Library of Congress
It has been over a year since the new "form and genre" headings were imposed on us (and let’s be real, it wasn’t OUR idea). Other than causing havoc in OPACs which don’t believe in them, we’ve survived. We did have to explain to "them" (the non-law librarians) that "Law and legislation" is a phrase that means more than statutes, but they listened. This column is on how we might want to be using them. From an initial reaction ("why are they doing this to us?"), to a more realistic ("we can live with it") - it is time to take this new dog and teach it some new tricks that will make our subject headings more powerful. If you need an introduction on "form and genre" one could probably start with Alva Stone’s column from the June 1999 issue (http://www.aallnet.org/sis/tssis/tsll/24-04/subjhead.htm).
One result of the introduction of "subfield v" is to distinguish (and perhaps preserve) the law community’s use of "Handbooks, manuals, etc." to indicate a book written for a specific group of non-lawyers. "Handbooks, manuals, etc." as used by non-law catalogers is almost always a "subfield v" indicating a relatively compact reference work. For example a book on law written for English fools would get the heading "Fools and jesters—Great Britain—Handbooks, manuals, etc." with the final subdivision being a "subfield x". To a non-law cataloger, that subject string would mean a short reference book about fools and jesters covering all of Great Britain. To a non-law cataloger, our usage indicates: 1) that we don’t know the difference between Britain and England (foolish us); 2) we don’t know when to use subfield "v"; and 3) we don’t realize that the Subject Cataloging Manual doesn’t authorize "Handbooks, manuals, etc." under classes of persons. While "our" use of "Great Britain" and "Handbooks, manuals" reflects law practices that go back so far that the memory of catalogers runneth not to the contrary, by coding our heading with "subfield x" we avoid the charge that we are violating the rules of cataloging that everyone else subscribes to. Whereas "subfield v" indicates that the book is a handbook (and most legal treatises meet the definition of a "handbook" which is one reason we don’t use the subdivision for short reference books), a "subfield x" indicates that the subdivision represents something about the contents. Through no fault of our own, one of our most useful "non-standard" practices no longer conflicts with what the rest of the cataloging community is doing.
We’ve always used "—Cases" to indicate that the book is a collection of cases, so this was a natural for "subfield v". In a common law jurisdiction, virtually all law books discuss cases. Even a trailblazing statute will eventually be studied by discussing the cases that analyzed the legislation. Therefore there would rarely be a reason to use "—Cases" as a "subfield x" in a common law jurisdiction, since everything is about cases. The only exception would be a book examining the opinions of a specific court or a specific judge which isn’t all that common, but the addition of "—Cases" with "subfield x" would warn users that the discussion is only about the case law of the subject, and therefore isn’t going to be useful for most types of legal research.
The phrase "Law and legislation" traces its origins to the duality of the judge-made customary "common law" as well as the statutory king/parliament "legislation". Once you explain this to the non-law catalogers, they realize why "law and legislation" shouldn’t be "subfield v". Virtually every discussion of law in a common law country includes discussion of the "law" and the "legislation". However in civil law systems, the rules are quite different. Their "norm" is a statute and scholarly commentaries on statutes are the "bread and butter" for their legal professions. Citing a judicial precedent is usually a weaker argument than citing a well-known treatise. However some authors do write books discussing the "jurisprudence" as they call the discussion of the case law. If the book is a collection of cases, "subfield v" is appropriate, but if it is a discussion of the case law , using "subfield x" would be appropriate since such discussions are atypical in such jurisdictions. Thus we can indicate a book is an analysis of the "jurisprudence" as opposed to a collection of cases. That is a new trick that we couldn’t do before form-genre were introduced.
At present, we indicate that a book includes statutory materials by the presence of an "l" in the fixed field for contents. Would we want a way to bring out "legislation" or "statutes" in a subfield "v" and under what conditions? Virtually all law books discuss legislation, so there is really never a case where a statutory heading would be a "subfield x" (unlike every other "form" subdivision which can be a "x"). There is no reason to bring out that a law discussion is about this "form" since all legal discussions are about legislation.
BUT the reverse isn’t true. For sake of argument, suppose there was a "subfield v" "Statutes and regulations" (telling the difference cross culturally would be impossible). A subject heading for: "Widgets—Law and legislation—Ruritania" would indicate any book on the law pertaining to Ruritanian widgets. If the book has substantial statutory materials it gets the fixed field "l". If the book is limited to the legislation (likely in a civil law country, unlikely in a common law country) it could get an additional subdivision for: —Statutes and regulations. However a special rule could prohibit that subdivision from ever being a "subfield x" (which deviates from the general rule that all "form" subdivisions can also be "topical" when the book is about the form). However if a book were both a collection of statutes and about statutes, would it get the "v" subdivision? What if a book consisted almost totally of statutes (i.e. was an unannotated edition)? Since many law books include some statutes (at least as quotes), suppose we defined the "form" to indicate a book is exclusively consisting of statutes, i.e., no commentary, no discussion, nothing. That would be useful information for a user (grab this book for a quick reference for texts, avoid it if you need an explanation). Under this scenario, the presence of the fixed field "l" and perhaps the 710 headings for statutes would indicate the presence of actual laws but the absence of a "form" subdivision would indicate that the work was more than the mere text of the statutes. A "form" subdivision could indicate a work that was no more than the text of the actual laws. Would this be useful? Would this merely be more work for catalogers? Would it add anything to the record that anyone could use?
The above rules for coding "—Handbooks, manuals, etc." and "—Cases" as a "subfield x" are as legitimate as they can be without being mentioned specifically in the Subject Cataloging Manual. If we, as law catalogers, use them consistently then our public service colleagues can use the data to better locate materials. Establishing a form subdivision for statutes is an idea that we should talk about.