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Library Philosophy and Practice Vol. 2, No. 2 (Spring 2000)

ISSN 1522-0222

Retrospective Application of Subject Headings, Part 2: a Case Study at the Central Washington University Library

Daniel CannCasciato

Head of Cataloging
Central Washington University Library
Ellensburg WA 98926-7548
 

Part 1 of this article appeared inLibrary Philosophy and Practice vol. 2, no. 1 (Fall 1999)

Abstract

This article describes implementation of a methodology followed for the retrospective application of 474 subject headings to already existing bibliographic records. Findings and considerations for future application are discussed.

Introduction

The purpose of this article is to describe the results and some of the ramifications of a project to apply subject terminology retrospectively. As outlined inpart one of this article1, a list of subject authority records (SARs) from 1995 in the Central Washington University Library were extracted and printed out. The headings and references were then searched in the online catalog, CATTRAX, and suitable records were updated with the terminology, subdivided as appropriate. The number of headings reviewed in this study was 474. No selection criteria were used to eliminate headings not likely to produce results.

The development of the procedure used was discussed in the first part of this article. The results to be discussed are from following that procedure as it is described here. The number of changes made to bibliographic records as a result of this process have been significant (greater than 1000). Local changes in subject authority records (SARs) have been noted as well, many of which will be submitted as proposals via the Subject Authority Cooperative Program (SACO) through the Library of Congress.

Procedure:

Step 1--Searched each subject as a phrase in technical mode and then recorded the number of hits

Step 2--Searched each heading string as a word search (in general, omitting terms used in qualifiers)

Limited by title words of the subject string

Browsed for appropriate titles

Applied the new subject headings if appropriate

Step 3--Searched at each see from reference as a word search

Truncated plural forms to eliminate re-keying and to increase recall (or searched by plural and singular form when recall was too large). I limited results by words in title of the new heading or the reference

Browsed for appropriate titles

Applied the new subject headings if appropriate

Step 4--Searched each broader term from the SAR

Limited results by words of the new heading in the title

If the broader term were subdivided, searched it also in its un-subdivided form

Searched ad-hoc broader terms, if they were used

Browsed for appropriate titles

Applied the new subject headings if appropriate

Step 5--If alternative terminology were appropriate, did a word search on that terminology

Limited results by words of the new heading in the title

Browsed for appropriate titles

Applied the new subject headings if appropriate

Step 6--Searched each heading again as a subject string

Recorded the number of hits, from which the original number of headings was deducted. The net results are recorded as the primary changes made to the bibliographic records.

Limiting by word in title was done only on the occasions when recall was too great to make browsing the file effective. In most cases, retrieving fewer than fifty or so records allowed browsing, so limiting was not used.

During this process, I attempted to resolve appropriateness of the new heading for the work by searching other catalogs or having the item paged from the stacks, when either step was needed. This was rarely done.

Step 7--Additions of additional subject headings were tracked as secondary changes, e.g., corrected headings, additional headings for other related topics, etc. Stylistic changes or those unrelated to this specific process were not counted. For example, when examining the heading for the fictional place,Thalia, Tex., upgrades to other records for the works of fiction by Larry McMurtry were not counted in this study.

Step 8--Potential SACO applications were also identified. In the earlier sample, this process indicated thatTraditional costume be added as a see reference toEthnic costume. That proposal was sent in through the SACO procedure and was accepted. The Library of Congress upgraded the SAR for that subject to include that reference and others.

Results

The following tables indicated the total additions of primary headings (Step 6), secondary headings (Step 7), and a summary of headings identified as potentials for SACO enhancement (Step 8).

Column 1 in the first two tables reflects the number of changes per SAR. Column two reflects the number of SARs for which there were that number of changes, and column 3 is the total number of changes per category during this process.

