Subject Headings & Classification, or, Why librarians don't seem to think like normal people


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Intended for an undergraduate audience, this is a brief introduction to the principles of organization; an overview of the Library of Congress Classification system (LCC) and the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH); a discussion of some oddities and limitations of those systems and how they have developed. Concludes with an introduction to how to browse leisure reading in an academic library.

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  • This is a version (revised to fill in the notes section for better independent comprehension) of a lesson taught to undergraduate students at the University of Florida.
  • Do any of you have items that you keep organized in a particular way? Maybe a VERY particular way?? (Draw out the general organizing principle – color, size, frequency of use, etc.)MP3 collections are organized for you on the basis of information that accompanies the file when you download it. That information is called “metadata.” (If time permits, talk about inconsistencies and errors in that metadata, or how a new item might tempt you to change the whole system – if this person got a few good angels, would they re-sort by color, size, etc.??)The Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) and the Library of Congress Classification System (LCC) are metadata systems that librarians bring together to help you find the items that you need. Thomas Jefferson gave over 6,000 of his own books to establish the Library of Congress. The classification system we use in UF’s libraries is a descendant of the personal system Jefferson chose for his own books.
  • Obviously, once more than one person is working to organize a collection, you need some standards or rules to keep people consistent. (Even if you’re still only working with your own system, you need to be careful not to make different decisions at different times).We use Library of Congress Subject Headings to group things in the library virtually by subject. We use Library of Congress Classification to group things in the library physically by subject, and provide a “stable home” for library materials.
  • But… that can be difficult. LCSH and LCC show their roots. They are inconsistent, complicated, and often show gender, racial, religious, and heterosexual biases. In your lifetimes, the change process has become more streamlined, but it’s still tricky and cumbersome. Lists of new and modified LCSH are published weekly. (If time permits, link out to the list and point out some of the “new” headings that are not really new, may reflect cultural assumptions, or seem just weird.) Only a limited number of the world’s librarians can propose new subject headings. (Some UF librarians can!) But even we cannot propose a new heading unless we have “literary warrant” – proof that the desired term is used the same way in a published work.
  • Search “Hogwarts” as a subject in (As time permits, briefly introduce the idea of authority control – unique identifiers for people, places, and organizations, so that similar items are not confused. Use instructor’s name authority record to show how one is constructed.)
  • Subdivisions are added to a big topic to break it down further. Some can be used with ANY heading; others, only with some kinds of headings. Subdivisions for people are different from those for topics, for example.
  • Sure, you THINK it’s cantaloupe, (and can you spell that??), but to librarians – muskmelon. The moral of the story is: if you are not finding what you need, DON’T assume it’s your fault, or that UF doesn’t have what you need. Ask a librarian to help you find terms and subdivisions that are an official part of LCC and LCSH. Thatis NOT cheating. Sometimes, we librarians have to help each other find the right term.
  • When catalogers can’t find the just-right term, we sometimes use the almost-right term, or several of them. Remember that a committee with changing membership approves or denies suggestions for new headings. Rap (Music) – Religious Aspects – Christianity
  • Text in screen shot: The fury of men's gullets : Ben Jonson and the digestive canal. "Throughout his work, Ben Jonson referred to writing in terms of ingestion, digestion, and excretion, mimicking the functions of the digestive tract. In The Fury of Men's Gullets, Bruce Boehrer explores the poet's fascination with alimentary matters and the way in which such references describe Jonson's personal and cultural transformation." "Drawing on the theoretical work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, the author studies the alimentary and convivial language in Jonson's work. He suggests that these pervasive metaphors provided the poet with a vocabulary for addressing issues of patronage and friendship, literary production and consumption, and social inclusion and exclusion." "In his wide-ranging examination of Jonson's plays, prose, and nondramatic verse, Boehrer discusses the sociohistorical significance of food, the politics of conspicuous consumption, the infrastructure of Jacobean London, and pertinent aspects of Renaissance medical practice and physiological theory. The Fury of Men's Gullets uniquely interprets Jonson's construction of early modern English literary sensibility.“Sometimes catalogers establish a very specific heading AND “build a fence around the concept” with multiple headings. Someone thought the term “Alimentary canal in literature” was the best one to describe this book. It appears to be the only time the heading has been used (Library of Congress and searched 2/18/2013.
  • What are the large topic areas that cover your areas of interest? Which letters are NOT in the system? Why do you think that might be? I, O – confused with numerals, especially in the days when call numbers were handwritten or typed on old typewriters that used letters for the numerals 1 and 0. W -- used for the National Library of Medicine Classification systemX, Y – not used by the system
  • And DON’T hesitate to ASK THE LIBRARIAN….
  • You may have been told that we don’t really have fiction at the library, “Only books that support research.” Or you may have been told that “We have some literature, but you can’t really browse it the way you can at the public library.” Well, that’s only partially true. After all, there are research conferences that feature Harry Potter, or spy novels. I’m going to show you a few of the authors whose works we have in Library West – and we’ll deduce how the books are arranged for your secret browsing pleasure.
  • Can you see the organizing principle in this group? (Answer: The authors are grouped by the general time period in which they wrote, and then alphabetically by last name. The number gives the first letter of the last name; the portion of the number after the dot is the rest of the author’s last name.)As time permits, give a brief description of some of the authors.
  • This is how authors are arranged in most literature categories. Academic libraries generally DO have some leisure reading, because some professors do research in popular culture or analyze social trends through literature. Literature in other languages begins with different letter pairs (which always start with P). Now you can browse in the serious research library for leisure reading! But wait, there’s more…
  • This is a catch-all area which can be used for authors who don’t have a number of their own already set up. This is my favorite area to peek into when I am ultra-stressed. It’s just alphabetical by author, more or less, and VERY random. The children’s literature section in the Education Library is classified in the PZs.
  • Questions?
  • Subject Headings & Classification, or, Why librarians don't seem to think like normal people

