JLS (jlsjlsjls) wrote,

Oh the things that go on in my line of work XD

Well, I find it hilarious (and simultaneously scary whenever people in the library world appear unable to read and follow instructions)

The Summary of Decisions, May 2016 notes for the Library of Congress editorial meeting on creating and updating subject headings. The general message is "we are fed up with this" ... it's just a lengthy list of invalid and incorrectly submitted proposals that wasted their time. And it contains its moments of snark: "If more attention were paid to these details, processing of the cancellation requests could proceed much more expeditiously."

For the non-library folks: When you look up topics/subjects in a library catalogue, whether online or the old 3x5 card catalogues some of us are old enough to remember, you're entering a world known as fixed vocabulary, called "authorities" in the library world. Cataloguers don't just use whatever words they feel like using as subject headings; we're following a specific list of terminology, loaded with cross references from variant words and wordings. Most English language libraries are using the Library of Congress Subject Headings list as it's big, well-maintained, and for the past three or so decades it's been available online at no charge. Using LCSH is why, if you look up "flying saucers" in your library you'll be redirected (often invisibly these days) to "unidentified flying objects" ... the latter has been decided on as the official subject heading term in this system for this topic. Because human knowledge is ever growing and changing, the LCSH does the same ... continuously adding new subject headings to describe new materials acquired at Library of Congress and also changing existing headings either to match current language usage or based on the shifting percentage of terminology use by the materials in their collection. So of course there needs to be a system for individual cataloguers to let LC know a new heading or a change to an existing one is needed. There is a manual for the consistent formatting of subject headings(the SHM frequently referred to in the notes is the Subject Heading Manual, also an online freebie) and within it a specific set of instructions for submissions. Yep, there are rules within rules within rules. All just so that the public can look up stuff in the library catalogue and think it's magic when they find what they're looking for.

So I didn't get a May list of new and updated headings to enter into my workplace's database. :-( Because the committee spent all their time on bad submissions.

P.S. We don't make up the call numbers at random either ... we have huge books and lists for those as well. And for authors and series and other such things that are the same but can vary in their wording from book to book ... well, for true terror here's William Shakespeare's LC Name Authority with ALL the different ways his name has been spelled/printed and you'll understand why we use a fixed vocabulary for those as well (and those are just the name variations used on materials within LC's collections, a mere fraction of what's actually in published use around the world)

P.P.S. Sometimes name authorities can be fun and educational ... Zane Grey's is an old favourite of mine for demonstrating this (read the last paragraph in the "found in" section)

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