The Rule of Three

Anyone who has ever taken a cataloguing course will recognize the term “The Rule of Three”.  But… does it really matter anymore?  Shock ! Horror!  A cataloguer who is questioning the validity of a cataloguing rule!

In cases where more than three authors share responsibility for the creation of a work, the  Rule of Three dictates that the catalog should provide added entry under only the first author named. This practice discriminates unfairly against the authors whose names are not included and hampers those patrons who only recall the name of one or more of those authors overlooked by the catalogue.

card catalogue drawer

card catalogue drawer

The rule was created in the days of the card catalogue.  Remember the lovely oak ones with the tiny little index cards.  To cut down on the amount of cards (and the amount of typing) it made sound sense to go with “The rule of three”.

Now however, with the online catalogue, it makes even more sense to forget the rule.  If a work has six authors why not trace all six?  It is simply a matter of entering the names in 700 tags.  Be honest, if you helped to write a book and your name was entered fifth, wouldn’t you want to be able to access the work by your name?

The Library of Congress is currently reviewing the ‘rule of three’.  There is a proposal to make the limitations imposed by the rule ‘optional‘.

Rule 21.29D currently allows for additional added entries to be made if required by cataloguers.

Making the ‘Rule of Three’ optional for bibliographic description increase access and is more designed for today’s digital environment.

The amended Rule 1.1F5 would read:

1.1F5  If a single statement of responsibility names more than three persons or corporate bodies performing the same function, or with the same degree of responsibility, omit all but the first of each group of such persons or bodies.  Indicate the omission by the mark of omission [… et al.] Optionally, transcribe statements of responsibility appearing in the chief source of information in full, regardless of the number of persons or corporate bodies named.

I have chosen to exercise the option.  Have you?  I am interested to hear how other cataloguers are dealing with this issue.


One response to “The Rule of Three

  1. Pingback: Promises, promises « Carol's Blog

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