy information-finding on a variety of general topics listed alphabetically. Gives suggestions for evaluating web sites and the information they contain and uses this criteria for inclusion of the sites selected. A sampling of topics includes acronyms, dictionaries, exchange rates, polls, resume writing, tax information, zip codes. Designed for University of Colorado, Boulder, librarians and clientele, but wide application for identification of useful electronic sites.

 245   00     Women's resources international |h [electronic resource]
 520            An interdisciplinary database combined from Women studies abstracts (1984-present), Women's studies database (1972-present), New books on women and feminism (1987-present), Women of color and southern women (1975-present), The history of women and science, health, and technology: a bibliographic guide to the professions and disciplines (1970-1995), Women's health and development: an annotated bibliography (1995), Women, race, and ethnicity: a bibliography (1970-1990), WAVE: Women's audiovisuals in English: a guide to nonprint resources in women's studies (1985-1990); updated semi-annually.

245   00     Archives for Research on Women and Gender, University of Texas |h [electronic resource]
520            Presents information about the Archives for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Includes an overview of the Archives, which specializes in acquiring, preserving, arranging, describing, and providing access to primary source materials that document the lives of women, constructions of gender, and expressions of sexual identity in South Texas. Notes that the materials are collected from activists, politicians, educators, authors, business people, and other individuals, as well as organizations, businesses, and foundations. Posts services available and hours of operation.

245   00     Digital Librarian |h [electronic resource] : |b a librarian's choice of the best of the web. |p Women's resources
520            Site contains an index to links for Internet sites covering a wide range of topics in the field of women's studies research.

245   00     Chicago anarchists on trial |h [electronic resource]
520            Presents more than 3,800 images of original manuscripts, broadsides, photographs, prints, and artifacts relating to the Haymarket Affair, a violent confrontation between Chicago police and labor protesters in 1886. Covers the May 4, 1886 meeting and bombing; the trial, conviction, and subsequent appeals of those accused of inciting the bombing; and the execution of four of the convicted and the later pardon of the remaining defendants. Features searchable transcript of the murder trial. Includes twenty-four images of three-dimensional artifacts, including contemporary Chicago Police Department paraphernalia, labor banners, and an unexploded bomb casing.

245   00     Born in slavery |h [electronic resource] : |b slave narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938
520            Presents more than 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500 black-and-
white photographs of former slaves. Provides links from individual photographs to the corresponding narratives. Collected in the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the narratives were assembled and microfilmed in 1941 as the seventeen-volume work entitled Slave narratives: a folk history of slavery in the United States, from interviews with former slaves.

Three-dimensional artefacts and realia

245   00     Original Judy clock |h [game]
300            1 clock : |b col. ; |c 34 cm. + |e teaching guide.
520            Teaches the elements of a clock face and reading time. For ages 4 and up.

245   00     Continental glaciation |h [model]
300            1 model : |b col. ; |c 30 x 37 x 5 cm.
520            Shows the physical features and stratigraphic layers of continental glaciation.

245   00     State teachers college, Frostburg, Md. |h [realia]
300            1 plate : |b col. ; |c 23 cm.
520            Cream colored porcelain plate with gold trim and gold leaves. Has an imprint of Old Main at State teachers college, Frostburg, Md. The plate is thought to be a 50-year celebration plate to commemorate the founding of the State Normal School no. 2.

245   00     Sculptured farm animals |h [realia]
300            7 models : |b vinyl, col. ; |c in container 9 x 35 x 28 cm.
520            Accurately scaled, realistic reproductions of farm animals with authentic coloring. Valuable for teaching preschool, lower elementary and the visually handicapped.

245   00     United States commemorative stamps |h [realia]
300              v : |b col. ill. ; |c 28 cm.
520            Contains a collection of commemorative United States postage stamps, which reflect various aspects of American life, history, current events, nature and people. Includes the stamps and the collector’s page which provides the name and description of background of the stamp. Some collector’s pages are without stamps. Also includes some official first day of issue stamps and first day issue covers.

245   00     Regional friendship quilt |h [realia]
300            1 quilt : |b col. ; |c 268 x 218 cm. in a container 100 x 45 x 16 cm.
520            Created for the United States Bicentennial celebration by members of the Fiber Artisans of Cumberland, Md. Made of cotton and filled with polyester and constructed by hand and machine. Consists of 20 blocks of original designs depicting historic scenes of Allegany County, Maryland, with 3 corner blocks representing the state birds and flowers of Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and 3 side panels depicting local scenery, all signed by the creator. Information about the quilt and its creators included in container.

Sound recordings

100   1       Goldratt, Eliyahu M., |d 1948-
245   14     The goal |h [sound recording]
300            8 sound cassettes (10 1/2 hrs.) : |b analog., stereo.
520            In this "business text disguised as a novel," manager Alex Rogo is given an ultimatum to drastically improve his failing manufacturing plant within three months or else be shut down by corporate headquarters. This novel focuses on his rethinking of previous assumptions, and his realization of a new business philosophy that revolutionizes his approach to achieve productivity, profitability, and personal fulfillment.