Table 1

PRIMARY changes to bib record

Number of SARs

Total

1

56

56

2

41

82

3

14

42

4

9

36

5

12

60

6

9

54

7

5

35

8

3

24

9

5

45

10

5

50

11

1

11

12

3

36

13

1

13

14

1

14

15

1

15

17

3

51

21

2

42

30

1

30

33

2

66

41

1

41

49

1

49

71

1

71

85

1

85

TOTAL

178

1,008

Table 2

SECONDARY changes to bib record

Number of SARs

Total

1

52

52

2

24

48

3

19

57

4

5

20

5

6

30

6

4

24

7

4

28

8

1

8

9

2

18

12

1

12

TOTAL

118

297

Table 3

Number of potential SACO changes (step 8)

Bibs changed too

31

Bibs not changed

7

TOTAL

38

 

Sub-total--number of PRIMARY changes (Table 1): 

1,008

Sub-total--number of SECONDARY changes (Table 2): 

297

TOTAL number of changes: 

1,305

Description of primary and secondary heading changes

  • There were 79 SARs (1.5%) where both primary and secondary changes were made to bibliographic records.
  • There were 38 headings checked where there was no primary change made to the bibliographic record (that is, the specific subject heading being reviewed was not added to any bibliographic record), yet secondary changes were made.
  • There were 257 headings (54%) where no changes were made to catalog records.

Of these, the headings tended to be of the following types:

  • Geographic heading followed by standard subdivisions (Turkmenistan--Economic conditions)
  • Headings created to fulfill the reference hierarchy.

For example,Veterinarians--United States was created because it was needed as a broader term on the headingAfro-American veterinarians, but otherwise not a new heading in the sense of being newly authorized.

  • Concept headings (Psychological fiction, American)
  • Music headings

Of these, the last two (concepts and music headings) are reliably limited in usefulness and could be ignored in future applications of this procedure.

There were 217 SARs (46%) where changes of some kind were made to bibliographic records. Just over half of the primary changes (524 of 1,008 or 52%) were made due to 19 SARs (4% of study size). The actual headings and counts of those 19 SARs are in Table 4.

Table 4

Steam locomotives

11

Manipulatives (Education)

12

Population Economic aspects

12

Mining camps

12

Owens River Valley (Calif.)

13

Indian country (United States law)

14

Sex discrimination in justice administration

15

Forest management Law and legislation

17

Consolidation and merger of corporations Taxation Law and legislation

17

Benthic animals

17

Ozone-depleting substances

21

Jungian psychology

21

Contaminated sediments

30

Railroad accidents Investigation

33

Federally recognized Indian tribes

33

High performance computing

41

Political violence

49

Abandoned mined lands reclamation

71

Geological cross sections

85

Total

524

A majority of these headings were added to records for government documents materials.

It is important to note that the new heading,

Europe, Western

was not included in the results of this study. While it fit the criteria (authorized in 1995), it was not a heading that could be included in this workflow since the retrieval volume of records was extremely high. A special project would be needed to review and update appropriate records with that heading or subdivision. It appears that hundreds of records will need to be changed.

DISCUSSION

The volume of headings changed points out the need for timely heading creation. Subject headings for clearly stated concepts (Abandoned mined land reclamation;Jungian psychology;Ozone-depleting substances;Steam locomotives) should be formulated at the time of initial need, as indicated as the current practice in theSubject Cataloging Manual: Subject Headings2. In addition, they are among the easiest to formulate. Conceptual headings, while more difficult to define and fit into the reference hierarchy of the Library of Congress Subject Headings are, possibly, more important to define early on. It is difficult to identify suitable bibliographic records after the fact for these types of subjects, though the growing use of contents and summary notes will help in a process such as this.

There are a number of benefits of this procedure, in addition to the increase in subject access. While the most important benefit is the use of newer terminology, there are secondary benefits as well.

STANDARDIZATION

By having a procedure for systematic review of headings, one is able to standardize the way headings are formulated on like materials. This takes shape in a number of ways. In some cases this involved the use of additional geographic subdivisions on subject headings already on bibliographic records thus helping to collocate them in the catalog.

SPECIFICITY

In other cases, additional specificity was added in a consistent manner in two categories. The first category was when the subject heading, for exampleSalmonidae--Diseases, was used on some bibliographic records yet there had been no attempt to indicate where the disease was affective (kidney, pancreas, etc.) On other bibliographic records, the diseased body part was indicated. During a systematic review, the heading for the affected part of the body can be applied consistently in practice, though currently no specific heading exists for the disease as named in the title (enteric red mouth disease, for this example).

Similarly, more specific headings can be applied when they are found.Jupiter (Planet)--Satellites was applied to bibliographic records years before the headingIo (Satellite)-Maps (sh 98000376) was created. Even though the heading for the moon Io falls outside of this study as to year of formulation, as part of this systematic review, this heading and SAR were added to the catalog.

