by Stefania Manzi and Enrico Martellini
The continuous development of electronic resources and their increasing importance as a part of library collections make their exclusion from the catalogue more and more unjustifiable.
However, a decision to catalogue electronic resources brings with it two major problems. On the one hand we see a partial change in the nature of the catalogue itself, as it moves from providing information about the documents that the library stores physically to providing information about the documents whose accessibility is assured by the library; and on the other we experience the emergence of new dilemmas, such as the choice of the electronic resources to be catalogued, how to catalogue them, and the relation between the catalogue and other tools that provide access to these publications.
As regards the choice of the electronic resources to be catalogued, criteria can change according to the sort of resource. Different problems result from local access electronic resources, free remote access electronic resources and fee-paying remote access electronic resources, and it is in any case difficult to delineate sharp boundaries in respect of both the local/remote and the free/fixed-fee dichotomy.
The problems concerning how the electronic resources are to be catalogued go beyond the choice of cataloguing rules and standards and concern other matters such as: the exact specification of the documents to be catalogued and of their hierarchical level; the multiple versions problem, that is, the choice between creating an autonomous bibliographic record for every document to be catalogued or creating only one record for all of them; the need to create bibliographic records that inform the users about the permitted and prohibited uses of the electronic resources, about their accessibility and about their location.
Lastly, even if the library decides to catalogue electronic resources, it would be better to utilize other tools in addition, in particular web pages, as a starting point for the access to these kinds of resources. The electronic environment, where catalogue, web pages and electronic resources live together, allows the integration of all these elements and easy navigation from one to another.