100   1       Isherwood, Christopher, |d 1904-
245   10     Mr. Norris changes trains |h [sound recording]
300            2 sound cassettes (ca. 3 hr.) : |b analog, Dolby processed.
520            A chance encounter on a train leads William Bradshaw to befriend Arthur Norris, a conman, who leads him on a series of crazy schemes to make money and enjoy a life of pleasure in 1930s Berlin.

100   1       Cook, Wade.
245   10     Wall Street money machine |h [sound recording]
300            2 sound cassettes (ca. 2 hr.) : |b analog, Dolby processed.
520            Teaches beginners and more experienced investors alike how to understand Wall Street and use it to gain wealth. Includes how to double one's money every few months, how to increase monthly returns, and how to understand and take advantage of stock options, stock splits, dividend capturing and margin trading.

100   1       Newell, Charldean.
245   10     [Texas] |h [sound recording] : |b [still a republic in spirit / |c Charldean Newell].
300            1 sound cassette : |b analog.
520            Public administration professor Newell delivers a lecture comparing the characteristics of Texas government with those of other state governments. Critically examines the needs of Texas' diverse population, the need for state constitutional reform, the power of its governor's office, and the flaws of the local government, legislative and judicial systems.

245   00     Assessing library learning to improve teaching and outcomes |h [sound recording]
300            1 sound cassette (61 min.) : |b analog.
520            Examines how academic libraries may use performance measures to evaluate the effectiveness of library instruction programs. Discusses various methods, including surveys and focus groups, the use of concept maps as a teaching method, and examples of how libraries implemented assessment programs.

100   1       Williamson, Jack, |d 1908-
245   10     Jack Williamson interviews at Eastern New Mexico University |h [sound recording].
300            2 sound cassettes (133 min.) : |b analog.
520            Series of interviews with science fiction writer Jack Williamson. In the first segment, he discusses the development of his career, the publication history of his works, and the creative writing process. In the second segment, Williamson and his wife Blanche, reminisce about their youth living in a farming community in the early 20th century, and Williamson discusses childhood events that influenced his interest in a writing career, and his early experiences of success as a writer.

100   1       Warschaw, Tessa Albert.
245   10     Rich is better |h [sound recording] / |c Tessa Albert Warschaw.
300            2 sound cassettes (161 min.) : |b analog.
520            Psychotherapist Warschaw discusses how women can overcome self-defeating feelings and attitudes to achieve success and balance in their careers, finances, and relationships.

245   00     Svensk kurs |h [sound recording] / |c Linguaphone.
300            10 sound cassettes (740 min.) : |b analog, Dolby processed ; |c in container 16 x 22 x 23 cm.
520            A self-study course for improving speaking and comprehension skills in the Swedish language. Users first listen to the recordings of native speakers while following the examples in the textbook and handbook. They then complete exercises in the written and spoken exercises books.

245   04     The student-centered electronic teaching library |h [sound recording] : |b a new model for learning.
300            1 sound cassette : |b analog.
520            Describes a project among librarians and faculty at the California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo to teach information literacy and technology skills in electronic classrooms. Presents innovative approaches for using online resources and multimedia authoring tools to promote active and collaborative learning in credit-bearing library courses and regular courses.

Archival materials

245   00     McCulloch family letters, |f 1825-1846.
300            4 letters.
520   2       Four letters from relatives in Ireland, dated 1825, 1830, 1831, and 1846, to Anne and Robert McCulloch in Fairfield District, near Monticello, South Carolina, in care of Wm. Bell and Rev. James or John Rogers. The letters came from Charles Montgomery, possibly Anne’s brother, David and Mary McCulloch, and Thomas McCulloch, Robert's brother and nephew. Letters discuss weather and crop conditions, the potato disaster in 1846, Irish linen and market prices. Names mentioned include John Murray, Hood Haslett, Elizabeth Thomson, McBurney family, Clyde family, Graham family, Mason family, Anne Hill, Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Murray.

100   1       MacWhirter, William Bion, |d 1916-
245   10     Genealogy and family history of the MacWhirter and Whateley families, |f 1972.
300            1 |f roll 35mm microfilm.
520   2       A microfilm publication containing a foreword, an autobiographical sketch of William Bion MacWhirter, an index, a list of references, a preface, three "chapters" with information about the MacWhirter family in Ireland and Scotland and their family histories, family group charts (A to I, A-1, B-1, C-1), articles, book excerpts, correspondence, clippings, notes and photographs all relating to the genealogy of the MacWhirter and Whatley families dating back to 1771 to the present.

100   1       Cothran, W. B.
245   10     W.B. Cothran papers, |f 1900-1902, n.d. |g (bulk 1902).
300            34 |f items, including |a 16 |f oversize items.
520   2       Examination papers, notes, a map of the valley of Mexico, a program, a delinquency report, a printed statement regarding a student walkout at Clemson and other forms, all created or used while Cothran was a student at Clemson College. The bulk of the material dates to 1902. The exams include those for Mechanical Engineering, Organic Chemistry, Solid Geometry, Weaving and English. The program is for Field Day on February 22, 1901, while Cothran submitted the report in January 1902.


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