School of Information Management & Systems. Spring 2003.
245 Information in Collections.   Michael Buckland.

Assignment 8: Social Aspects of Naming. Due Mar 5.
Naming and labelling do more than assign a neutral "objective" identification. Naming tends also to describe. Naming tends to categorize. To name is to "frame". Naming is descriptive, often deliberately so, done to achieve an effect. Naming reflects the perspective adopted, consciously or unconsciously, by whoever does the naming. So examination of naming can provide insight into the perspectives, attitudes, and values of those who do the naming.
    Topics in websites, catalogs, and in bibliographies are designed to be accurately and easily meaningful for the population to be served. Topic names are assigned deliberately, carefully, purposefully, and systematically, and so reflect the mentality and language of their time, origin, and purpose. Headings also tend to be kept relatively stable for consistency and economy (since revision is difficult and expensive) and so they also tend to reflect the mentality of past decades, not always reflecting changes in social attitudes and in language.
    A classic work on this topic is Sanford Berman's   Prejudices and Antipathies: A Tract on the LC Subject Headings Concerning People. (1971 and an essentially unchanged 1993 edition). A copy of each is in MAIN at Z695.U36.B45 and I will put my own copy in the Computer Lab. Another copy close by is in the CES section of the Ethnic Studies Library in Stephens Hall. Copies may well be found in other libraries. "LC" refers to the Library of Congress, whose list of some 200,000 subject headings (plus some 200,000 cross-references) is used, largely unchanged, by most large libraries.
1. Spend at 30 minutes with Berman's book, reading the "Introduction" and scanning the rest.
2. Pick one or more examples of subject headings that interest you.
3. Find a copy of the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), large fat red volumes kept near the online catalog terminals in campus libraries. (Ask staff if you don't see it.) There are copies in MAIN Z695.U4749 and in the South Hall 210 (Computer Lab). Later is better, but any edition 1990 or later will do.
4. Read the "Introduction" to LCSH.
5. Look up your example(s). Have they been changed. If so, what to?
6. Look in the MELVYL catalog to see what subject headings have been used. EXPLAIN DATE and EXPLAIN SET DATE help one search different time periods of cataloging. SET DATE RECENT (= last 10 years) is a convenient way to see changes since Berman's book. Usually one needs to get back before 1960 to find much contrast with the present (Do EXP DATE for options, e.g. AND DATE 1950-1952 ). I have placed a 1968 edition of the LCSH in the Computer Lab. (In it, x means See; xx means See also.)
Try BROWSE XSU [whatever] to find subject headings starting exactly as you specify. Use BROWSE SW [whatever] to find subject headings containing what you specify. Try searching for titles containing words that interest you (F TW [word]), then use DISPLAY LONG (or D SU) to see what Subject Headings were used. Although MELVYL CATALOG subject headings normally conform to LCSH, they contain numerous non-standard and obsolete subject headings.
D TI SU DP -- Displaying TItle, SUbject headings and Date of Publication -- is a convenient way of picking relating contemporary word usage (title) and LC Subject Headings for any given date, but assumes the catalog record was made near the publication date, which may not be the case.
5. Briefly summarze what you found. Add any comments. (1 - 2 pages single-spaced.)
6. Hand in your summary and be ready to talk about it in class.
Examples should be socially sensitive where terminology changes.
A reliable source of old LC Subject Headings is: Library of Congress Catalog -- Books: Subjects. MAIN Stacks Z733U57C234 1950/54; 1955/59; 1960/64/; 1965/69; 1970/74; then annually 1975-1982. Also in Library of Congress Catalog -- Pre-1956 Imprints. Z733.U57.C22556, arranged by main entry, some cards have LCSH. (See Old LCSH.)
Optional extra: Look at other aged indexes. The The Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature   is good because it uses LCSH-like subject headings and, in the paper version, one can see how subject headings changed by decade from 1900. Green volumes in MAIN Humanities & Area Studies reading room AJ3 .R4 (on the top shelf on the west side of the westernmost center shelves) and in MOFFITT Reference AJ3 .R4 (in corner on right behind reference desk).