9.554 LC subject headings

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Mon, 19 Feb 1996 18:56:43 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 554.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Leo Robert Klein <kleinl@is2.nyu.edu> (28)
Subject: Re: 9.541 LC categories

[2] From: Lenoble Michel <lenoblem@ERE.UMontreal.CA> (50)
Subject: Re: 9.552 LC subject headings

[3] From: Luis Villar <Luis.Villar@Dartmouth.EDU> (20)
Subject: LCSH

Date: Sun, 18 Feb 1996 03:18:40 -0500
From: Leo Robert Klein <kleinl@is2.nyu.edu>
Subject: Re: 9.541 LC categories

All I can say is thank god for the increasing availability of full-text
databases which allow for more flexible search strategies. I do believe
that LC subject headings require a specialized knowledge not commonly
shared by the average library patron. (I also believe, alas, that the task
of online searching itself is problably a skill not shared by the average
library patron). For most of the patrons I deal with (and for myself when
I come to think of it), it's really hit or miss. While using the OPAC,
people commonly flail about till they hit upon a work which seems to meet
their needs then a few hop from the subject headings in the first record to
other potentially useful records. The knowledge then of any particular
subject heading seems then to be post-initial seach not ante.

And not to open a whole new can of worms (but, hey, why not?) I'm not sure
I agree with Jim O'Donnell's assertion (9.541 LC categories) that the
elements in the MARC record will get "new power" from on-going developments
in user software. I agree with him of course that searching will become
more flexible and powerful but it doesn't seem to me that this will be
through the agency of the MARC record. The MARC record was fine when the
bibliographic record and the item itself were two discrete and separate
entities but how does this play out when such a distinction is no longer
valid such as for online electronic resources?

There will always be the need to know the author and title of the work but
need there be two different carriers--two different software schemes--say,
the MARC format and HTML or SGML--for basically the same information
packet? If this is not a design flaw of fundamental proportions, it seems
at least to be unnecessarily complicated. I wouldn't like to get a letter
delivered by the Post Office and the envelop delivered by UPS.

Leo Robert Klein
Bobst Library, NYU

Date: Sun, 18 Feb 1996 11:34:55 -0500 (EST)
From: Lenoble Michel <lenoblem@ERE.UMontreal.CA>
Subject: Re: 9.552 LC subject headings

The LC keywords are definitely biased. One would easily
demonstrate that this system reflects the political biases of
the country it has been developped in.

About ten year ago, I searched the LC catalog via the information
server DIALOG. At that time, we were studying european literatures
of the 30's. Everyone knows that that particular period in
european history was politically speaking rather polarized. So
were writers. Some were definitely left-leaning or even
communist writers; other were extreme right or even facists. One
can easily name writers' names for each political "affiliation".

To our great surprise, we found lots of hits for "leftist
literature", but none for facist or extreme right writers...
(these words weren't even keywords in the LC system...) which
lead us to search by writers' names to see which keywords had
been attributed to the "definitely facistic" writers. These were
all simply given the "literature" keyword. They, in fact
represented, so thought the catalogers of that time,
"literature", whereas others (left-leaning ones) were cataloged
"communist" writers, "socialist" writers, etc... These, of
course, didn't represent the "literature" of the time, but only
biased or political writing. Might one conclude that, for
Americans of that time, extreme right writers were the only real
writers representing the real values of europeans of that time?

LC keyword-system reflects the way US conceive of the world. What
kind of result would yield a search done by historians about US
involvement (and defeat) in Vietnam, or their support of the
dictatorial emirats of the Golf during their recent military
pick-nick in the middle-east... Would historical researchers be
properly (mis)informed?

The same also applies to HUMANITIES COMPUTING; it's neither pure
humanistic study nor pure computer science. It's a field
situated right in between regular keyword-defined research
domain... falling through the cracks of most catalogers'
conception of the world of knowledge.


Michel Lenoble           
Litterature Comparee     
Universite de Montreal   
C.P. 6128, Succ. Centre Ville
MONTREAL (Quebec)        
Canada - H3C 3J7         
Tel.: (514) 288-3916
Telecopieur: (514) 289-9239

--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: 19 Feb 96 10:37:57 EST From: Luis Villar <Luis.Villar@Dartmouth.EDU> Subject: LCSH

Donald Spaeth's experience and opinion about the LCSH remind me of my days as a graduate student at the University of Chicago's Library School. During a seminar on organizing information the professor, Dagobert Soergel, expressed the same reservations as Spaeth. He expected his system for organizing information to supersede the LCSH.

Here is a record of his book:

010 8315741 020 0126542619 050 0 Z699$b.S539 1985 082 0 025/.04$219 100 1 Soergel, Dagobert. 245 10 Organizing information :$bprinciples of data base and retrieval syste ms /$cDagobert Soergel. 260 Orlando, Fla. :$bAcademic Press,$c1985. 300 xiv, 450 p. :$bill. ;$c24 cm. 490 1 Library and information science 504 Bibliography: p. 399-422. 500 Includes indexes. 650 0 Information storage and retrieval systems. 830 0 Library and information science (New York, N.Y.)

luis villar