Tag Archives: Subject Headings

Cataloguing Potpourri

A couple of interesting items for discussion have come across various listservs lately. So, while many of you may have seen the following items, I thought I’d post them for those who haven’t.

Article of Interest
After losing users in catalogs, libraries find better search software
This is an article by Marc Parry in the Chronicle of High Education.
Here’s a sampling of what’s discussed:

The problem is that traditional online library catalogs don’t tend to order search results by ranked relevance, and they can befuddle users with clunky interfaces…

…That’s changing because of two technology trends. First, a growing number of universities are shelling out serious money for sophisticated software that makes exploring their collections more like the easy-to-filter experience you might find in an online Sears catalog.

Second, Virginia and several other colleges, including Villanova University and the University of Rochester, are producing free open-source programs that tackle the same problems with no licensing fees.

A key feature of this software genre is that it helps you make sense of data through “faceted” searching, common when you shop online for a new jacket or a stereo system. Say you type in “Susan B. Anthony.” The new system will ask if you want books by her or about her, said Susan L. Gibbons, vice provost and dean of Rochester’s River Campus Libraries. Users can also sort by media type, language, and date.

Discussion Paper addressing the subject access treatment for cooking and cookbooks
This came across several listservs, but as they are asking for feedback, I’m reposting the announcement in its entirety.

In response to a long-standing and generally recognized need to modernize the subject headings treatment for cooking and cookbooks, the ABA Policy and Standards Division (PSD) of the Library of Congress is in the initial planning stages of a project to revise the headings used in this area. A discussion paper has been posted. Tentative decisions have been made about some aspects of the project; for other aspects, various options are under consideration and no decisions have yet been made. PSD invites public comment on the plans described in the discussion paper.

In recognition of public interest in this topic and of the enormous number of subject heading revisions involved, as well as the volume of materials affected by this policy decision, comment is encouraged. Interested parties are invited to send comments on these plans to Libby Dechman at edec@loc.gov. The deadline for comment is December 1, 2009.


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Aboriginal Peoples in Canada – LAC’s Canadian Subject Headings Announcement

August 2009 – Announcement from Library and Archives Canada (LAC)

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) initiated a review in 2007 of the terminology used in Canadian Subject Headings (CSH) to identify Aboriginal peoples in Canada. A LAC proposal to change these headings was posted on several discussion lists for comment. To recap, the proposal was to change the existing headings “Indians of North America” to “First Nations”, “Native peoples” to “Aboriginal peoples” and headings for individual peoples such as “Sarcee Indians” to simply “Sarcee”.

The feedback we have received since then from some 35 institutions or individuals indicates a recognition of the inadequacies and outdatedness of many of the existing headings. However, some users of CSH expressed concern about systems difficulties for them when Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) and CSH terms differ for the same concepts, as they would if LAC were to go ahead with the proposed changes. There was also some concern raised about the choice of the proposed new headings, and a lack of consensus on better terminology.

LAC has studied the feedback to the proposal thoroughly, and also consulted with the editors of LCSH and RVM as to future directions in those lists, considering that terminology differs in Canada and the United States. Based on these factors, LAC has decided not to go ahead for now with the changes as proposed. We will instead make a start by considering changing headings for specific Aboriginal peoples on a case by case basis, to see what we can do to improve access. We would be pleased to hear specific suggestions for terminology changes in line with this direction.

Since the overall problems with subject headings for Aboriginal peoples remain, LAC is not closing the file on this question. However, we believe the modest approach outlined above will serve to make a start at improving access in the short run.

This anouncement, released by David Farris of LAC, made the rounds on the listservs early last week. If you belong to AUTOCAT, in particular, there was quite a bit of discussion on this post.

I was disappointed with LAC’s statement, hoping that all of Canada would have the national library to look to for direction. But I’m hopeful for the future. In the meantime, our own library has taken this project on and, to our way of thinking, improved access to our First Nation/Aboriginal Peoples collections. This is the content from my post on AUTOCAT with respect to LAC’s announcement:

Several years ago, we changed our SH’s to reflect the needs of our local community, and, in general, the Canadian public. When we proposed our changes, I sent the information to LAC and while they were very interested, they weren’t ready at that time to take any steps. I believe going ahead with these changes may have labeled us “Radical Cataloguers” but we had to decide whether it was better to continue using inaccurate terms created by the US, or Canadian terms that more appropriately represent our unique culture and Peoples.

As with any heading, I think labeling is tricky as self-identifying terms change over time. However, we felt that if our national library was not in a position to make the change, we are. We’re the first library in Canada to do this. Crazy? Maybe, but better to take a step in the right direction, make mistakes and learn from them. At least our communities see that we are trying and are very appreciative.

