9.2. Multilevel description

See also: 6.J

9.2.A. As with analytic description, multilevel description permits detailed description of the contents of a physical item or of a collection. The opposite effect, to analytic description, however, is obtained with multilevel description which adds layers of information to a first level record representing a container or, more usually, a collection of containers.

Multilevel description is normally applied by archives and cataloguing agencies which prepare entries needing complete identification of both part and comprehensive whole in a single record, where the description of the whole is displayed as its primary element. Additionally it has traditionally been used in those archives and cataloguing agencies which apply the technique of fonds and collection level cataloguing (see Appendix A).

This first level record is a broad collective description for all the contents of a container, or more usually a collection of physical items.

Second and subsequent levels will provide description of parts of the whole. Depending on the volume of material comprising the whole, the second level may relate to a group of physical items (which for example may form a series in an archival collection or fonds) or it may relate to one physical item (which for example may be an individual disc published as part of a set of discs, or may be an individual item or recording in a collection or fonds).

The whole multilevel description is contained in a single cataloguing record. Thus the description of the content is effectively hierarchically embedded in the multilevel description , so reflecting the natural position (or 'order of provenance ') of the individual (or group of) recording(s) as created in the collection, or presented in a published compilation set of discs, etc.

For this reason, multilevel catalogue records may extend to considerable length involving many pages, or many screens on a computer display.

Depending on the information retrieval requirements and/or cataloguing policies and resources of the particular archive of cataloguing agency, multilevel description may or may not extend to the level of the individual recording.

Also depending on the archive's or cataloguing agency's information retrieval and display requirements multilevel descriptions may either:

a) imply that information document ed in higher levels of the multilevel description hierarchy naturally relates or 'flows down' to the lower levels (and therefore need not be repeated in the lower levels), or

b) be designed to include important information at the more detailed levels, even if some information is repeated.

9.2.B.1. Divide the descriptive information into two or more levels. The first level will consist only of information relating to the broadest context which is common to all contents. This may be a single carrier or a collection of carriers. The second level will consist of information relating to a group of recordings or a single recording contained on that carrier or within that collection. If the second level describes a group of recordings, use a third level to describe any individual recordings from that group

9.2.B.2. See also: 9.0.C.2 Follow the punctuation rules which apply to corresponding area.

Distinguish each level clearly with an appropriate heading.

First level

Distinguish each discrete entry with an appropriate numeric or alphanumeric as appropriate to the material being catalogued.


9.2.C. Example of a multilevel entryExample 5 in 9.1.C above would therefore appear instead:

First level:
India Office Library and Records interviews. Memories of the British in India / collected by the British Library India Office Library & Records. - 1970-1990. - Copyright: British Library. - 109 reels.

Collection of 205 separate interviews.
Unpublished tapes.
Copies also held at the School of Oriental and African Studies

Second level:
1. [Oral history interview with Carlyle Edmund Seppings]. - Recorded 1982-10-27 .
Carlyle Edmund Seppings, male interviewee, interviewed by David Blake.

Interview lasts approximately 4 hours.
Final section of low sound quality due to battery running down.
Summary: Seppings interviewed about his life in Burma until 1950.

Background and education in Burma; university at Rangoon and attitudes to Burmese people; outbreak of World War 2 and joining Burma Rifles; 1st Burma campaign, especially action at Sittang Bridge; Special Operations Executive (SOE) in the Inter ...etc.
(Here the first level describes the collection as a whole. The second level commences with details of the first interview in the collection)