PCC Task Group on SACO Program Development
June 17, 2003
This group was formed and received its charge in February of this year with
an expectation to produce a preliminary report at ALA Annual and a final
report by November. A brief oral report was given at the BIBCO Operations
Committee meeting in May.
The task group is composed of a diverse group of librarians as follows:
Janet Ashton, British Library,
Linda Gabel, OCLC Liaison,
Mary Charles Lasater, Vanderbilt University,
Lori Robare, Subject Analysis Committee Liaison,
Adam Schiff, University of Washington,
Susan Summer, Columbia University,
Hugh Taylor, Cambridge University,
Thomson Yee, Library of Congress Liaison,
Joe Zeeman, Research Libraries Group Liaison,
Jimmie Lundgren, University of Florida, Task Group Chair.
Our charge, which grew out of discussions at the November 2002 PCC Policy
Committee and followed a commissioned study at the Library of Congress by
Charles Fenly in July 2002, is to address the following points:
1) To identify institutional/participant needs to facilitate subject
proposal contributions for inclusion in LCSH.
2) To recommend parameters for membership in SACO
3) To propose a list of responsibilities that accompany SACO membership,
both from the PCC and the participant perspective.
We began by establishing a schedule for discussing relevant topics and have
been communicating through our email list. In this manner we shared our
thoughts on membership criteria, responsibilities and benefits, on the
mechanisms for submitting and distributing subject proposals, and on
documentation, training and feedback. Now we have reviewed our thoughts on
these topics and put together some proposals that we hope will lead to
strong future development for the SACO Program.
Summary of Preliminary Recommendations
Briefly, the group recommends the following basic changes.
a. That a utility-based submission and distribution option be
developed through both RLIN and OCLC in order to facilitate subject
proposals for LCSH. If in addition the currently used web-form could be
improved to allow for entering data, saving and later submission that would
also facilitate the process. It would be the role of the Coop Staff at LC to
negotiate the specifics of this option with the utilities..
b. That a letter outlining the responsibilities for SACO
institutional membership be sent to both NACO and SACO participants and
request an official commitment from those who chose to be members in this
new context. These should include acceptance of LCSH policies as outlined in
the Subject Cataloging Manual, LCSH itself, and the SACO Contributors
Manual; contributing at least 5 subjects or changes to subjects each year;
and use of the utilities as a mechanism of contribution and distribution.
Other institutions would be able to continue contributing in the manner they
presently do using methods such as fax or the web form, but would be listed
as "SACO Contributors" rather than "SACO Members."
c. That the Coop agrees to participate in training of SACO
members and in expediting of the proposals as they perceive they can do so
most effectively. One promising avenue for enhancing SACO members' skills
would be to develop a web-based training program that could benefit all of
us, including those who may not attend the ALA conferences where training
programs are offered.
d. That the SACO discussion list be employed to a greater
extent than it has been for sharing and peer-consultation among SACO
members. It will be up to the SACO members to make this happen on an
everyday basis, as this capability already exists.
e. That a provision be developed for the on-going update of the
SACO Participants' Manual. This should be referred to the Training
The most important needs of individuals and institutions for improving
quality and quantity of subject heading contributions relate to being able
to more easily and efficiently create and distribute the proposals and to
training of librarians to better understand LCSH and the proposal process.
As a contribution mechanism the existing web form for proposals is a great
improvement over the previous options, but falls short in not permitting
saving and revision of proposals prior to submission nor providing a MARC
version of the record for interim use in the contributing library's system.
The SACO training programs provided by LC in conjunction with conferences
are very helpful. It would be desirable to supplement this through a
web-based training program which could better reach international
participants and those library staff who do not attend ALA conferences.
Proposal-specific input from PCC staff is extremely valuable for building
greater expertise in preparing subject heading proposals. The SACO
discussion list also has potential as a vehicle for sharing experiences and
getting valuable input from fellow librarians while preparing subject
SACO Membership and Program Definition
SACO has not to this point been an institution-based program, but defining
it as such has promise for strengthening it in the future. In SACO, any
librarian can now submit subject or classification proposals using the web
form or a print form and have them considered by LC for inclusion in LCSH or
LCC. This is, of course, different from the other components of the PCC for
whom a formal agreement between the library and the PCC is required. In
discussing options for defining SACO membership, the task group feels that
some mechanism must be retained to allow nonmembers to continue to propose
new headings as that enriches LCSH and benefits us all. However, the need to
improve the submission process by providing a utility-based option such as
that used for NACO headings makes having a NACO-like agreement for SACO
desirable. The formalized membership would provide the utility (OCLC or
RLIN) with criteria for giving its members subject authority submission
capability. The ability to create and save the record prior to full
completion while additional documentation may be acquired and in-house
reviewing take place can greatly facilitate the work of proposing subject
headings. This would allow individual catalogers in a library to develop
proposals for new subject headings or changes to existing headings and save
their work, which could then reviewed and possibly improved upon somewhat by
the more-experienced SACO coordinator before submission without forcing the
coordinator to re-key the entire proposal. Similar reviewing and editing by
PCC staff prior to CPSO consideration would also be facilitated. In
addition, the ability to use a macro like that used for name authorities for
basic authority record creation would contribute both to efficiency and to
reduction in typographical errors on proposals. Since the delays and
inconvenience previously associated with proposing subject headings seem to
have been barriers to proposing more and better subject headings, these
options could result in significant improvements to the quantity and quality
of headings submitted through the SACO program. While we accept that final
editorial responsibility for each heading and the overall structure of LCSH
must continue to rest with the appropriate group within the Library of
Congress, it is hoped that these improvements in the processes used for
preparing and presenting the proposals will result in quicker approval and
availability of the new and changed headings proposed by SACO members.