If you want to take a look at the terms we have now implemented and are using (and my thoughts on the topic),check out these posts:
Native Peoples v. Indigenous Peoples v. Aboriginals…are any of the terms really any good?

Indigenous Peopls v. Native Peoples Cataloguing Guidelines
**As a follow-up to this article, we have now implemented the use of First Nations in our catalogue

Indigenous and Aboriginal Peoples Resources

And, if you want to see the use of these terms in action, you can search Halifax Public Libraries’ catalogue.


Filed under Access Issues, Subject Headings

Recommended Reading

I’ve been waiting for the arrival of our newest professional collection title The Power to Name by Hope A. Olson. Hope was my cataloguing professor in graduate school. I have read other books by Hope, including Subject Analysis in Online Catalogs, and I find her writing comprehensive and interesting.

The summary reads as follows:

The names we give things colour the ways we perceive them. Those in a position to name hold the power to construct others’ perceptions and realities. This book looks at the pervasive naming of information that libraries undertake as a matter of course through representation of subjects. It examines the 19th century foundations, current standards and canonical application of internationally-used classification (Melvill Dewey and his decimal scheme) and subject headings (Charles Cutter and the Library of Congress Subject Headings). A feminist poststructural critique is used to reveal the presumption that these standards are universally applicable even though their marginalizations and exclusions are well-documented. The book will be of interest to librarians, information scholars and professionals, researchers interested in representation and the construction of meaning, and anyone who uses a library.

I can’t wait to start reading this and, given the topic, recommend it to all cataloguing and information professionals. As many of you are aware from reading this blog, I believe our role in libraries is key to access of information and we must understand the influence we have over communities when “labelling” items for access.


Filed under Access Issues, Our Profession, Subject Headings

Contextualizing Subject Access Across Digital Collections

This is a bit old (2006) but Joseph Dalton’s presentation on Contextualizing Subject Access Across Digital Collections is still a useful resource to go through. When I reviewed it, it sparked some thinking on my part as to how I can apply Mr. Dalton’s ideas to our non-digital collection. I’m always interested in professionals discussing access issues.  Those of you who work with digital materials may find it especially useful.

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“We want to look for concepts, but we are forced to search for words”

This quote is from my old Online Retrieval textbook by Geraldine Walker and Joseph Janes. 

I’ve been rereading this textbook to reacquaint myself with the theory behind information classification and retrieval.  I’m really enjoying the discussions on the intangible nature of information, information organization and why technology cannot replace the service that information professionals provide.  I am also enjoying the emphasis on the importance of bibliographic databases, such as library catalogues, over the use of the internet.

The first chapter of this text, “The Search for Information in the Online Age” focuses on information retrieval in a society that is facing information overload.  Originally, cataloguers were charged with the tasks of collecting and preserving information. With high literacy rates and the spread of digital information, our focus has shifted to figuring out ways to retain and find information.  With the abundance of print and digital materials available, it is no longer expected that libraries will maintain all of the physical items in one place. We are expected to organize the information so that it can be retrieved, wherever it is or isn’t physically located (ie. digital information, downloadable programs and documents).

While it is true that technology has assisted us greatly in the storage and retrieval of information, it cannot replace what we do.  Despite the belief that the internet or copy cataloguing is a cheap and easy solution, there is a human side of information seeking that cannot be forgotten.  From my understanding of this text, in-house information specialists (cataloguers) add an intellectual and human element to information retrieval.  The first and most obvious need for “real” cataloguers involves reviewing information.  Are there spelling errors, words that have been misused, incorrect data, or inappropriate subject headings?  Is the material outdated?

As a cataloguer in Canada, I can give you several examples in our catalogue where the human element is also important.  We take almost all of our subject headings and authorities from LC.  However, we do not use the heading “African American” in our library system.  We use the subject heading “Blacks”.  As a result, when we copy catalogue, all of the records with African American have to be edited to use our local term.  Our headings for Indigenous/Aboriginal Peoples differ from LC as well.  Cataloguers in each library create local headings to help “customize” our catalogues and records to assist in fulfilling their specific community’s needs.  Cataloguing, and as an extension bib records, are not a one-size fits most” model.

While many people will flippantly say that most information can just be searched on the internet, my response is to point out that information on the internet is not evaluated, filtered or organized.  Many times, if you perform the same exact search twice, the results retrieved will differ.  The internet retrieves large amounts of information that must be evaluated before it is selected.  Our catalogues already do that for patrons.  Catalogues also provide controlled vocabulary and reliable resources.

