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Canadian Extensions to U.S. Subject Access Tools

There’s an interesting write up in this month’s Library Resources & Technical Services journal by Robert P. Holley a LIS prof at Wayne State.  Subject Access Tools in English for Canadian Topics surveys the penchant of the Canadian library profession’s to adapt and build on existing American subject access tools.  Holley includes our Canadian Subject Headings, FC Classification for history, PS8000/9000 for Canadian lit and even briefly touches on our law classification developed at the York University Law Library:  KF Modified.  A useful historical overview.


Response to Mann's Response to LC Report

James Weinheimer, Director of Library and Information Services, at the American University of Rome, has posted a response to Thomas Mann’s comments on the WoGroFuBiCo report. He begins by saying: “While I agree with many of the points raised in Mr. Mann’s report, there are
important differences that I feel need to be discussed and debated
.” Weinheimer provides some excellent commentary on the shortcomings of LCSH and classification and how they are accessed in current library catalogues. Interesting reading and a great follow up to Mann’s response.


Scholarly Research and the Future of Bibliographic Control

Thomas Mann has written a response to the LC Working Group report on the future of bibliographic control. In it he questions the underlying assumptions of the WoGroFuBiCo report and cautions that a “one size fits all” approach to information seeking will have a detrimental effect on how scholarly research. He demonstrates that controlled vocabularies such as LCSH provide researchers with the capability to acquire a systematic overview of their research area, “one of the most difficult tasks they encounter” especially when exploring a new area.

He points out that the current reliance on keyword searching and “facetization” may make it easier for cataloguers and non-cataloguers to assign subject headings but the effort saved by information professionals is a burden that will then fall on individual researchers.

The genius of LCSH’s control is that it gives us systematic pathways to gain a reasonably comprehensive overview of the full range of book literature on any topic, even though we may not have any prior subject expertise in the subject to be researched, may know nothing in advance of its vocabulary (in multiple languages), its component parts, or its relationships to other topics—narrower, related, broader, or tangential…”

Mann goes on to question the current LC management plan to reorganize the LC cataloguing department to “minimize (or even eliminate)” subject expertise and notes that the “drain of professionalism from the Cataloging department, caused by increasing retirements that management does not see fit to remedy through more hiring, has already become very serious.”

He offers these sobering concluding remarks:

If the Library of Congress succeeds in dumbing down its own subject cataloging operations through this reorganization, there will be serious negative consequences for all American scholars who wish to pursue their topics comprehensively and at in-depth research levels, and for libraries in every Congressional District whose financial constraints make them more dependent than ever on the continued supply of quality subject cataloging from the Library of Congress.”

From the moment I first read, Library research methods : a guide to classification, cataloging and computers, in the mid-90s I have been a fan of Thomas Mann’s thoughtful writing and clear approach to scholarly research. This is a recommended and useful critique of the current state of ‘bibliographic control’ at the Library of Congress relevant to research libraries everywhere.


LCSH Pre- vs. Post-Coordination and Related Issues

CPSO (the Cataloging Policy and Support Office at the Library of Congress) prepared this report on the Library of Congress Subject Headings for Beacher Wiggins (Director, Acquisitions & Bibliographic Access Directorate, at LC) in March of 2007. It has since been revised and annotated to reach its current form dated December 20, 2007. The purpose of the report was to review the “pros and cons of pre- versus post-coordination” of LCSH.

Many of the pre- vs. post-coordination decisions documented in this report address recommendations recently made in the report of the Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control, especially section 4.3 “Optimize LCSH for Use and Re-Use.” LC will be responding to specific recommendations from that Working Group report later this year.

There are a lot of interesting documents in the appendices including: comments from Lois M. Chan (Thoughts on LCSH), Daniel N. Joudrey and Arlene G. Taylor (LCSH Strings – some thoughts); Difference between Google Results and a Browse Display of LCSH
Comparison of Search Results of a Post-Coordinate versus Pre-Coordinate Approach; and a report on an LC Staff Survey on Subject Cataloging.

A must read for anyone interested in the future of LCSH.


Browse LCSH

This is an interesting project by the German cataloguer Bernhard Eversberg. He’s created a browsable database of LC subject headings. The starting point is from here <http://www.biblio.tu-bs.de/db/lcsh/index.htm>.

You can browse on: LCSH Terms; Phrases; Words; Names; and Titles.

Here’s an example using the term ‘remedies’ in the Phrase browse:

o remedies (12)
o remedies : Administrative remedies
o remedies : Equitable remedies
o remedies : Exhaustion of administrative remedies
o remedies : Exhaustion of local remedies [International law]
o remedies : Extraordinary remedies
o remedies : Extraordinary remedies [Roman law]
o remedies : Herbs — Therapeutic use
o remedies : Naturopathy
o remedies : Post-conviction remedies
o remedies : Provisional remedies
o remedies : Remedies [Islamic law]
o remedies : Remedies [Law]
o remedies : Traditional medicine
o remedies islamic law : Remedies [Islamic law]
o remedies law : Remedies [Law]
o remedies, administrative : Administrative remedies
o remedio : Virgen del Remedio [Alicante, Spain]

Clicking on a heading brings up the authority record in the right-hand side of the display along with the opportunity to try a search for the term in WorldCat and some other databases.

He also provides a Boolean interface here <http://www.biblio.tu-bs.de/db/lcsh/detail.php> where you can either search or browse the LC subject authority file.

Give it a try and see what you think.