Friday, August 7, 2015




Since the Ancient Library of Alexandria was constructed in the 3rd century BC until recent years, libraries have enjoyed a fairly static environment. Supporting the information lifecycle or, the range of activities surrounding how information is created, disseminated, collected, organized, catalogued, described, and preserved – has always been at the core of librarians’ work.

Effective information access within a library, and,  to an even greater extent, inter-library resource sharing both presuppose that library patrons have the ability to effectively identify and locate materials of interest. With the growth of resource sharing as an explicit strategic response to the inability to fund sufficiently comprehensive local collections, access across multiple collections is becoming increasingly critical. Specifically, the ability to locate and identify materials in this context implies that patrons must be able to search the holdings of multiple libraries and to navigate among such holdings. Key technology to support these requirements is National Union Catalogue.

Union catalogues were an early and highly-successful method by which libraries took advantage of new technologies to provide value-added services for both users and librarians. Traditional union catalogues are library catalogues that contain information about holdings from different places, all presented through a single interface. For users, national union catalogues facilitate access to information by allowing users to search holdings for multiple libraries at once; browse through keywords or subject headings in larger, aggregated masses of holdings; and, at many libraries, see which library has a particular item as a first step in submitting an interlibrary loan request. Within a single institution, union catalogues connect holdings from multiple libraries. Special libraries and local consortia often establish union catalogues as a service to local patrons.

Compilation of a National Union Catalogue is one of the major tasks which is performed by the National library of any country. This fact is emphasized by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).   One of the statutory responsibilities of a National library is to build a National Union Catalogue. It has a responsibility not only to libraries within the country but also to the wider public - users at home and abroad.

Union catalogues are the result of a shared set of values common among libraries: interoperability among systems, interoperability of data through MARC records, and cooperation among participating libraries. They also require a shared goal of facilitating access to information for our users and doing what we can to create a seamless environment in which users can access information regardless of its physical location.


National Union Catalogues present an entire country’s holding.  International Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science define National Union Catalogue as follows “A generic term for a catalogue which aggregates records of the holdings of libraries in a particular country, so as to provide a particularly comprehensive national bibliographic tool, and to list locations of copies of publications held by the contributing libraries, to facilitate access and interlending. A union catalogue is, to put it simply, an assemblage of catalogue records from two or more libraries that is primarily intended to facilitate inter-library lending and other forms of resource sharing. Its fundamental idea is the obvious truth that a library user can only take advantage of the resources of other libraries if he or she knows what those resources are. The basic concept of union catalogues as the foundation of resource sharing is as relevant today as it ever was and, because of advances in cataloguing technology and the standardization of cataloguing data provides us with a more powerful and current tool than we have ever had.


National Union Catalogues provide a coherent view of the holdings of multiple libraries or library collections. They go beyond the normal functions of a single-collection catalogue, not only bringing together works by the same author or about the same subject in response to user queries, but also by bring multiple instances of the same work (perhaps described differently by different institutions) together for the user searching the database. They often offer uniform (or unifying) name and subject authorities as a means of furthering the basic catalogue objectives of bringing together works of common authorship or subject; this can compensate for variations in cataloging practice among the participant collections.

Union catalogs provide users with the ability to perform consistent searching of records from multiple institutions, in the sense that these records are indexed consistently (for example, there is uniformity in the choice of fields from the records used to construct the various search indices, and also uniformity in the way in which search keys such as keywords or personal names are extracted from these fields and normalized for indexing). In contrast to distributed search approaches, a union catalog almost trivially ensures consistent query interpretation -- for example, the application of personal name algorithms and the treatment of case and punctuation in search terms in the user query.
Finally, a union catalogue is presented to its users as a high-quality, managed information access system. This means that the system should meet standards for reasonably rapid and predictable response time, high availability and reliability, good communication about outages, and the user should expect its behavior to be highly repeatable from session to session.


Online Union Catalogue has been around since the 1970s. They take three major forms which reflect evolutionary paths of development and to some extent the business and organizational models that currently support them.
Commercial services: i.e. OCLC, where one pays to search (either transactionally or by subscription) and where the databases were at first a byproduct of very large scale shared cataloging activities. These are the largest of the "union" catalogs but they really represent multi-purpose national or international resources rather than the union catalog of a specific organized community of libraries (though with appropriate search restrictions they can fill that function.
Pure union catalogues, such as the University of California’s MELVYL system, which were developed specifically as public access union catalogues.  These systems are only now starting to integrate with external integrated systems belonging to contributors via distributed computing technology in order to provide patrons with information such as real-time circulation status.  These systems typically have at best limited links for forwarding requests to external interlibrary loan systems. In these systems consolidation is designed specifically to address the needs of users to see multiple cataloging of the same work brought together.
Union catalogue  that are part of an integrated library system shared by a group of libraries. Here there is very close integration between the catalogue and other information about materials contained in the integrated system, such as circulation and serials receiving data. Typically these systems offer sophisticated direct borrowing or interlibrary loan among the libraries sharing the system. Because of the need to maintain individual site records for cataloging purposes, the emphasis on consolidation is lower than in pure union catalogs.  Examples include the Florida State Center for Library Automation and, to an extent, Ohio link. Many large multi-branch public libraries also use systems of this type.


