School of Information Management &
Systems. Fall 2003.
245 Organization of Information in Collections . Michael Buckland.
Assignment 9: Social Aspects of Naming. *Now due April 5*.
Naming and labeling 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, reprinted 1993). One copy is on GRADUATE SERVICES reserve in MAIN and one in the Ethnic Studies Library in Stephens Hall. "LC" is the Library of Congress, whose list of subject headings "LCSH" has some 200,000 subject headings (plus some 200,000 cross-references) is used, largely unchanged, by most large US libraries.
1. Spend at least 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.) The latest volumes can be found at the Moffitt and Doe reference desks. Furthermore, there are copies in MAIN Z695.U4749. Any edition 1990 or later will do. Also searchable online as "Subject Authority Headings" at http://authorities.loc.gov/.
4. Read the "Introduction" to LCSH, then look up your example(s). Have they been changed. If so, what to?
5. Look also in the MELVYL catalog (melvyl.cdlib.org) to see what subject headings have been used -- and then whether they have been used in the past decade. Although MELVYL CATALOG subject headings normally conform to LCSH when made, they contain numerous non-standard and obsolete subject headings that are often not updated. Search on a subject heading of interest or use keywords to reach titles on the topic, then use LONG or FULL or MARC display (in MARC record field 650 you will find the subject headings) to see what Subject Headings have been used. If the record displayed doesn't the heading you searched on, probably one of the other campuses contributed a record for that book with the obsolete record. This can be traced by displaying the "Full" record and clicking on different campuses listed in the "Library" line at the bottom. You can then do a title search at the Library of Congress catalog http://catalog.loc.gov/ to see current LCSH. You may have to try several examples before you find something interesting. (See example below).
5. Briefly summarize 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.
The current LCSH ("Subject Authority Headings") are searchable online at http://authorities.loc.gov/. Old editions of LCSH (1965, 1988, 1995, 1999, 2001) are in the Computer Lab. Editions 1988 onwards are in MAIN Stack Z695.U35, older editions in storage at NRLF. A good source of old LCSH and their use is: Library of Congress Catalog -- Books: Subjects. MAIN Stacks Z733.U57.C234 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 author, some cards have LCSH.
Suggestion: Look at other aged indexes. 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 1890. 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).
Worked example for a MELVYL LCSH Search: "Yellow Peril" Go to the MELVYL
catalog at melvyl.cdlib.org. Choose ADVANCED search.
In first dialog box change TITLE to SUBJECT in drop down menu, enter YELLOW
PERIL in adjacent box. Click YES button under WORDS AS PHRASE, then click SEARCH
button. MELVYL will retrieve 31 or so items. Click on the 31. When you get search
results, click on LONG display so that subject headings will be displayed. ("Full
record" does the same, but only for a single record). Where you see YELLOW PERIL
as a subject, click on it and a new window appears with two options: Either:
Find other items in the Melvyl Catalog [with] Subject: Yellow peril. Or Browse
this alphabetical index in the Melvyl Catalog [at] Subject: Yellow peril. Click
on the second to browse the choices.
To see if the heading is still being assigned, start over in ADVANCED
SEARCH and set dates 1993 to 2003 (or whatever).
Alternatively, use telnet melvyl and searches F TI YELLOW PERIL and F TW YELLOW PERIL. One can display elected pieces of retrieved records using D TAGS AU TI DP SU.
Sometimes it remains unclear why an item has been retrieved. You will probably find 1 record which has 3 subject headings assigned: Race relations, Racism and Eastern question (Far East). Why did you find this record although "Yellow Peril" doesn't appear in the subject headings? The reason is probably an invisible, automatic cross-reference that leads from an old, out-dated subject heading to the new version. Can you guess which subject heading has substituted "Yellow Peril"?