Thursday, January 27, 2011

RE: Subject analysis

Posting to Autocat

On Wed, 26 Jan 2011 12:13:06 -0500, Jerri Swinehart wrote:
Thank you in advance for your responses!

I'm interested in learning what resources are available for learning how to assign subject headings to original records (any format). It's not that I haven't done this, but my experience is limited to DVDs and a few pieces of music. I know about the Subject Cataloging Manual, AACR (soon to be RDA), Bibliographic Formats and Standards. However, what else is out there?
I helped create an online learning resource for the FAO IMARK program. The module "Digital Libraries, Repositories and Documents" http://www.imarkgroup.org/moduledescription_en.asp?id=111 has a unit "Unit 6 - Metadata and Subject Indexing" where I discuss subject analysis (and other things). I do not focus on LCSH, but on the FAO/AGRIS standards of AGROVOC and AGRIS. Still, the basic principles of assigning subject terms is universal, and I try to be as expansive as possible, including of course, AACR2 and LCSH, among a few others. I believe registration is free.

It may interest other catalogers to know that when I started at FAO, I began cataloging and indexing (the tasks were separate at FAO at the time) documents and individual articles using rules I didn't know, on a topic (agriculture) where I had only a limited understanding, and using a thesaurus (AGROVOC) I had never used.

The results turned out to be very interesting. From the very first record, I could create very acceptable records. This created quite a stir and surprised even me! In the revision I went through, the descriptive part was no problem at all; the problems I had were subject analysis, and not with the actual analysis itself, but--as I was to determine myself later--finding the correct level of exhaustivity. As I was to figure out, even though they did not word it this way, the level of exhaustivity there was about 10%, whereas we have 20%.

So, from the first I could do it, although I was slow. With my "success," I realized that something very important was happening in my brain and I wanted to write it down. Probably every experienced cataloger realizes that when confronted with something completely new, they go into a different "mode of cataloging" than they normally do. This is what I did, automatically. So, I analysed what I did very minutely, and wrote down each step of the process. I think it was about 15 steps (I'd have to find it) that I went through almost subconsciously to determine the correct subject descriptors. And it worked!

This is another one of those articles I always meant to write, but never did!

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