National Union Catalogue is a resource sharing service coordinated by the National Library of Nigeria for Nigeria Libraries and their users.

NUC is a national sharing tool containing data of the holding of participating Libraries and a programme for meeting the objectives of Universal Availability of Publication (UAP). The programme was initiated in 1963 with five major libraries (Ahmadu Bello University Library, University of Nigeria Library, University of Lagos Library, University of Ife library and National Library of Nigeria) in Nigeria participating in the scheme and holdings of both monographs and serials were sent to the National Library of Nigeria to be published as a National Union Catalogue (NUC). Contributions from the participating libraries were in the form of card catalogues.

Since the inception of the programme, a total of one hundred and two (102) libraries have participated in the scheme. In 1992, a total of ninety seven (97) libraries were regularly contributing catalogues cards to the scheme and the total number of cards in the Union Catalogue was estimated at about two million. 2006 witnessed a drastic drop of contributory libraries to only six (Yaba College of Technology, West Africa Examination Council, Hezekaih Oluwasanmi Library, Lagos State University and National Library of Nigeria).

It is worthy of note to state that an attempt had earlier been made to computerize NUC in 2003.A consulting firm, Kraun Nigeria Limited based in Jos, coordinated by Dr. Nat Adeyemi was contracted to create a databank for NUC monographs and NULOS using CDS/ISIS Software. This project failed for lack of trained personnel, logistics and requisite infrastructure to cope with the work.

Recently, there has been a shift of focus in NUC operation to ONUC. This could be termed as a shift from analog to digital. Library operations the world over are ICT driven and ONUC operations cannot be an exception. It is from this perspective that ICT was introduced into the operations of NUC in 2008.



Vision: To establish a giant Data Bank for all library holdings in Nigeria for an efficient resource sharing programme.

Mission: To enhance maximum utilization of library collections in Nigeria libraries.


The main purpose of ONUC remain more or less as before: To offer one collected source for end users and librarians to support:

Resource discovery - searching for a specific document, for literature by a certain author, or for information about a certain topic. In some cases this process is an end in itself, for instance when producing bibliographies.

Item localization - finding the holding library or even detailed shelving information for an item, usually for the purpose of accessing the document itself.

Ordering - request the loan of an item or the copy of an article. This is not necessarily a part of the union catalogue itself, but such services often are offered, together with logistics for deciding which library should receive the request and communication facilities between the libraries: ILL (Interlibrary Lending).

Cataloguing support - services for librarians to perform shared cataloguing, by accessing and copying the records themselves, or by using the catalogue as a source for authorizing names, subject headings etc.


Online National Union Catalogue (Monograph)

The Online National Union Catalogue (ONUC) is an Online National Bibliographic Control and National Resource Sharing Tool containing data of the holdings of participating libraries and a programme for meeting the objectives of Universal Availability of Publications (UAP). This is in fulfillment of one of our (National Library of Nigeria) statutory functions as contained in the enabling Act No 29 of 1970 section 2 (2a)“Maintenance of the National union Catalogue (NUC) monographs and National Union List of Serials (NULOS) and also to develop and maintain a local Area Network of Machine Readable Records and databank of National Bibliographic Control Service to be made available for effective resource sharing and free flow of information”.

Resource sharing, linkages and networking are emerging issues and trends that have become critical in today’s Information Management. Online National Union Catalogue would not only encourage resource sharing among libraries, but also enhance Bibliographic Control Services, towards Universal Availability of Publications (UAP) of Information Resources.

The ONUC involves participating libraries sending their collections to the National Library of Nigeria ONUC database after fulfilling the online data format requirement for addition to the ONUC records.

The Online National Union Catalogue should:
be based on cross-sectoral resources;
OPAC records exist;
primarily be a vehicle which supports research;
be free at the point of use;
not require authentication for resource discovery or known-item searching;
require authentication for value-added services such as inter-library loans;
be hospitable to technological developments;
be a coherent, managed, extensible, robust resource sized to cope with demand;
return reliable search results;
provide quick responses to all users, and
include bibliographic records of appropriate quality.

