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Functional Requirements for Subject Authority Data (FRSAD) — Invitation to Review Draft

IFLA has issued an invitation to review the recently completed draft of the Functional Requirements for Subject Authority Data (FRSAD): A Conceptual Theory.

The draft is available at this website <> or you can go directly to the PDF file here <>.

Comments are due by July 31, 2009 and should be submitted to and

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.

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.

Folksonomies or “Social Tagging”

You may or may not have heard of folksonomies, sometimes referred to as social tagging. These words have been getting quite a bit of press of late in the library world. So just what is it?

Folksonomies provide a way for people to classify things on the web. These one-word classification terms are often referred to tags and act, in some ways, like LCSH headings by organising information into subject areas. You can “tag” digital photos, websites, blog postings, all sorts of things! The big difference between folksonomies and LCSH heading is that these tags are not controlled by a list of preferred terms therefore you can “tag” your “item” with anything you like. Because these tags are produced by individuals, often produced “on the fly” and also often in a social setting, they may only make sense to the person who produces the tag. While I may tag a photo with “cat”, someone else may tag it with something completely different, like “kitty” or “tiger” or even “Spot” if they happen to be on a first name basis with the cat. This can produce quite fascinating results. However an obvious problem is that when you want to search for something, like this particular photo, you have to guess at what another person has called their item. If you never think to search for “spot” you will never find the photo. Unlike our library catalogue, which uses the authority file to direct users to the “preferred term”, there are no preferred terms with folksonomies–anything goes!

Some interesting online uses of folksonomies include Flickr, a online community devoted to sharing photos; you can go to Library Thing and tag your personal library; and check out 43 Things for a fun use of social tagging. Technorati is an online service that allows users to tag their blog postings, making searching and sorting of blogs easier. Like Technorati, allows blogs to tag content, it also allows you to store and sort your bookmarks into subjects. I have used to tag posts on the YorkBibBlog and a “tag roll” has been created on the right hand side of the blog. I have used tags that make sense to me and each post has several tags. This should make content on the blog easier to find.

I will be posting further information about folksonomies in the days to come. In the mean time check out the new YorkBibBlog tag roll!

For further information about folksonomies check out the following:
Wired News: Folksonomies Tap People Power by Daniel Terdiman
D-Lib Magazine: Folksonomies: Tidying up Tags? by Marieke Guy & Emma Tonkin