As we near the end of the decade, it might be good to look back and consider the more significant changes in cataloging practices of the 1990ís. In the area of subject headings, let us first point to the verification tools we use, and the way they are packaged. For example, the traditional LCSH "red books," which recently celebrated their 100th anniversary, grew from a three (3) volume set in 1990 to a five (5) volume set in 1998, and were converted from hardcover to the paperbound format in 1996. Also, an innovation which we now take for granted occurred during this decade: the bibliographic utilities RLIN and OCLC added the complete LC Subject Authorities to their databases, and made the records search- and retrievable by their cataloging customers. More recently, the CD-ROM product known as Catalogers Desktop has allowed personal computer access to the Library of Congress Subject Cataloging Manual: Subject Headings, and offers fast and more extensive ways to search for subject heading policies and practices, and for verifying the various free-floating or pattern heading subdivisions.
Another trend of the 1990ís has been the "Subject Simplification Progress" which was initiated following the Subject Subdivisions Conference held May 1991 at the Airlie House in Virginia. Numerous changes have taken place, such as eliminating similar subdivisions with overly-fine distinctions (e.g., LAW-TERMS AND PHRASES, changed to: LAW-TERMINOLOGY) and the merging of the pattern heading subdivisions for Indians into the pre-existing pattern set for ethnic groups, generally, including many law-related subdivision and heading revisions. LC has also made much progress in adding the "(May Subd Geog)" instruction to many topical subdivisions, to try and achieve a consistent practice of constructing headings with subdivisions in this order: --[Topic] -[Place] -[Form], whenever possible.
One other significant change, which has not previously been discussed in this column, was the Library of Congress decision in 1991 to begin allowing their own catalogers to execute "copy cataloging" of works in their arrearages (aka "backlog"). The quarterly, Cataloging Service Bulletin, describes the initial project in its issues no. 51 and no. 55, dated winter 1991 and winter 1992, respectively. In fall 1993, according to CSB no. 62, the LC copy cataloging program was extended to divisions throughout the LC Cataloging Directorate. Users of LC-MARC records should be accustomed to seeing these bibliographic records by now. They contain a subfield $c DLC and/or $d DLC (or DLC-R) in the 040 field, and, more noticeably, are indicated by an 042 authentication field with the text "lccopycat," or "lccopycat-nm." Is the quality of these records as good as that of traditional original cataloging from LC? What differences might we expect for these records, regarding the subject analysis and the subject headings? I was forced to look closely at this recently, when I communicated with Paul Weiss at LCís Cataloging Policy & Support Office, about an "lccopycat" record for a work I thought should have been classed in KF and have had U.S.specific subject headings. This is how he responded:
"Iíve added --United States to the three subject headings. We try to avoid reclassifying except when the number is clearly wrong, since it involves retrieving and relabeling the book, reshelflisting, etc. In this case the number is not incorrect ó itís just not as specific as it could be. Our copy cataloging technicians are trained mostly to evaluate whether the subject headings and class numbers are formulated correctly rather than whether they are appropriate for the work. Itís unfortunate that some works, such as this one, end up receiving less specific headings and class numbers than they would if we cataloged them originally, but thatís the price we pay to free up our catalogersí time to catalog items that no one else has cataloged already."
The notion that LC would abrogate its duty to perform subject analysis, relying instead on the judgment of some OCLC member librariesí catalogers, is somewhat startling. But, sure enough, the aforementioned CSB articles have been straightforward in informing the library public of this policy. In issue no. 51, LC states that "each main and added entry heading, including subject headings, will be searched to determine whether that heading is established in the LC name or subject authority files." Some checking was also to be done regarding the "choice" of main and added entries, with revisions made where necessary. "Topical subject headings, on the other hand, will be corrected only for form ... Subject headings in copy cataloging records will not be checked for correctness of application. These headings will represent the subject analysis done by the original cataloging library. The copy cataloger will not review the subject assignments to assure that they are done according to current LC subject cataloging policies."
When copy cataloging was expanded at LC, there was even some loosening up of the requirements for choice of other headings, as well. We were told in CSB no. 62 that the program was to "focus on accepting as much as possible in the ExSR [external source record] without necessarily reflecting LC practice in all aspects, and that this condition continue to be reflected by the code "lccopycat" in an 042 field." Now, the LC copy catalogers are advised to accept the choice of main entry and any added entries "unless egregiously misleading" and "insure that the 7xx complement includes basic access." At the same time, a modicum of flexibility was given regarding the choice of subject headings. "The completed record [should] contain both an LC call number and at least one LC subject heading in those cases for which LC subject cataloging policy calls for subject headings. ... Validate the authority of all subject headings and subdivisions. Verify that each heading has been constructed according to LC practice, i.e., that the string is formulated correctly. If the headings, subdivisions and construction cannot be validated, if the appropriateness of the headings is questionable, or if an egregious error is present, resolve the problem and do any needed authority work."
And so, should we be concerned about these "lccopycat" records? Well, they have been available to libraries for eight years now, and, apart from the occasional complaints and discussion on AUTOCAT, there has been no great riot among the countryís catalogers, or much disruption to our cataloging workflows. With its initial emphasis on books and sound recordings in English, French or Spanish that had been in LCís arrearage for a minimum of three years, the impact on law-related titles may have been less extensive than for other disciplines. (According to 1997 statistics, and those for the first half of LCís 1998 fiscal year, copy cataloging is now done at LC for almost 17% of all its titles cataloged. However, in my law libraryís current backlog of 98 LC-copy titles, I was able to find only three, or about 3%, that were "lccopycat" records. All three of these records, by the way, were quite good quality; although last week we cataloged another "lccopycat" record containing this physical description: $a xxiv, 486 ; $c 24 cm., i.e., missing the "p." after the number 486.)
The conclusion we have reached is one not based on any scientific study; in fact it may be somewhat anecdotal, but one which I believe many experienced catalogers share. These "lccopycat" records are not of the same high quality, by and large, that we have come to expect for fully LC-cataloged records. Nevertheless, they are probably of better quality than the average utilityís member-input record. And so, it is advisable to be aware (if not a bit wary) of the differences, and to alert your staff or make changes to workflow, accordingly, depending on the needs and priorities of your library.