    1. 1. Subject Headings & IDS4930: 5 February 2013ClassificationOr, why catalogers don’t seem to think like normal people
    2. 2. Got collections? Photo credit: Andy Woo ( oandy/) Redistributed under Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0
    3. 3. At some point, a system is needed… Photo credit: sindesign ( design/) Redistributed under Creative Commons Attribution-
    4. 4. Subject Headings“The LCSH (Library of Congress Subject Headings) were createdby thousands of catalogers over the course of 100 years using astrict set of ever-changing rules.”-- Heidi Lee HoermanSchool of Library and Information Science,U. of South Carolina.
    5. 5. Subject Headings• Can be • Ideas/concepts • Events • Places (even imaginary ones) • People (even imaginary ones)
    6. 6. Narrowing It Down• Subdivisions can be • Geographic (United States, Florida, etc.) • Chronology (dates; these are NOT the same for all headings) • Form (what kind of a thing it is: Periodicals, Dictionaries, Blogs, etc.) • Topic (Religious aspects, economic aspects)
    7. 7. What is This? Image source: / (Public domain image)
    8. 8. Why???Parsnip, but also Philodrendrons!Working class women was established about 1985,Working class men in 2005!Neighbors was not a subject heading until 2006 Pennsylvania State University Christopher Walker, The LCSH suggestions courtesy ofMosquito nets was not a subject heading until 2008 – and thisterm was requested and created by a cataloger at UF.Often, but NOT always, scientific names are used for plants andanimals. If your research involves the sciences, use the authorityfile to find the correct LCSH. It will save much trouble.
    9. 9. And some are just … odd…LCSH suggestion courtesy of Kevin Furniss, Tulane University
    10. 10. Library of CongressClassificationGet the big picture:
    11. 11. So What Do You Do? • Search keywords, but then look at the whole record and click the subject Clip art source: Microsoft heading that matches your idea • Check your subject or name at http://authorities.loc .gov
    12. 12. Yes, We Have Fiction in West!• Not the same amount or kind as the public library, but we do. Here are some of the secret tips: • Authors are sorted by nationality and/or language; British authors and American authors are in different classes. • You can often find criticism of important books near that book, or near the end of all books by the author. • Look around. You may discover authors who were popular in your parents’, grandparents’, or great-grandparents’ time, but have fallen out of favor.
    13. 13. Some Numbers: AmericanAuthorsDashiell Hammett: PS3515.A4347Shirley Jackson: PS3519.A392James Weldon Johnson: PS3519.O2625-----Mary Higgins Clark: PS3553.L287Stephen King: PS3561.I483Barbara Kingsolver: PS3561.I496Amy Tan: PS3570.A48
    14. 14. Some Numbers: BritishAuthors • Agatha Christie: PR6005.H66 • Mary Renault: PR6035.E55 • J.R.R. Tolkien: PR6039.O32 • Evelyn Waugh: PR6045.A9 • P.G. Wodehouse: PR6045.O53• ------ • Douglas Adams: PR6051.D3352 • Ian Fleming: PR6056.L4 • P.D. James: PR6060.A467
    15. 15. PZWe also have the PZ call number for many items. Cover image source: Goodreads
    16. 16. Clip art source: Microsoft
    17. 17. Please Ask!Naomi YoungPrincipal Serials Catalogernaomi@uflib.ufl.eduSee a mistake in the UF or union catalog? (Typos, the wrongcontents note, something obvious like that? )