Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Library of Congress Subject Headings

(or, how you can find everything on a topic)Library of Congress Subject Headings

Ever wondered who comes up with those exceedingly helpful yet occasionally bizarre or goofy subject headings, which make it so easy to search for all the books we have on a certain topic or person? Well, the subject headings we use are authorized by the Library of Congress, so that every library on the planet doesn’t come up with a different way of saying, for instance, Frontier and pioneer life -- West (U.S.) -- Fiction. Imagine the frustration in trying to think of every way some wacky cataloger could have phrased that one – Frontier and pioneer life! Pioneer and frontier life! Pioneer life without frontiers! You see what I mean. Thanks to these authorized forms, when you see the hyperlinked subject heading in our catalog, all you have to do is click on it and it will provide you with a list of every book we have on that topic.

This also works really well for authors who publish under more than one name, for when you want to find everything that person has ever written no matter what they were calling themselves at any given time. They can run, but from Library of Congress, they cannot hide. Even the authors that ask not to have their birthdates used are still individually identified by some sort of characteristic, like a middle initial.

The Oxford guide to library researchMy own pet peeve, however, is when the Library of Congress changes authorized subjects for no obvious good reason. Sure, I can see changing Alien labor to Foreign workers, but when they start doing things like changing Dulcimer and guitar music to Guitar and dulcimer music, I can only shake my head and ask the heavens why. The heavens are not answering. Then I invoke my mantra: “Job security!” As long as the Library of Congress keeps making these changes, someone has to be here to change them in our catalog!

Some of my favorite subject headings are, in no particular order:

by AA @Main

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My favorite from years ago: "Swine--Juvenile literature" for the story of the 3 Little Pigs.