In short, if the catalogue is going to bear the name ‘National’, or aspire to this over a period of time, it must, from the start, be worthy of that name.

Online National Union List of Serials (NULOS)

The Online National Union List of Serials (ONULOS) programme is an offshoot of the Online National Union Catalogue (ONUC) which contains both monographs and serials publications.  The analog programme, National Union List of Serials (NULOS) was initiated in 1963 with five major libraries (Ahmadu Bello University Library, University of Nigeria Library, University of Lagos Library, University of Ife library and National Library of Nigeria) in Nigeria participating in the scheme and their holdings of both monographs and serials were sent to National Library of Nigeria for the project.  In 1968, the decision to extract serials from the stock and generate a Union List of Serials as a separate tool was made and its first edition was published in 1977 in hard copy, containing over 50, 000 entries.

The main objective of the scheme is to compile and publish the National Union List of Serials (NULOS) holdings held by all the participating libraries.


However, with renewed vigor and focused leadership, the ONUC project has taken off fully. The following are the activities undertaken by the National Library of Nigeria in the realization of its mandate:

Compilation of a comprehensive list of proposed ONUC Partners.
Final drafting, proofreading and production of Invitation Letters and Baseline Survey/Questionnaire to our proposed Partners.
Distribution/Administration of Invitation Letters and Baseline Survey/Questionnaire at NLA Cataloguing and Classification and Indexing Section Workshop/Seminar at Benin City, Edo State in October 2012. A total of thirty five (35) letters were distributed at the Conference.
Posting of One hundred and thirty three (133) Invitation Letters and Baseline Survey/Questionnaire to other proposed partners across the country in December 2012.
Receipt and documentation of completed Baseline Survey Questionnaire.

For the Online National Union Catalogue (ONUC) to be successful, it was evident that a survey was needed to determine the following;

1. The technical capability of prospective institutions in terms of ICT infrastructure and Library organization.
2. The financial capability of the Library to handle such a project. This is to ensure that there will be an institutional financial backing for prospective Libraries to partner with.
3. The human resource capability available within the Library and the institution in general that will kick start and sustain the ONUC project.
4. The level of interest of these institutions in partnering with the National Library of Nigeria in the On-Line National Union Catalogue (ONUC) project.

A committee was setup to design a survey that will be comprehensive enough to address every issue that is needed to kick-start the ONUC project. A draft copy was submitted after which another committee was setup to review the draft questionnaire. Most of the review committee members were actually part of the draft questionnaire committee with the addition of few more staff.

The final draft copy of the questionnaire was eventually ratified and approved for printing in September 2012 along with an invitation letter to institutions to partner in the ONUC programme.

Phase 1: Conversion of NUC from Analog to Digital (ONUC)

Phase 2: Mailing list updating - Regular updating of Mailing List of
Libraries nationwide is done to ensure that no Library is left out of the ONUC project.

Phase 3: Administration of survey questionnaire to Proposed ONUC Stakeholders/Partners

Phase 4: Collation of returned questionnaire

Phase 5: Evaluation and analysis of returned questionnaires

Phase 6: Stakeholders forum/meeting - Planned Meeting and brain storming with stakeholders to form the first ONUC partners.

Phase 7: Establishing network with other libraries in Nigeria for the realization of the ultimate goal of OPAC establishment and resource sharing.

Phase 8:Development Maintenance and sustenance of On-line National Union Catalogue

Phase 9: Launching and Hosting of Online National Union catalogue (ONUC).


A paradigm shift from Analog – Digital has obviously influenced the expansive partnership. The prospective partners include a spectrum of information institutions, libraries and individuals. These are academic, public, special, school and research library/information resource centers, etc.

