Topic 3: Bibliographic Sources


3.1. Introduction

These are sources that link the information seekers to the appropriate information on source of information and keep control over the published literature. A bibliography is an exhaustive list of documents on a subject or list of newly published documents. Bibliographies generally provide certain bibliographic details such as author, title, place of publications etc. They identify or obtain details of a piece of literature like a book or periodical and are used to look for material in a given field  and to see if a specific book or periodical is held by one of the libraries e.g. Kenya national bibliography, British national bibliography, books in print, British books in print etc.

They are lists of books and sometimes of other materials such as the periodical articles and illustrations written by one author or during one period. Books in print help in selection, acquisition, notification or informing, teaching and researching. Bibliographic information refers to the details concerning a publication, which are sufficient to identify the publication for the purpose of ordering. Include the author, title, publisher, place of publication, edition, series, illustrations, date of publication and others.






Accession lists

Shelf lists




  • Serve as inventory and retrieval tools
  • They facilitate control over published literature thereby facilitating intellectual work
  • For researchers, they assist them on what has been written in various disciplines of subject thus reducing duplication of efforts by researchers.
  • They serve as a tool for books selection and identification.
  • Facilitates quick and easier access to information. Assist users in locating the existence of or identifying materials of their interest. They help researchers to find out what has already been written on his subject of coverage thus enabling them to be informed and updated. Avoids duplication in research. Its time saving and the secondary aim is to act as a tool for books selection and helps to identify bibliographic details.



a) National bibliographies
National bibliographies list all published within a given country. They are limited by territory. They can be both current or retrospective. They can be subject or general. They can cater for books and pamphlets, periodicals, official documents, these and dissertations, maps and atlases, musical records and films separately. Are printed or published in a specific country and produced annually. They facilitate research and avoid the duplication of literary work. The Kenya National Library Service bibliographic unit is legally mandated to prepare National bibliography in Kenya.
However they have not been consistent in this exercise and hence the need to understand the problems the institution has been encountering.
b) Universal or General bibliography
It includes everything published in a given area. It is not limited by time, language, territory, subject etc. they include all books published in every country on all subjects.
c) Trade bibliographies
They are issued by commercial organizations for business purposes e.g. book dealers, catalogues or publishers’ catalogues. Its primary role is to facilitate business or the sale and purchase of books. Its for commercial and trade.
d) Books in print (BIP)
e) Subject bibliographies
They are intended for research work and other special areas. They exhaustively list publications in a given subject/discipline.
f) Bibliography of bibliographies
These bibliographies guide users to other useful bibliographies normally by subject, place etc. it is of bibliographies.
g) Guides to reference materials
They list the best works for a given audience. They also introduce users to general reference sources which will help in research in all fields or specific fields. They give directional information. Other sources like directories list individuals or organizations. Commercial catalogues indicate the addresses of companies.


  1. Bibliographies can be selective i.e. dealing with documents meeting only a certain criteria.
  2. They can be retrospective or current
  3. Exhaustive bibliographies- They are accompanied by a brief summary of notes or abstract highlighting on the documents subject level, targeted audience and scope
  4. Entries are arranged systematically.



  • Physical format

Bibliographies are usually in card form. However there still exist online catalogues and bibliographies.

  • Purposes

Bibliographies perform both inventory and retrieval functions as well as search tools while catalogues serve as well as retrieval tools.

  • Users

They are used by scholars and information professionals.

  • Entries

Both have reasonable number of entries which are arranged systematically in both cases (can be alphabetical/classified). Consider the Author catalogue, subject catalogue, title catalogue and both online and physical catalogues.

  • Scope

They can both be universal in nature. They list all documents irrespective of originality, time, subject and nature.

NB/ Bibliographies are an organized list of documents not limited for a particular collection while a catalogue is a list of documents or a good holding of a library.

  • Annotations

Some bibliographies may leave annotations while catalogues just state.



3.7.1. Systematic or Enumerative Bibliography

Systematic bibliography is the straight forward listing of individual items with minimum details. It requires adequate knowledge covering published works. The objective of it is to collate and arrange information about individual books and related materials in a logical useful order. It is enumerated because some selection has been done in the choice of what is to be included.


Types of systematic bibliography

  • Universal bibliography
  • National bibliography
  • Trade bibliography
  • Bibliography of bibliographies

Selection in enumerative and systematic bibliography involves accepting those items for inclusion which fall within the scope of the book.



This is the application of analytical bibliography to the conten

ts of books. Its chief purpose is to determine the effect of writing or the printing process on the correctness or completeness of a text. An analytical bibliography is concerned more with the physical aspects of a book while textual bibliography is more interested in the author’s work/words and tries to determine the exact words that the author intended should constitute his work.



This refers to the study of books in terms of objects of arts and concern oneself with the act of writing, printing and binding.



  • Purpose – the need that the bibliography was designed
  • Scope – completeness of the coverage
  • Methodology – methods of compilation
  • Organization – it should be clear and easy to use manner
  • Annotations – (abstracts)- where descriptive / critical notes are used for entries, they should be clear, specific and informative
  • Bibliographic form (format)
  • Currency
  • Accuracy.


Revision Exercise 3.

  1. Explain five limitations of a general bibliography as a tool of collection development.
  2. discuss four factors considered in selecting bibliographic sources
  3. Highlight four major types of bibliographic sources
  4. Explain the reasons why bibliographic information should be recorded systematically
  5. Highlight four types of bibliographic sources expected in a medical library
  6. Discuss the relevance of electronic bibliographic sources in an information center
  7. Discuss the role of bibliographic center/agency in the management of bibliographies and with relevance to Kenya
  8. State the problems that Kenya National Library services has faced in the process of bibliographic preparation.


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