The thought of establishing a quota of annual submissions for subject
proposals as a membership requirement generated little enthusiasm in the
group, which included several members whose libraries have contributed
subject headings at a very low rate. We are mindful of the burden that can
be placed on Coop staff-members by occasional contributors who require
extensive consultation. It should be pointed out that there is a difference
between a library's need for new subject headings and its need for new name
authority records. It is a very routine matter in cataloging to encounter
names that require establishment of name authorities to provide
cross-referencing, etc. It is less frequent that a particular library in its
day-to-day cataloging work finds a need for a new subject. In fact,
catalogers are skilled at making the best of existing subject headings and
seldom even recognize when an item would be better described through
establishment of a new and more specific heading. This works against
improvement to the rate of proposing subject headings and the quantity of
SACO headings at an appropriate level of specificity. Therefore, the group
would set the minimum requirement for number of subject headings that a
library would commit to proposing in a given year very low, perhaps five.
This would ensure that the library remains somewhat familiar with the
mechanisms of subject proposing while keeping the bar low enough to include
smaller libraries and supporting larger libraries while they work to
increase awareness of proposing subject headings as an option and take
advantage of improvements to speed and efficiency of the process. We all
benefit if some smaller, more specialized libraries are encouraged to
contribute headings in their areas of specialty, and making the process
easier could help them increase their contributions. Some meaningful
distinctions between libraries that will be members of the SACO program
through formal agreement and others who could continue to contribute subject
proposals as they have in the past could be access to the utility-based
method of contributing headings and a commitment to greater timeliness of
proposal consideration by LC for proposals from members.
SACO member libraries should have their responsibilities defined in their
agreement with the PCC. We're responsible for preparation and submission of
the proposal according to the established form and procedures (careful
paperwork). We could amplify this to say that this includes thorough
understanding and use of the Subject Cataloging Manual, the SACO
Participants' Manual and relevant reference sources. We need to realize and
let our staff and administrators know that this can be a time consuming
task. The time aspect should be covered in training sessions as well. It
can be deflating when a proposal is returned with notes about further
research that is needed from the SACO coordinator or from PCC staff. Putting
a bit more emphasis on this aspect of the work and the corresponding benefit
to other catalogers, public services, etc. would be helpful and would
encourage participation. Related to this we might note that we are
responsible for trying to do as many SACO proposals as possible and as
needed to perform quality cataloging, but realizing our own limitations,
especially for subject or language expertise that might be needed in a
particular proposal. We are also responsible for realizing when a proposal
or an update may necessitate changes to other headings already in the file
and making proposals for these updates as well. It is rewarding for staff
when they see they've improved a few related headings.
The group did not as a whole see provision of documentation as a significant
incentive to SACO participation, but a discount on subscriptions to
Catalogers' Desktop or a print copy of the SACO Participant's Manual would
be welcomed by some. In general the documentation needed for SACO proposing
is either that already needed for cataloging such as LCSH or the Subject
Cataloging Manual, or the free SACO manual available online, or more
specific sources they use in their libraries to support particular types of
subjects such as geographic, botanical, etc. The SACO Participant's Manual
will need to be kept up-to-date, and the task group hopes that the PCC staff
will accept responsibility for coordinating this.
Task Group Plan for Continuing Work
The Task Group was further enjoined that in its Final Report that will be
due at the end of October we should include recommendations that:
1) Outline a SACO training scenario, including what
responsibilities the PCC has in providing/sharing the existing subject
cataloging documentation or some which might be newly developed.
2) Suggest a mechanism for facilitating the contribution and
distribution of subject proposals among subject trainers and training
institutions for internal review, for final review by LC editorial review
staff, and for distribution of approved headings to the community at large.
3) Identify whose responsibility it should be to implement each
of the elements described.
We will thus be continuing this work as well as attending carefully to input
we hope to receive from other SACO and PCC librarians who may respond to
this interim report in the coming months. It is hoped that the final report,
which should be fuller and more conclusive in nature, will lead to greater
prominence and greater productivity for the SACO program.