On 05/03/2013 16:32, Frank Newton wrote:
The third thing is that any of you are free to say that we need to have separate subject headings, one for Covered wagons and another for Overland journeys to the Pacific. I have absolutely no interest in that argument. I perceive LC subject headings as similar to horseshoes and hand grenades — “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades” — as far as I’m concerned, close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and subject headings. I love and greatly admire LC subject headings, but I have a very limited interest in the kind of subject heading reform which led to the separation of the subject heading College teachers and college teaching into two separate subject headings, College teaching *and* College teachers. (My example may be off the mark, but I can’t recall a more accurate example of this trend at the moment of writing this.) As far as I’m concerned, listing the library materials about covered wagons under “overland journeys to the Pacific” i s way more than good enough, it’s highly satisfactory. The catalog user only needs a cataloger to make the connection, and that catalog user (if not too lazy to follow cross-references, and if not defeated by “modern” library catalogs which don’t support cross-references) can then find what they need.
A very good point with “overland journeys to the Pacific”, but there are other possibilities. I can imagine today that when people are interested in battles of “World War II” they search for “wwii battles”. In LCSH, there is an absolutely invaluable reference http://bit.ly/165W048, from “World War, 1939-1945 Battles, sieges, etc.” to:
See: World War, 1939-1945–Aerial operations.
See: World War, 1939-1945–Campaigns.
See: World War, 1939-1945–Naval operations.
Therefore, the heading “World War, 1939-1945 Battles, sieges, etc.” is not valid for use on any records, yet it is a handy placeholder that illustrates the needs of the public (many people think of “battles of WWII”. I do!) and help them search the catalog correctly. How could anyone possibly come up with those authorized headings on their own? After, all you are thinking in terms of “battles”. People weren’t expected to come up with those terms on their own in the card catalog, since the catalogers back then added this nice cross-reference.
This is the kind of navigation that was completely lost in the transition to the OPAC. Today, the reference exists, that is true, but is effectively hidden from everyone. You can get it only after choosing the search “Subjects” (a tiny percentage), typing in “World War 1939-1945” (an even tinier percentage) and then browsing through I don’t know how many screens, to where you would find “World War, 1939-1945 Battles, sieges, etc.” (a percentage so small as to disappear from the detectable universe).
The cross-reference itself remains just as vital today as it ever was but nobody will ever find it today. Yet in the card catalog it was much easier to find this cross-reference, since that was in the nature of the printed format.
See why I keep saying that the catalog is broken? I only hope it is not broken beyond repair, but first of all it is necessary to realize that it is broken, and needs to be fixed.
Oh! but I keep forgetting that it is much more important to type out abbreviations, and to limit access (or at least make searching immeasurably more complex) by putting in relator codes that we can all disagree on….