Sierra Cataloging

Cataloging records involves creating, editing, and deleting  bibliographic (descriptive), item (holdings), and authority (authorized search headings) records used for circulation and for the shared catalog.  Library staff perform simple and complex data maintenance, load records from outside sources, manage materials of all kinds, and create lists and statistical reports on collections.  How an item is cataloged affects how it is searched and displayed for patrons in the online catalog, therefore data integrity is important.  Cataloging include records management tasks involving the following resources:

  • Codes used for creating records for the catalog and for circulation.
  • Procedures for cataloging with Sierra
  • Standards for item and bib records contributed to Merlin, and national standards links.
  • Maintenance guides for processing materials or identifying specific items


All records in Merlin are composed of fixed-length fields on the top part of a record.  Fixed-length fields are named such since each field has a short label, with a maximum length of ten characters.  In addition to the short label, many fixed-length fields also have a long label, with a maximum length of eighty characters.  In bibliographic and item records, fixed-length fields are either manually editable or maintained by the system.

Bibliographic Record Codes:

  • The manually editable fixed fields include bibliographic level, bibliographic location, cataloging code, country, language, and material type.
  • The system maintained fixed field is the skip code.

Item Record Codes:

  • The manually editable fixed fields include category, copy, imedia, item message, item type, item location, opac message, price, and status.
  • The system maintained fixed fields include due date, (check)-in location, last check-in, last patron, last year circ, loan rule number, (check)-out location, patron number, total checkouts, total renewals, and year-to-date circulation.

NWLS maintains lists of commonly used and maintained fixed fields and accompanying codes. 


Creating catalog records and holdings (item) records in Millennium involves following standard procedures for creating item and bib records. Staff can refer to the full manual or the quick guide for reference to important procedures that need to be followed in order for items to circulate properly to patrons and be searched properly in the catalog.

It's also important to refer to the Verification Guide when checking physical items against database records in determining a match.

An online general cataloging overview course is available for library staff.


For accuracy of statistics and to ensure overall database integrity, the Merlin Consortium has set certain standards for inputting data.  These standards apply to creating bibliographic and item records. 

Bibliographic record standards include:

  • Editing the material type fix field code
  • Checking and editing specific Marc record fields
  • Standardized local subjects
  • Cataloging paperbacks
  • Magazine records
  • Order records

Item record standards include:

  • Proper use of the volume field
  • Default item cost based on the type of material

National cataloging rules and standards are followed for descriptive and subject cataloging of records contributed to Merlin.


Routine maintenance and updating of database records includes creating lists or reports that identify items that need attention:

  •     Identifying items to Inventory
  •     Weeding items that are missing, lost, or no longer circulating
  •     Identifying billed items
  •     Transferring an item record to a different title record
  •     Identifying records that need updating

Maintenance also includes recommended standards for processing new items so they can be searched in the catalog and circulated efficiently.