505 Formatted contents notes

marc21logoAs a full-time cataloguer I see a lot of copy.  Lately I’ve noticed that many libraries are beginning to use the formatted contents note.  However, I have noticed some inconsistencies and you can imagine how much that bugs me…

Some put initial articles in a subfield g and some do not.

Examples: tThe maiden’s promise      vs.    gThetmaiden’s promise.

I have searched high and low for a definitive answer and came up with the following from OCLC.

Do not use subfield ‡g to separate initial articles from titles in field 505. Initial articles in titles should be included in subfield t when inputting an enhanced contents note. The correct transcription of formal contents notes is governed by:

  • AACR2 rule 2.7B18 and its Library of Congress Rule Interpretation
  • The corresponding contents note rules (and Library of Congress Rule Interpretations) in subsequent AACR2 chapters

If anyone can come up with a good argument (with documentation) to refute OCLC’s statements, then I would be very interested in hearing them.   I wonder if the rules are influenced by different software programs.  Perhaps the index needs the initial articles outside of the subfield t ?


2 responses to “505 Formatted contents notes

  1. Thank you so much for posting this! I’ve wondered about this for quite some time but had no idea where to look it up. Thanks!

  2. I suspect you are correct about software influencing the implementation of this rule.

    It has never made sense to me that we are instructed to include the initial articles in 505 ‡t, if this field is actually being indexed in the title index.

    When I search the same title from a 505 ‡t in three different catalogs that I use frequently–Library of Congress, Vanderbilt, and Princeton Theological Seminary–none of them find it when doing a title search unless the initial article is INCLUDED in the search.

    The title I used for testing is “The psychology of women’s religious experience,” an article which appears in ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WOMEN AND RELIGION IN NORTH AMERICA. These three libraries have included the incredibly and wonderfully long table of contents in their catalog record.

    In the LC catalog, only a keyword search finds the title.

    At PTS, the OPAC instructions specifically state that titles should be entered WITHOUT the initial article.

    If the catalog’s default title search is a keyword-in-title, including the initial article in ‡t would work fine.

    If the default title search is “title begins with,” the library user probably won’t find these 505 titles unless initial articles are either placed in ‡g or eliminated completely.

    Catalogs which offer a “Did you mean. . .” response which automatically reverts to a keyword search handle this situation better, but can be confusing when the text they offer is identical to the search just completed.

    Unfortunately, using 505 ‡g for initial articles may create significant problems with OPAC displays when using future software. Compare the display difference between the three libraries for the title I mentioned above. Then compare with the display for my library (http://wpc.scoolaid.net.) Four libraries; four different display layouts for an identically coded 505 field.

    In my library, when I download records which have initial articles in ‡g, I end up deleting those subfields because they trash the OPAC display and don’t enhance the likelihood of finding the desired title.

    Pat Shufeldt
    Westminster Presbyterian Church Library
    Greenville, SC

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