1. University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Kwara State Academic Indicated participation
2. Crawford University, Igbesa, Ogun State Academic Indicated Participation
3. St. Pauls University College, Awka, Anambra State Academic Indicated Participation
4. OlabisiOnabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State. Academic Indicated Participation
5. Bowen University, Iwo, Osun State Academic Indicated Participation
6. University of Calabar, Calabar, Cross River State. Academic Indicated Participation
7. Benue State University, Makurdi, Benue State. Academic Indicated Participation
8. Redeemer’s University, Ogun State. Academic Indicated Participation
9. AdekunleAjasin University, AkungbaAkoko, Ondo State. Academic Indicated Participation
10. University of Maiduguri, Maiduguri, Borno State. Academic Indicated Participation
11. Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo, Benue State, Academic Indicated Participation
12 UsmanDanfodio University, Sokoto State Academic Indicated Participation
13 University of Benue, John Harris Library, Benue State Academic Indicated Participation
14 Benue State University, Benue State Academic Indicated Participation
15 MichealImodu National Institute for Labour Studies Academic Indicated Participation
16 Rivers State University of Science & Technology, Rivers State Academic Indicated Participation
17 Paul University, Awka Academic Indicated Participation
18 Federal university of Technology, Owerri, Imo State Academic Indicated Participation
19 Kaduna Polytechnic Academic Indicated Participation
20 OlabisiOnabanjo University Academic Indicated Participation
*All respondents above are from the academic institutions

It is expected that returned questionnaire will be evaluated and analyzed to form a basis for a stakeholders forum to brain storm on the objectives, scope, facilitators and other logistics for implementation.



The Union Catalogue existed in a book form
Published by Nepal National Library
Eight (8) major Nepal libraries participated

Paradigm Shift
Book form to virtual union catalogue (2011)
Its aim was to have an impact in the library community
Exploration of 239,50 series in partner libraries (3)
Application of a Free Open source software – KOHA
Configuration of KOHA
Test of partner libraries’ records in MARC format

Partners and Key Roles
Three Nepal Libraries participated
Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya (MPP): IT Team in-charge of development of VUC
Martin Chautari (MC): Sent sample MARC records and their z39.50 server information
Social Science Baha (SSB): layout and IT admin
Functional prototype of VUC
Library users can locate library resources in multiple catalogues
Search in bibliographic attributes
Download of bibliographic records in MARC format

Define the correct algorithm two query and merge records
Inconsistency in their cataloguer standard – diversity in cataloguing standards across libraries
Benefits and Impact
Librarians and researchers can benefit from NUC
Cataloguers in MARC format can be downloaded
Deployment of NUC in platforms such as LINUX and windows)
Has a simple web-based interface
Note: Participating Libraries are using KOHA ILS and have their MARC records online with KOHA OPAC


The Emerging Virtual Union Catalogue - Prospects
One possible alternative to the central database union catalogue is a Virtual Union Catalogue. Such a catalogue would not be maintained in a single location but would be created in real time by searching affiliate library’s catalogue through the Z39.50 protocol. This would eliminate the redundancy of record storage as well as the expense of loading and maintaining access to the central catalogue. A distributed catalogue makes obvious sense in our current environment where every library has its own database and retrieval interface. The wide-spread use of Z39.50 and its implementation in nearly all modern library systems means that there should not be major technological barriers to a distributed solution.

Virtual Union Catalogue (VUC) is a decentralized, electronically accessible catalogue containing holdings information of different libraries, which makes it seem like a centralized catalogue for the end-users. Using the ability to search several database with a single search, a virtual union reduces the overheads of maintaining a centralized union catalogue. A virtual union catalogue is a real time searching of geographically dispersed libraries' catalogues through the Z39.50 protocol, by which we can eliminate the redundancy of record storage as well as the huge expense of maintaining a centralized catalogue. Z39.50 allows libraries that have separate client and server installations to make their collections searchable through a single interface using Z39.50 protocol, which defines a client/server based service and protocol for Information Retrieval. It is a relatively simple, low-cost way to establish a multi-library catalogue, does not disrupt the existing environment and it can be implemented for a group of libraries even if they are using different brands of library automation systems.

Some library consortia have chosen to implement a Virtual Union Catalogue through broadcast searching of the catalogues in their consortium. This is generally a less expensive solution than the creation of an actual union catalogue database that must receive and store records from each of the library systems. In most cases it is not possible to do an evaluation of the effectiveness of these two solutions, and therefore a cost-benefit analysis is not available to library administrators who are attempting to make a decision about what type of union catalog best serves their users.


Database Consistency and Search Accuracy

If you are considering the creation of a virtual union catalog, to study the retrieval capabilities of the library systems that will be included. If you are using Z39.50 to broadcast searches to these systems, you may be able to customize the searches that are sent to each library system to help ensure that the results that you retrieve from the systems are comparable. This also means that changes to the local systems could affect the union catalogue search, so change information must be shared among the library systems.

System Availability

When you create a union catalogue, you are dependent on the system availability of each of the systems in the union catalogue. It is ideal to have agreement between the systems that they will be available certain days and hours. This catalogue solution creates a great interdependency between the libraries that are participating. If a library is taking down its system for maintenance, it may be necessary to inform other libraries in the system that it will not be available.

