Subject Cataloging

I came across a piece today from ?Inside Higher Ed? and felt a need to correct the record. The article, the subject of which was Open Library, stated in part:

Q: Some serious questions have come up about the shrinking depth of subject cataloging from the book records issued by the Library of Congress. That might sound like a problem just for librarians, but it isn?t. It?s basic infrastructure for intellectual life, pretty much. To anyone doing research, having books adequately cataloged by subject offers tremendous benefits. Will Open Library be taking up the slack on this?

A: Yes, it?s amazing the amount of politics around Library of Congress Subject Headings. (And I had no idea that they were thinking about abandoning them ? that?s incredible; thanks for the pointer.) Lots of people have different opinions over how things should be characterized and cataloged and which things were important. When we first started the project, librarians kept arguing about which system we should use.

We decided early on to not be partisan but to be a clearinghouse for all the cataloging data we could get our hands on. So in areas where the Library of Congress doesn?t do the cataloging, or doesn?t do the cataloging to your taste, we?ll try to make that data available.

We?re hoping we?ll be able to pull series data from the specialized libraries so that you can view them on our web site. We?ll also republish them so that other libraries can import them from us.

I asked Deanna Marcum, our Associate Librarian for Library Services, about this. She said that while an LOC-commissioned report did indeed include a recommendation that the Library of Congress discontinue subject headings, ?we have made a firm decision not to do so. ? There is no diminution in the depth of subject cataloging? at the Library of Congress.

3 Comments

  1. Jacksonville NC Homes
    August 23, 2007 at 10:47 am

    Quite the elaborate process of organizing such a mountain of data. I wouldn’t want your job.

  2. AtconyS
    August 24, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    That’s a wise decision to keep subject heading.

  3. Designer Sunglasses
    August 29, 2007 at 9:22 pm

    Yes, it’s amazing the amount of politics around Library of Congress Subject Headings. (And I had no idea that they were thinking about abandoning them — that’s incredible; thanks for the pointer.) Lots of people have different opinions over how things should be characterized and cataloged and which things were important. When we first started the project, librarians kept arguing about which system we should use.

    Keeping subject headings makes locating items much easier.

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