9.546 LC subject headings

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Fri, 16 Feb 1996 19:03:54 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 546.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Richard Heinzkill <heinzkil@OREGON.UOREGON.EDU> (19)
Subject: searching with L.C. Subject headings

[2] From: DARWIN@steffi.uncg.edu (43)
Subject: Library of Congress subject headings

[3] From: Luis Villar <Luis.Villar@Dartmouth.EDU> (29)
Subject: Subject Categories/headings

Date: Fri, 16 Feb 1996 08:42:18 -0900
From: Richard Heinzkill <heinzkil@OREGON.UOREGON.EDU>
Subject: searching with L.C. Subject headings

A few comments on using L.C. subject headings and other searching techniques
in online catalogs.

Users should be aware that there is a lot of difference between the ways
online catalogs at various institutions handle these techniques.

First of all for L.C. subject headings, some catalogs insist you put the
heading in in the correct order or you do not get a hit,e.g. China -
agriculture would not get retrieve any citations because it should be
Agriculture - China. (Our catalog does not make this distinction.)

Keyword searching is very useful, but not all catalogs tell you what parts
of the cataloging record you are searching. (Our doesn't.) Is it the title
and subject headings or just title. Some catalogs do let the user choose
which parts should be searched.

As for searching software for online catalogs being stuck in the 80s. I'm
not so sure I would agree with that. There are a number of computer systems
out there and so I think it will depend on which vendor the library is using
and if they have purchased the most recent updates from that vendor. I would
guess you can now search for 90% of the information on the MARC cataloging
record in our catalog.

Richard Heinzkill
University of Oregon Library

Date: Wed, 14 Feb 1996 18:34:23 -0500
From: DARWIN@steffi.uncg.edu
Subject: Library of Congress subject headings

The following query was recently posted to HUMANIST, and I append my
reply here for the possible interest of Darwin-l members. We have talked
about the Library of Congress subject heading in the historical sciences
here once or twice before.

Bob O'Hara, Darwin-L list owner

--being forwarded message--------------

>From: Willard McCarty <mccarty@phoenix.princeton.edu>
>A question that arose out of a discussion with a colleague here: how useful
>are the U.S. Library of Congress subject categories to working scholars? Who
>actually uses these in research, and how useful are they? Mention of actual
>cases would be most helpful.

This is an interesting question, Willard. I have not used them in research
per se, but have used them in teaching, and sometimes give students a list
of the subject headings that pertain to a particular course they are taking
so they will be better able to find relevant material (and to encourage

One of my areas of interest, however, is the comparative study of the
historical sciences -- the fields that William Whewell called "palaetiology"
(historical geology, historical linguistics, evolutionary biology, textual
transmission, etc.). As an exercise I once put together a fairly
comprehensive listing of the various LC headings that pertain to the
historical sciences as a way of showing the practical obstacles (one might
say) that stand in the way of studying these fields as a unified group. In
other words, if you are interested in "historical reconstruction" as a general
notion you will find material scattered through the entire LC classification,
from natural history (QH) to historical chronology (D11) to textual criticism
(P47) to historical geography (G141). This is not particularly surprising,
but what it illustrates nicely is how the LC classification reflects certain
assumptions about what fields go together and how they go together. One can
imagine that these assumptions might conceivably stand in the way of someone
trying to make a non-obvious interdisciplinary connection.

The list of LC subject headings relating to the historical sciences
is available for browsing on the Files page of the Darwin-L Web Server

Robert J. O'Hara (rjohara@iris.uncg.edu)
Cornelia Strong College, 100 Foust Building
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Greensboro, North Carolina 27412 U.S.A.

--end forwarded message----------------

Date: 16 Feb 96 08:36:47 EST
From: Luis Villar <Luis.Villar@Dartmouth.EDU>
Subject: Subject Categories/headings

The term "category" does not appear in "The Librarians' Glossary & Reference
Books" and "The Anglo American Cataloguing Rules". Perhaps, Willard was
refering to "subject headings." If that's the case, the following statement is

The U.S. Library of Congress is extremely useful to working scholars. During
my years as a bibliographer at Dartmouth College, I have experienced many cases
in which my colleagues and I have helped researchers locate relevant and
obscure materials. Examples of cases are:

1) Identifying the correct subject for a topic of research. Many scholars do
not have a clear vision of what they are searching. Sometimes they come to the
library searching for books or articles by specific authors, or searching for a
very specific and narrow title.

2) While viewing a full bibliographic record, the subject headings help a
great deal on expanding or correlating a particular subject with other
subjects. They also offer synonyms which can lead to a pethora of information.

3) Subject headings are an excellent tool to view the division of historical
periods, literary periods, etc. Any person doing research on i.e., English
Middle literature can consult the LCSH, note the general LC call numbers
-PR251-PR369- and go straight to the stacks to browse the shelves at his/her
heart content. Browsing is a critical element for the researcher, for it
allows for the surprise discovery of even more relevant sources.

4) The LCSH leads the scholar to use exact subjects which maximizes search

Bear in mind that the subject headings are, in essence, a guide for classifyng
materials by its subject matter. If the cataloguer is an expert on the subject
that he/she is responsible for cataloguing, the subject headings will be right
on target, and the scholar will benefit greatly by the accuracy of such a
bibliographic record.

Luis Villar
Dartmouth College