Capacity Planning for Library Systems and Networking

The development of a virtual union catalog design has important implications for local system search capacity and network load. Each search is broadcast to all of the local library catalogs, with the potential that each catalog will then process as many searches as the cumulative total that the libraries previously handled individually. Network capacity planning would be required to accommodate the increased bidirectional traffic between the libraries.

Sorting, Merging and Duplicate Removal

Searches issued against the union catalogue retrieve a set of records that have been merged to eliminate duplicate bibliographic records, and sorted prior to input into the database. Broadcast searches return a set of records without merging or sorting. Although Version 3.0 of the Z39.50
protocol includes a sort function, few systems currently support this feature. Even with that sort in place, the union catalogue interface would have to merge the retrieved sets as well as remove duplicate bibliographic information while maintaining individual holdings data. Because searches across our libraries often retrieve large result sets, sorting and merging is expected to be technologically challenging.


As a principle, the National Union Catalogue as mandated is open to all Nigerian libraries and Information Institutions in Nigeria, regardless of the library system been used. The criteria highlighted earlier should be considered when creating a union catalogue. Each library consortium must decide its goals for a union catalogue and weigh this against its budget and technical capabilities. The important thing is to understand the system capabilities and to plan your services around what your system can actually deliver.

National Library of Nigeria has developed a framework for the emergence of Online National Union Catalogue. A pilot project will commence with a few libraries who comply with the criteria as stated earlier. Afterwards, updating will be done periodically to improve features, and as many information institutions/ Resource Centers as possible will be requested to join in this project, which will provide an opportunity to test the performance and features of the VUC by searching a very large catalogue of nationwide.

We plan to improve this project by performing the following enhancements once the ONUC is available to the public:
A feature to enable users' comment/review of library resources: Users can also use their existing Facebook account instead of creating a new account. In this way, VUC will become more interactive and useful.
Tagging is another useful feature that can be enabled for the effective categorization of library items.
Another exciting feature that can be done in VUC is to display book covers of library items.
Adding a feature to the VUC so that users can share the library resources with their friends in social networking websites.

Realization of ONUC is essential for increasing the efficiency of Nigerian libraries cataloguing activities, and, will consequently lead to a significant improvement in services offered to users. It is also a necessary requirement for joining International Library networks. The ONUC will provide access to the rich collections of Nigerian libraries for the International Community.


Abby, Clobridge. Libraries in Transition: From Books Collections and Union Catalogues to Open Access and Digital Repositories. Retrieved from access-digital-repositories

Andrew, Lass and Richard E. Quandt. Union Catalogs in a Changing Library World: An Introduction. Retrieved from

Andrew, Lass. Union Catalogs at the Crossroad. Retrieved from

Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science.Ed. by Allen Kent and Harold Lancstor. Vol. 31.New  York: Marcel Dekker, 1981

Lynch, Clifford A.Building the Infrastructure of Resource Sharing: Michael Gorman. Union catalogues: their role in library networking and their

Michael Gorman. Union Catalogues: Their Role in Library Networking and their Continued Relevance in a Digital Age. Retrieved from

Ole, Husby. Real and Virtual Union Catalogues. Retrieved from

Peter, Stubley. Feasibility Study for a National Union Catalogue. Retrieved from Retrieved from

Thomas, Sarah E.The Catalog as Portal to the Internet. Retrieved from Union Catalogs, Distributed Search, and Cross-Database Linkage.

Ranaweera, R.A.A.S.  Effectiveness of National Union Catalogue in Sharing the Bibliographic Information in Sri Lanka. Retrieved from



1a. Is your Library automated? [     ] Yes    [     ] No

1b. If Yes in 1a, please,list the name(s) of the software.

1c. If No in 1a, are you in the process of automating?[     ] Yes    [     ] No

1d. If Yes in 1c, indicate the stage of implementation. _______________________________________


2.  Which of the following functions/activities are automated in your library? (Select all that apply)
[     ] Acquisitions [     ] Cataloguing
[     ] Circulation Control [     ] Serials Control
[     ] Inter-library Loans [     ] Library Catalogue (Online Public Access Catalogue) [     ] Others (please specify):



3.   What Classification Scheme does your Library use?  ___________________________________


4. Does your cataloguing conform with AACR II Standard?    [     ] YES    [     ] NO  

5. Is your System / Software MARC Compliant?   [     ] YES       [     ] NO

6. Is your System / Software Z39.5 Compliant?     [     ] YES       [     ] NO

7. How many library records have been automated to date? ____________________

No comments:

Post a Comment