Friday, November 13, 2015

Library of Congress Subject Headings : Glossary of Library & Information Science

Glossary of Library & Information Science
Librarianship Studies & Information Technology
Library of Congress Subject Headings

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS SUBJECT HEADINGS  Library of Congress Subject Headings is the list of headings produced from the subject authority file maintained by the United States Library of Congress for use in bibliographic records, and published annually. It is popularly known by its abbreviation as LCSH and is sometimes used interchangeably with the phrase subject authority file. LCSH is a multidisciplinary vocabulary that includes headings in all subjects, from science to religion, to history, social science, education, literature, and philosophy. It also includes headings for geographic features, ethnic groups, historical events, building names, etc. Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) is the most widely used subject vocabulary in the world. It is the model for many other vocabularies in English and other languages and has been translated into numerous languages. The strongest aspect of LCSH is that it represents subject headings of the Library of Congress, the national library of the United States, one of the richest of national libraries of the world. The administrative and managerial machinery of LC has made it possible for LCSH to stand out as an undisputed leader. LCSH is also used as indexing vocabulary in a number of published bibliographies.

LCSH comprise a thesaurus or a controlled vocabulary of subject headings which is used by a cataloger or an indexer to assign subject headings to a bibliographic record to represent the subject of a work he/she is cataloging. LCSH contain the preferred subject access terms (controlled vocabulary) that are assigned as an added entry in the bibliographic record which works as an access point and enables the work to be searched and retrieved by subject from the library catalog database. The controlled vocabulary identifies synonym terms and selects one preferred term among them to be used as the subject heading. For homonyms, it explicitly identifies the multiple concepts expressed by that word or phrase. Cross references are used with headings to direct the user from terms not used as headings to the term that is used, and from broader and related topics to the one chosen to represent a given subject.

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) was originally developed by the Library of Congress for use in its cataloging records in 1898. It was first published in 1914 under the title Subject Headings Used in the Dictionary Catalogs of the Library of Congress. Since then, it has become the standard list for providing subject headings in the United States as well as other countries. The list has gone through many editions. Starting from the eighth edition, the title was changed to Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). The thirty-seventh edition of Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH 37) contains headings established by the Library through January 2015. The headings included in this list were obtained by creating a file consisting of all subject heading and subdivision records in verified status in the subject authority file at the Library of Congress. Approximately 337,354 authority records were in the file then. The subject authority database from which the headings in this edition were drawn indicates that the file contains approximately 24,018 personal name headings of which 22,854 represent family names, 9,454 corporate headings, 9 meeting or conference headings, 485 uniform titles, 239, 916 topical subject headings, and 60,354 geographic subject headings. There are 770 general USE references, 4,360 general see also references, 294, 791 references from one usable heading to another, and 354, 879 references from unused terms to used headings. The creation and revision of subject headings is a continuous process. Approximately 5,000 new headings, including headings with subdivisions, are added to LCSH each year. Proposals for new headings and revisions to existing ones are submitted by catalogers at the Library of Congress and by participants in the Subject Authority Cooperative Program (SACO). Subject headings are proposed as needed for new cataloging, due to literary warrant--a heading must be needed to describe a work before it can be proposed for inclusion. These proposals are approved by cataloging policy specialists in the Library of Congress’ Policy and Standards Division. The specialists ensure that the proposals conform to the rules and structure of LCSH, including heading format, provision of references, and scope notes. Approved proposals become part of the online authority file of subject headings at the Library of Congress. LCSH is not complete unto itself. Names of persons and corporate bodies, jurisdictions and quasi-jurisdictional entities, and titles can generally be assigned as LC subject headings, but are established in the LC/NACO Name Authority File (NAF) according to instructions contained in RDA: Resource Description and Access (previously AACR2).

