I would like to make a couple of observations on your comments and
provide an explanation of why it is generally desirable to consult
reference sources as part of the process of making proposals for new and
revised subject headings for LCSH.
There's no question that reference sources like dictionaries,
encyclopedias, thesauri, glossaries, nomenclature lists, etc., are
secondary sources. They are a particularly valuable type of source for
the development of a controlled vocabulary because they deal with
terminology and definitions. LCSH is basically a system of language --
a list of terms and phrases that have defined meanings and that have
been selected to serve as headings. They are accompanied by references
from the variant terms and phrases that are also in use to express the
same concept, references that display the relationships among the
headings with emphasis on the hierarchic relationship, and scope notes
that provide definitions for some headings. Reference sources are
useful because they are prepared by subject matter experts who sift
through the body of knowledge and terminology in a specific field and
who make similar decisions about which terms and phrases should be used
as entry terms or captions, and which terms and phrases can serve as
references. They may provide definitions and context for the use of
terms and let us know when a term or phrase has more than one meaning.
By encouraging SACO participants to consult reference sources we do not
mean to negate their subject expertise. In fact, we expect them to
determine the appropriate authority work to undertake for a given
proposal; to evaluate the information they find while carrying out
authority research; to make informed decisions about the best form of
heading for LCSH, its reference structure, how to differentiate it from
other related headings, etc.; and to document their research in 670
fields. By encouraging SACO participants to consult reference sources,
we are not limiting them to printed sources. There are untold numbers
of authoritative, up-to-date reference sources available on the Web.
Those that have been found to be particularly useful for subject
authority research are listed on the SACO web site. Additions to that
list are welcome.
In this SACO FAQ, the distinction that is being made is between
citation of information found in authoritative reference sources and
citation of usage in titles. We don't mean to exclude citation of
information from current articles, etc., in situations in which that is
appropriate. We realize that it's necessary to rely on current
literature for newly-emerging topics, but we hope to see citation of the
relevant information from a current article, such as a definition or
scope of usage of a term, rather than just a title. The type of
proposal that the answer to this question is attempting to forestall is
one in which a cataloger has identified a particular term or phrase used
by the author of a work being cataloged to express a given concept, has
searched that same term or phrase as a keyword in OCLC WorldCat or a
search engine, and then has cited a title or two using that same term or
phrase. Merely citing a title that contains the same term does not
constitute adequate authority research because it only documents the
fact that someone else has used the same term or phrase for that topic.
It doesn't indicate whether there are other terms or phrases in use for
the concept, which terms or phrases are preferred or most frequently
used, how the concept relates to other concepts, etc. Because we have
received proposals of this type, we wanted to make clear what's involved
in appropriate authority research for subject heading proposals.
Lynn M. El-Hoshy
Senior Cataloging Policy Specialist
Cataloging Policy and Support Office
Library of Congress
101 Independence Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20540-4305
Email: [log in to unmask]
>>> [log in to unmask] 5/5/2004 2:07:09 PM >>>
Is anyone else bothered by the response to the following FAQ?
6. Are some research sources preferred over others?
Generally, citation of authoritative reference sources is preferred
over citation of usage in titles to support the choice of heading.
Examples of authoritative reference sources are: Dictionaries or
glossaries, Encyclopedias, Thesauri, and/or Indexes. ...
...Finding usage of terms and phrases in titles in large databases
(e.g., LC database, OCLC's WorldCat, the WWW) may demonstrate that a
particular term or phrase is in use and has literary warrant, but it
doesn't necessarily indicate that it is the predominant or best way of
referring to a topic. ...
(See FAQ on SACO Subject Heading Proposals at
I have 2 problems with the response to this FAQ:
1) My training in history taught me that primary sources are to be
preferred to secondary sources. Reference works are secondary works.
2) This reponse runs counter to the first sentence of the H202:
Proposed subject headings and their associated "used for" references
should reflect both the terminology used in current literature on the
topic in question [my bold], and the system of language, construction,
and style used in Library of Congress Subject Headings. ...
CPSO (Cataloging Policy and Support Office) has fallen into the habit
of giving priority to the terminology used in reference works. This
I do not question the need for research to document that "the term
being proposed as a heading has been found in existing literature" (2d
sentence of H202).
But two changes in the work environment over the past decade have made
it both possible and desirable to abandon the older reliance on
reference works as a surrogate for the existing literature.
1. Online union catalogs, periodical indexes, and full-text documents
on the web have made it possible to search the current existing
literature (i.e., works on the topic) with the same speed as checking a
printed (dated and not necessarily reliable) reference work.
2. The creation of PCC has vastly expanded the pool of subject
expertise among working catalogers. For most/many subjects, there are
now catalogers who can critically evaluate the information available in
both primary and secondary (reference) works. In a truly cooperative
program, this expertise would be utilized.
Headings in LCSH should not be dependent upon headings in other
We should lead, not trail.