SUBJECT HIERARCHY FILLED

Lastly, gaps in subject hierarchy were caught. The headingLuvaridae, Fossilwas reviewed in this study. While it was not applied to additional headings, during this process, its broader term,Perciformes,Fossil, was searched (Step 4 of procedure). During that process, it was noticed that the heading forPerciformes itself was a broader term on many SARs in the catalog, yet the SAR forPerciformes itself was not in the catalog.. By addition of the SAR forPerciformes, the hierarchical link fromOsteichthyes toPerciformes was created.

SACO

For the purposes of this study, a heading was indicated as SACO when it, or a related heading, was identified to be enhanced. It is anticipated that not all enhancements will be permanent, nor accepted via SACO submission. However, many are anticipated as being easily within the realm of SACO enhancements. There were two categories of subject enhancements - cross-references and hierarchical references.

Simple cross-references were identified as a result of reviewing the file of records to which a heading in the review sample had been applied. A term in the title that appeared synonymous was then added in some form to the SAR locally. It will then be considered for proposal to the Library of Congress through the SACO program. For example, the headingAfro-American loyalists had been assigned to records with the termBlack loyalists in the title, so that term has been added as a local cross-reference. While the reference fromBlack loyalists might not be approved by the Library of Congress (Black churcheswas recently rejected as a reference toAfro-American churches), it will likely remain a local cross-reference.

A more likely accepted and surprising reference is that ofLondon Blitz to the SAR

London (England)--History--Bombardment, 1940-1941.

This is surprising only because it does not yet exist, yet is such a common term for this event and meriting description in an encyclopedia3.

Hierarchical references were identified less frequently than were new cross-references. In the previous example, a related term reference was made between the two headings

London (England)--History--Bombardment, 1940-1941

andBritain, Battle of, 1940, due to the text of the encyclopedia article. This linkage will probably change. However, the immediate goal was to identify the bombardment aspect of the Battle of Britain. The topic will then be evaluated and changes to the SAR forBritain, Battle of, 1940 suggested via a SACO proposal.

A more readily identifiable and lasting hierarchical change will be that of Language maintenance, an SAR from the study sample. It has been enhanced locally to add as broader terms the headings of

Bilingualism

and 

Biculturalism

Currently,Bilingualism is already a broader term on the SAR forLanguage attrition. The work reviewed when looking at the heading ofLanguage maintenance wasSocial and educational issues in bilingualism and biculturalism, 1981.

Also identified in this process was the need for new headings. Since the headings needed were not directly related to the existing headings (for example, specific geographic features) they were not counted as among the 38 headings identified for SACO enhancements. Also, enhancements that were a by-product of reviewing records were not counted among the 38 either. For example, the headingSynthetic fuels was identified as needing a reference fromSynfuels. Though noticed in the process of this work, the heading is not directly linked to any heading reviewed, so not counted in this category. The termSynfuels was noted in the process of reviewing the headingUintah and Ouray Indian Reservation (Utah).

CONCLUSIONS

The main goal of this study was to evaluate the workability and effectiveness of retrospectively applying subject terminology to already cataloged items. The background aim was to support fulfillment of one of the long stated objectives of the catalog -- to help a patron find what a library has by subject. This author is convinced on the basis of this work that such a process is effective and necessary to fulfill the syndetic effectiveness of employing the Library of Congress Subject Headings in a library catalog with an authority module. While there is some concern, as always, about workload, it appears that this process or a similar one is doable.

The additions to subject authority records are valuable as well. The taxonomic activity of defining categories and relating them to each other is essential to retrieval and effectiveness. It also supports cataloging normalization - that is, helping catalogers worldwide to provide similar access points when creating bibliographic records for items on the same subject.

This procedure is not the only way to make many of the changes that following it effected. However, it would mesh well with a number of quality control and maintenance activities that catalog departments undertake. It would complement many authority control workflows.

Overall, the project led to the addition of 1,305 headings (new or changed) on existing bibliographic records. As stated in part 1 of this article, in an age of shrinking acquisition budgets, providing access to items already in the library's collection is vital.

References

1. CannCasciato, D. "Retrospective Application of Subject Headings, Part 1." InLibrary Philosophy and Practice, v. 2, no. 1 (Fall 1999).

2. Subject Cataloging Manual : Subject Headings, 5th ed., 1996.Instruction sheet H 187, section 1.

3. Encyclopedia Britannica online, 2000: (http://www.search.eb.com/bol/topic?eu=16746&sctn=1#s_top)

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