Policy: Single v. Separate Records


Traditional national practice has been to catalog every manifestation of a title on its own bibliographic record (‘separate records’). Exceptions have been made in the past for electronic resources, first for serials and then for monographs: an electronic version is added to the same bibliographic record for a print resource (‘single record’). At the current time, separate records are the widely-accepted best practice. Legacy single records may remain for the long term due to past practice: for example, records for the U.S. Newspaper Project, the Oregon and Washington State depositories, and the U.S. Government Publishing Office.


  • Alliance member libraries must use separate bibliographic records for each format of a single title
  • Members are not required to convert migrated single records. Specific conversion projects may be undertaken to solve problems in Primo

Additional Rationale

Separate records provide for simpler maintenance, particularly in a batch load environment, but may require more effort to create new records. Single records, on the other hand, provide a simpler user experience and may save time in the creation of records, but are difficult and expensive to maintain when batch loading is involved.

In a shared catalog, a fundamental principle is that each title should be treated only one way; that is, it does not make sense to have both separate records and a single record for a given title. In our shared ILS, where records come from many sources and many libraries work on them, separate records for electronic resources seems the only workable alternative. If we were to use single records, problems with batch load conflicts would be nearly impossible to resolve.

Another reason to use separate records is that Primo allows users to refine their searches using faceting by format, which is dependent on the coding in the bibliographic record. For Primo faceting to work accurately and comprehensively, resources must be on bibliographic records that specifically describe their formats. Primo icons also serve as guides to selection of materials and they rely on coding in the bibliographic record in order to correctly correspond to the resource.


Current status: Approved

Written by: Bibliographic Mandates Review Group

Approved by:

  • Collaborative Workforce Team on 03/08/2016
  • Technical Services Working Group on 02/16/2016
  • Shared Content and Technical Services Team on 03/11/2021

Last updated: 03/11/2021

Nature of last update: revised policy