Library of Congress
New York University
We have all come to accept, to a greater or lesser extent, the ideal of standardized cataloging. We all catalog to national standards (as interpreted by the law cataloging community), and share our cataloging with others via bibliographical utilities that are international in scope. Nevertheless, we are all confronted at times by "interesting" records that give us, as law catalogers, pause because of their unusual subject headings —although they may have been done at reputable libraries that should have "known better." Sometimes this reflects a local practice, which should but often is not reflected in the MARC coding. Often it may represent what a reputable "non-law" library regards as perfectly correct cataloging. In all fairness, if one of us does a perfectly good job cataloging a non-law book the rest of the world might also be somewhat amused. It is important to be aware of these variations, and to take them into account when using copy from another library.
Sometimes, these practices are a result of shelving or "turf" issues. In some libraries, classification determines who routinely gets a specific book, e.g., if the book classes in R or H, it does not go to the law library. This is true of the Library of Congress, both in terms of shelving and custody of materials (with provision for making exceptions), but more importantly, pertaining to cataloging and classification (with no provisions for exceptions). At the Library of Congress, books classing outside of K or JZ are never done by law catalogers though a law cataloger might suggest headings when referring a book to a non-law team. If a record came from a law library, one can reasonably assume it was done by a cataloger experienced in law cataloging, and if a record came from a non-law library, even if classed in "K", one needs to assume it was cataloged by someone other than a law cataloger, and we should be suspicious about the subject analysis and cataloging.
If a law library needs a non-legal title for its collection, it may need to "force" the book into a "K" call number. The reverse is true for a "legal" title being "stolen" by a non-law library. Many types of literature can arguably class in more than one schedule, and the classification will determine who does the subject analysis, classification, and subject cataloging of the book. While we reasonably can rely on the quality of cataloging of a law book done by a law library, we need to be wary of a law book done by a non-law library, or a non-law book done by a law cataloger.
Sometimes a library uses (or abuses) the classification system to collocate materials that might otherwise be scattered. For example, at NYU Law Library materials published by the European Union or one of its component parts are "forced" into KJE in order to maintain a distinct EU collection. The Library of Congress puts all Congressional hearings in KF25-KF27, and has a collection of core United Nations documents in JZ. Such practices result in non-law books being classified in law numbers.
Law catalogers typically look at materials in different ways than social sciences catalogers. We are focused on jurisdiction; "obsessed" might be a better word. The most critical question any law librarian asks about a book is "what jurisdiction does this apply to." Social science librarians, and users, often tend to focus on the general concept the author is presenting, rather than the relevant place. A social scientist might look at a book and see a general work, and regard the U.S.-specific aspects as backdrop for the general discussion. Law catalogers looking at the book will see the geographic orientation as critical, and give it prominence in deciding to class in KF, and in assigning subject headings to support the KF number.
A good example is criminology, which never classes in K. It belongs either in HV6000+, or with the subject for forensic studies, e.g. RA for forensic Medicine. In the United States, the study of criminology belongs to the police rather than lawyers (i.e. school of criminal justice rather than law schools). In many other countries criminology, including "criminalistics" (the science of crime detection), is included in law school curricula, especially in countries where "detective work" is entrusted to investigating magistrates. In reality, American lawyers routinely use these "criminalistic" and "forensic science" materials (and therefore, they expect us to acquire and catalog them). In LCSH terms, "forensic sciences" refers to science and methodology of "Evidence, Expert". We'll probably use "Evidence, Expert — [jurisdiction]" as a first subject heading, and a second heading for the forensic science in question. However, if the book classes in R, there will probably be no "law" heading other than "Medical jurisprudence", and most medical catalogers tend not to use geographic subdivisions (from their perspective, a corpse is a corpse regardless of whether it's a Maryland corpse or a New York corpse). The relative lack of emphasis on geographic subdivision is true of the natural sciences to even a greater degree than the social sciences.
While "history" (classes D-E-F) is as sensitive to geography as law is, in addition to not understanding the legal nuances we "adore", they sometimes focus on places in a way we find unacceptable. "True crime" books (which should class in HV) display most of these problems as well. Often a trial will be a frame story for bringing out the details of the crime, which requires classing in K (unless one juggles the headings to leave them in HV). It should be noted that the use of a public trial to discuss a crime can reflect the desire to discuss something that one isn't supposed to discuss in public, but becomes tolerable if discussed as part of a report of a public trial (this can refer to lurid sex crimes, not to mention assorted "political crimes and offenses" depending on time and place).
A history-oriented cataloger will focus on a specific place, such as a village or neighborhood (the book being valuable for local history collections, genealogists, etc.) If a book is classed as a trial, our first heading will always be the name of the defendant, followed by "Trials, litigation, etc.", with the crime being indicated by the type of trial. Law catalogers will focus on the jurisdiction where the trial was held rather than where the crime occurred. If the non-law cataloger analyzes the book, the "criminal's" (in our parlance, the defendant's) name appears, an additional heading will indicate the type of criminal subdivided by place and the form subdivision "—Biography"). For example, the HV cataloger may want to indicate a "Murder" in Greenwich Village (a city section brought out by a secondary 651 heading), but to a KF cataloger the book is about a "Trials (Murder)" held either in New York City, or in New York County (the later being a heading only law catalogers should routinely use). The difference is even clearer in a non-urban situation since the trial will typically be in the county seat, while the crime may have occurred in a smaller, more specific locality; and in some countries, it is possible to hold the trial in a place that is quite distant from the scene of the crime.
Religion catalogers are also very skeptical of the need to bring out geographic places, but tend to be more sensitive to differences within religious groups (which often requires the use of 610 headings). Note that the subdivision "—Religious aspects" is rarely used with a geographic subdivision (unless a non-theology cataloger is using it). In libraries where the adoption of the KB schedules results in a movement of materials from theology (B) to KB, we need to be especially attuned to how law and religion catalogers approach their work (in part since we are both somewhat "idiosyncratic" relative to the mainstream of cataloging).
Then of course there are the things that law catalogers do that aren't 100% "kosher" according to the non-law cataloging world. We say "Great Britain" when we mean England (hopefully this will change soon). The social science cataloger might have a book on "Police—England", but if we decide the book belongs in "K", it becomes "Police—Great Britain." We use "Handbooks, manuals, etc." as a subfield x to mean what group the book is intended for, they use it as a subfield v to indicate what we might call a treatise. For a book written "for" the witness (e.g. "How to be professional forensic expert"), we law catalogers will create a heading such as "Rented experts—Handbooks, manuals, etc." - a heading a non-law cataloger would find totally incomprehensible. If a book is written for "non-lawyers" we assign "Popular works", whereas no one else thinks it remarkable that a target audience consists of normal people. For the most part, law cataloging almost never uses "Case studies", and many non-law catalogers don't realize that "Cases" refers to litigation, and that its use with a subfield "x" refers to books about the "case-law" as opposed to other types of law.
The "bottom line" is that when we encounter (typically in copy cataloging) a record produced by a non-law library, regardless of whether the book should or should not class in "K", the subject analysis will often be unacceptable from our perspective as law catalogers. Similarly, when we catalog non-law materials, especially for a shared database, we should try to be sensitive to how their primary users would want them treated.