Cataloging: On the Fly Items

Purpose: On-the-fly items are documents and books to facilitate prompt circulation but are not linked to a full record.  Most commonly, these items come from the Government Documents collection.  Occasionally, items from the stacks will turn up without barcodes as well.

In these cases, Circulation creates a temporary record called an on-the-fly record in order to check the item out to a borrower.  This temporary record typically consists of a brief bib record in all caps with an item record attached. When the item is returned, Cataloging staff transfer the item record to a viable bibliographic record and delete the temporary bib record.


  1. From Sierra Catalog search screen, select (b) barcode index and scan the item’s barcode. Click Search or press Enter to call up the item record.
  2. If the call number begins with “St. Docs,” set the item aside to bring to Special Collections (they process their own on-the-fly items). Otherwise, proceed:
  3. Check the IMessage field in the item record.  If IMessage = f, then continue.  If not, put the item aside as it is not an on-the-fly record.
  4. Keeping the bib record window open, toggle back to the search screen and enter a title, author, call number, or ISBN search to find the proper bibliographic record for the item. (See Copy Cataloging: Pre-Cat URSUS Search for more information.)
  5. If the proper catalog record is not found, put the item aside for OCLC copy cataloging and bib record overlay.  If the record is found, continue:
  6. Toggle back to the on-the-fly record. (Note: selecting Tile Horizontally or Tile Vertically from the Window menu will allow for side-by-side display of both records).
  7. From the on-the-fly record, go to the Edit menu and select Transfer Attached. The bib record # for the proper catalog record will appear as an option.  Select it.
  8. Select: Transfer All Attached Records, Delete Source Bib.*
  9. Close all windows, return to the search screen and call up the item again by scanning the barcode.
  10. Double check that the transfer was successful, and make sure that all of the item record fields are correct: Location, Call number, Volume (if applicable), Status, I-type.
  11. No statistics are kept on the number of on-the-fly records that are deleted. However, statistics are kept on the number of items that are newly linked to a bib record.

Overlaying a New Bibliographic Record from OCLC
If processing a particular on-the-fly item requires the downloading of a new record from OCLC, follow the steps below:

  1. Begin as instructed in the Copy Cataloging page.
  2. When entering the 949 command line, use the following format:94933*ov-.bxxxxxxxx;b1-b;b2-o;b3-8;bn-oro
  3. xxxxxxxx = the bib record number of the on-the-fly record.
  4. If the item is not a monograph, replace the “b” in b1-b with the appropriate material code.
  5. Do not add the remainder of the command line string normally used when downloading and creating a new item record.
  6. Proceed, as usual, with Step 4 from the Copy Cataloging procedures.


*If an error message appears stating that the item cannot be deleted because it is still checked out, return the item to circulation.  It will come back to Cataloging in a few days ready for deletion.

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