Re: When do I use?

Posting to Autocat

On 03/04/2013 17:21, Aaron Kuperman wrote:

The complication is that people write books on the pre-1776 (or if you prefer, 1783) history of the United States, and they write books on Italian (and German, and British, etc.) history in periods that such countries didn’t exist. However no one writes books about the Byzantine Empire or the Soviet Union in periods of non-existence (other than a few works covered by “–Former Soviet Republics”). 

And of course there is the problem that many Americans are seriously deficient in world history, including many catalogers.

The real complication is something else. As I mentioned in that online tutorial, let’s consider a book about birds of the area Russia/Soviet Union/Former Soviet republics. What subject do I assign? At one time it was a no brainer, but now it depends on when it was published. If it was published in 1863, it gets “Birds–Russia”; published in 1963, it gets “Birds–Soviet Union”; if published in 2013, it gets “Birds–Former Soviet republics”. Exactly the same book. So yes, you can have “Soviet birds”.

To maintain decent access, you may find yourself having to double or even triple headings, depending on what time frames the book is discussing. A book on the history of agriculture within that area may have doubled or even tripled headings. Biographies become very difficult this way. If subject assignment isn’t handled consistently (which it isn’t) the searchers either have to spend a lot more time looking under all three headings (which they don’t know to do) or they just miss all kinds of things. For instance, any searcher who wants to learn about birds of “that area” will have to look under all three headings. They have to.

Yes, the heading that mixes Soviet Union with the Byzantine Empire, or the former “Soviet Union–History–Peter I, 1689-1725” are weird, but are they really any weirder than “Dinosaurs–United States”? or “Turkey–History–Ottoman Empire, 1218-1918”? For some reason, the so-called “weird” headings are allowed except in the area R/SU/FSr.

The rule that a concept has one and only one name makes perfect sense in catalogs. When you allow two or more names for the same concept (or geographic area) incredible complexities arise. Maybe it looks weird, but at least people can find things consistently. Break that rule, and woe to all!