The rules for constructing and assigning LCSH heading are contained in two sources: the introduction to LCSH and the Subject Headings Manual (SHM), both available online from the Library of Congress website. Based on these guidelines LCSH has provision for the construction of pre-coordinated indexing strings including headings, plus rules for combining the single terms in strings and one or more levels of subheading. Based on these rules a subject heading may also be subdivided by the addition of form subdivisions, geographical subdivisions, chronological subdivisions, and topical subdivisions to add greater specificity. In a MARC bibliographic record Subject Heading is given in a 6XX field, consisting of either a single element in an $a subfield or of an $a subfield followed by subdivisions in $v, $x, $y, and/or $z subfields, that designates what a work is or what it is about.

The present form of LCSH is quite different from the vocabulary that was initially developed at LC over a century ago. The present LCSH has a thesaurus like syndetic structure in the form of USE references to direct the user from a synonym or quasi-synonym to the preferred term, and UF (used for), BT (broader term), RT (related term), and NT (narrower term) notes to indicate semantic relations between headings. LCSH was published in large red volumes (till recently five), which were typically displayed in the reference sections of libraries and in cataloging departments. In early 2013, the Library of Congress announced that it is transitioning to online-only publication of its cataloging documentation. The printing of documentation for purchase has now ceased, and all new editions and updates will be freely available as PDF files on LC’s website. The final printed edition of LCSH was the 35th, published in 2013. The 37th edition is issued in January 2015 as PDF files that may be freely downloaded from PSD plans to issue new PDF editions annually. LCSH may also be searched online in the Library of Congress Classification Web, a subscription service, or free of charge (as individual records) at Library of Congress Authorities. LCSH headings can also be searched from LC Linked Data Service

Examples based on Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) following principles of assigning subject headings as described in Subject Headings Manual of Library of Congress:

English literature—20th century—History and criticism.
Construction industry—United States.
India—History—Autonomy and independence movements.
Piano music (Jazz)—France—History.
Aging—Egypt—Psychological aspects.

Following is an example of LCSH heading “Hotels” from Library of Congress Linked Data Service



Hotels, taverns, etc

Broader Terms
Hospitality industry

Narrower Terms
All-suite hotels
Allergen-free accommodations
Bed and breakfast accommodations
Gay accommodations
Haunted hotels
Historic hotels
Hotel chains
Hotel lobbies
Imaginary hotels
Nonsmoking accommodations
Park lodging facilities
Safari lodges
Single-room occupancy hotels
Tourist camps, hostels, etc

Related Terms
Taverns (Inns)

Earlier Established Forms
Hotels, taverns, etc

LC Classification

Used for: LCSH, LC Subject Headings, Library of Congress Subject Heading

This new encyclopedic entry in the “Glossary of Library & Information Science” of the Librarianship Studies & Information Technology Blog answers following questions?
  • What is Library of Congress Subject Headings?
  • What is scope of Library of Congress Subject Headings?
  • What is history Library of Congress Subject Headings?
  • How LCSH is produced?
  • Is LCSH a thesaurus?
  • Where LCSH is applied?
  • What is the cost of Library of Congress Subject Headings?
  • How LCSH applies a syndetic structure?
  • How LCSH is revised?
  • What are the different types of headings in LCSH?
  • How many headings are available in LCSH?
  • How present LCSH is different from the previous LCSH?
  • How to use in LCSH the names of persons and corporate bodies, jurisdictions and quasi-jurisdictional entities, and titles as subject headings?
  • Where can we get free LCSH?
  • What are the tools and resources for providing LCSH?
  • How to give LCSH in a bibliographic record according to international standards?
All librarians and information professionals may use information from Glossary of Library & Information Science for their writings and research, with proper attribution and citation. I would appreciate it if you would let me know, too! Please cite as given below:

MLA: Haider, Salman. "Glossary of Library & Information Science." (2015)
Chicago: Haider, Salman. "Glossary of Library & Information Science." (2015)

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Librarianship Studies & Information Technology Blog will be more focused on the techniques of Library of Congress Classification (LCC) and Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) by use of Classification & Shelflisting Manual (CSM) and Subject Headings Manual (SHM) and Classification Web tool of Library of Congress, and Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC). Follow Librarianship Studies & Information Technology in Social Media blog to be updated of new items and start/comment on the discussions in the Google+ Community Librarianship Studies & Information Technology and Facebook Group Librarianship Studies & Information Technology.

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