Alva T. Stone
Florida State University
For those of us who deal with catalog maintenance, subject headings revision can be a real challenge. On the one hand, we’d like our subjects headings to reflect current usage, to match the popular or “natural” language of our end-users. On the other hand, not all of our online systems have global-change capabilities for making these revisions automatically. Cataloging staff must somehow find the time to execute the more complex revisions, while we are trying to keep up with regular cataloging of new titles. It would be a great disservice to our clients or patrons to leave the old works under the outdated headings, thus creating split files which runs counter to the principle of collocation that is so fundamental to effective subject access. (Keyword access would be negatively affected too!) However, because our new-title cataloging statistics may decrease when we work on major subject heading revisions, it may be a good idea to make certain that our library administrators know that we have accomplished these tasks. As with a reclassification project, we need to let others know (through announcements at staff meetings, notices in the library newsletter, or in written annual reports) that some cataloging time was spent on making these improvements. Rather than feeling burdened by the changes, let’s turn this around to an opportunity to promote what we do, and let others see that we are committed to making the library’s catalog easier to use.
Two recent subject heading changes that affect law libraries are the 1999 revision of “Trade-unions” to Labor unions, and the establishment in 1998 of the heading “Drugs of abuse—Law and legislation.” In the first instance, it is not just a matter of changing the word “trade” to “labor” and omitting the hyphen. No, some other revisions took place as well. For example, in the first heading listed below an inverted heading was changed to direct-phrase (or natural language) heading. And, in all of the headings which formerly were constructed in the style, “Trade-unions—[Class of persons],” the order has been reversed so that the correct heading now is [Class of persons]—Labor unions. Sometimes it was necessary to add another topical subdivision to change the topic into a class of persons, as in Postal service—Employees—Labor unions. There are other exceptions, such as the change from “Welfare funds (Trade-union)” to Labor union welfare funds. Because of all these variations, I thought it would be helpful to list the specific changes—for those law catalogers who have not yet made the revisions. Note that the following list only includes law-related “labor union” headings; your library may have some other headings that are affected by the revision.
The other aforementioned subject heading change, Drugs of abuse—Law and legislation, is one that was brought to my attention by Aaron Kuperman via a posting made by him to the TS-SIS Listserv in Dec. 1999. According to the scope note for the main heading,
Drugs of abuse are ... ”those mind-altering drugs, such as alcohol, hallucinogens, marijuana, narcotics, sedatives, and stimulants, that governments seek to control because they are liable to be abused.”
Previously, works we cataloged dealing with legal aspects of such drugs collectively were assigned the subject heading, Narcotic laws. That heading is still valid, but only for works limiting their coverage to narcotics (such as opium, morphine and heroin). This means that many—but not necessarily all—of the works with “Narcotic laws” will need to be changed to Drugs of abuse—Law and legislation. Particularly those works that deal with more than one of the street drugs (cocaine, marijuana, LSD, roofies, etc.) or include alcohol and narcotics (or some other combination) should be revised to the newer heading. (Note that prescription drugs, which may also be abused or misused, will continue to be assigned the heading, Drugs—Law and legislation.) Since this is not a one-to-one change, each existing bibliographic record currently under Narcotic laws will need to be examined to determine if the revision is needed. Aaron reported that only the older, more historical works at the Library of Congress were able to keep the heading “Narcotic laws.”
Please let me know if further information is needed on either of these major changes, or if you have other topics you would like to see addressed in this column.
The Local Systems Committee of OBS/SIS is pleased to announce an informal “program” at AALL. You are invited to come to their Open Discussion at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, July 19, 2000. Learn why Adrian White recommends the beta experience as a result of beta testing Innovative’s Millennium Circulation and Serials at Howard University. Find out from Regina Wallen how Stanford University handled alpha testing of SIRSI’s Serials and Acquisitions modules. Join in a discussion about the relationship between libraries and their system vendors. This is your chance to learn about system testing, ask questions, and share your opinions. Anyone with an interest in the topic is invited. You are welcome to bring your lunch.