The first chapter of this text goes on to explore the usefulness of different types of searching for information seekers.  They do not fit a “model” and they all have different needs.  We do not know what an information seeker will find relevant and what is relevant to one seeker may not be relevant to another.  Also, information seekers use information and seek information for different reasons.  I find this aspect of searching fascinating, especially when I’m cataloguing or thinking of future policies and procedures.  How we catalogue helps define people’s searches and the information they will retrieve.  Their training in our catalogue will shape their searches and our “labeling” of materials when using subject headings may impact whether or not an information seeker chooses a resource.

Reading again how information retrieval works from an information seeker’s perspective continues to be a form of professional development for me.  Bogged down by the politics and tasks of daily library life, it’s easy to forget the theories and ideals behind what we do.  For instance, it is nice to be reminded that our catalogue is not, even in its most basic form, a one-sided tool.   Information seeking and information retrieval is an interactive process that we play a vital role in.  How we structure our catalogues, format our bib summaries and catalogue items impact information seekers.  And, our information seekers impact how we catalogue and the appearance of our catalogue.  We are a group of interlinking entities that react, shift and move forward together.

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Cataloguing Graphic Novels and Graphic Non-Fiction, Part I

I thought I’d write about cataloguing graphic novels and graphic non-fiction today. This is an issue that was raised in our department recently and involved the addition of subject headings to our records to identify fiction and non-fiction graphic novels. In other words, what do we put in the $v of the 650 field.

Before I go into this though, it is important to understand what we put in our 655 field. The reason for this is that my decision regarding the use and subdvision of subject headings was based on what we include in our 655s.

Because this could end up being a very long post, I’m going to split this discussion into two entries. In this post, I am going to talk about 655 genre headings for Graphic Fiction and Non-Fiction.

When we began our graphic novel collection, our practice was to add 655 genre headings only. There were no subject headings assigned because all of the graphic novels belonged in the YA and Adult collections. The rationale was that the collection was small enough that those patrons looking for graphic novels would search by genre or series, rather than subject.

In later years, we started developing a Juvenile graphic novel collection as well as an Adult and YA graphic non-fiction collection. Issues then arose over how to differentiate between the Adult/YA collection and the J collection. At this time, all of the graphic novels were still fiction. As a result, all of the items which fell under “Graphic Novels” were given the classification number 741.5. Wanting to retain this uniformity, it was decided that we needed to take a closer look at the genre headings to help patrons distringuish J, YA and Adult graphic novels.

It was then decided that we would make local genre headings based on the LC’s genre headings. This would allow patrons to continue to browse by genre, series, artists, etc. and at the same time, be able to distinguish if it was a J graphic novel or Adult/YA graphic novel by looking at the genre headings in the bibliographic record. In addition, separate collection codes were created for each.

Example of LC’s genre headings with our local headings are below:
655 _ 7 $aFantasy comic books, strips, etc. $2lcsh
655 _ 7 $aFantasy comic books, strips, etc., Juvenile. $2local

655 _7 $aGraphic novels. $2lcsh
655 _7 $aGraphic novels, Juvenile.$2local

655 _7 $aComic books, strips, etc. $2lcsh
655 _7 $aComic books, strips, etc., Juvenile. $2local

Also, cataloguers were given the go ahead to create new genre headings if they felt a more specific genre heading would be appropriate. However, they would only be at liberty to do so if the “new” genre heading related to our LC fiction genres already found in the catalogue.

This policy was working very well and frontline staff were providing us with positive feedback, until graphic non-fiction started to make its appearance. When we started to grow a graphic non-fiction collection and the content began to become more mature, we needed to think about how we were cataloguing fiction and non-fiction.

With the growing popularity of graphic non-fiction, we had to make further choices for access of these materials. Our first decision was to classify graphic non-fiction in accordance with our existing practices of cataloguing non-fiction. Each graphic non-fiction item would be assigned a classification number that reflected the content of the item. At that time, we also decided to alter our genre headings to reflect fiction or non-fiction. In this regard, we created local genre headings that mirrored the existing graphic novels headings.

Graphic novels (fiction)
655 _7 $a Graphic novels. $2lcsh or 655 _7 $a Graphic novels, Juvenile. $2local

Graphic non-fiction
655 _7 $aGraphic non-fiction. $2local or 655 _7$aGraphic non-fiction, Juvenile. $2local

As a result, the classification number and collection code would indicate that the item was non-fiction, and the 655 genre heading(s) would indicate whether the item was fiction, non-fiction, J, YA or Adult.

My next post will deal directly with the challenges, our original decision on how to deal with it, and then our reversal in this decision and how we catalogue these materials. Specifically, it will discussion the introduction of subject headings in graphic novels/non-fiction bibliographic records.

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