Hi Joe and all,
Just a note in reply, although I thought the response from Lynn M.
El-Hoshy was pretty comprehensive.
As a SACO contributor I started out years ago feeling constrained
and perhaps a little intimidated by rules and guidance in my subject
proposing, but gradually that faded to the background and now I don't even
take it very personally when the folks at LC choose my proposed
cross-reference as the heading. My experiences have most often been with
establishment of terms for plants, animals or places, and I have found that
the recommended reference works have usually been the most thorough and
conclusive starting points for efficiently determining the preferred term
and the necessary cross-references and having my research able to be
verified efficiently. There are exceptions, and I have found it necessary at
times to search various databases and even telephone experts in the area
when the reference works failed me. "Red snapper" and "Satsuma orange" were
quite tricky and memorable experiences to document, requiring all these
methods. I found that alternative sources have been accepted by LC as valid
support for my headings along with the citation of the reference works
(including notation of important works that omitted the term in question).
On the whole I must concur with the FAQ from the perspective of preparing
the proposal and getting on with the rest of my work, and I go first to the
authoritative reference sources, often available online or in
recently-updated print editions. I then can use both the original term and
related terms I may discover in those sources for proceeding if necessary to
other sources such as relevant databases, etc. It also helps me avoid the
embarrassing experience of missing an important related term that is already
The SACO Manual is especially helpful to me when I need to propose a
new term in a less familiar subject area. Although as you pointed out there
are now experts outside LC working to propose new headings, there are also
generalists who can do a good job of proposing headings with a little effort
and help from the SACO manual and from the Subject cataloging manual.
Lest you think me entirely uncritical, I should admit out that our
proposal for "Surface water", a very widely-used term, met with failure and
still has me shaking my head in frustration. We may not always agree with
the particular choices, but I think given the infinitely rich world of
knowledge addressed we should cut the LCSH Editorial folks a little slack
here and there.
Thanks for sharing your critical thoughts about the FAQ. It should
serve to heighten our awareness of the value of considering both new and old
sources for language. As a cataloger I cannot help feeling very grateful to
both the experts at LC and the experts and hard-working SACO contributors
like you who take the time and energy to develop quality subject terms for
LCSH. I can then use them to help my patrons today and tomorrow find what
they need. Keep up the great work!
Science Cataloging Unit Head
300 Smathers Library
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611
[log in to unmask]
From: Lauer, Joe [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Wednesday, May 05, 2004 2:07 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: SACO FAQ overemphasizes reference works
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 response 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 should
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
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 secondary
We should lead, not trail.