By Tyler Ostapyk
Have you ever flipped through one of your books and noticed a block of text on the back of the title page that starts with “Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication”? This is what we at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) call the CIP data block, and we are pleased to announce we have recently released a new format for the data block! Read on to find out what, exactly, the data block is and what these changes will mean.
What is the CIP data block?
Before the days of online catalogues, electronic databases and embedded metadata, libraries would record detailed information concerning each book on a separate catalogue card. This information allowed library patrons to find and access library materials.
A catalogue card – the original cataloguing record
To help libraries record this information, the CIP Program at Library and Archives Canada would produce CIP data blocks, which were included on the back of the title page of Canadian publications. These data blocks served as a visual representation of cataloguing data created by LAC prior to a book’s publication. By asking publishers to include the data block in the book itself, LAC was able to ensure that cataloguing information was literally at the fingertips of anyone who had access to a copy of the book as soon as it was published.
A card catalogue – the original cataloguing database
Today, the CIP data block still serves as a visual cue. It indicates the availability of cataloguing data at LAC and is used by libraries as a basis for replicating LAC’s cataloguing information in their own, local catalogues. In this way, the CIP data block continues to help libraries classify and catalogue their materials quickly, helping them make these materials available to their patrons in a timely manner.
Why is the data block changing?
As libraries moved away from card catalogues toward electronic databases, the data block remained the same, retaining its original catalogue card format.
The old CIP data block – notice how similar it is to the catalogue card above
To bring the data block more in line with developments such as online catalogues and electronic databases, LAC has followed the precedent set by the Library of Congress by designing a new data block that is better suited to today’s information environment.
What will the new data block look like?
Like the Library of Congress’s new data block, LAC’s new CIP data block uses a labelled display that groups data elements by category in a way that is familiar to the public and similar to popular online information resources. Through the addition of these labels and the reordering of the data block, LAC has attempted to make the data block more user-friendly with the hope of better assisting libraries in their use and interpretation of LAC’s cataloguing data and allowing them to get new materials into the hands of their patrons as quickly as possible.
The new CIP data block
The CIP Program at Library and Archives Canada is excited and eager to share this new data block with readers and libraries worldwide. Keep your eye out for this new format, as it is likely to make an appearance in your personal reading material sometime soon!
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Tyler Ostapyk is a cataloguing librarian at Library and Archives Canada