Moderator: Alison Dickey, Assistant Dean, Palmer School of Library and Information Science, Long Island University
Alison Dickey opened the session by saying that the program was inspired by last year's "Paradigm or Dinosaur. The Future of Anglo-American Cataloging Rules" that dealt with descriptive cataloging. The participants were charged with addressing four topics: The history of subject cataloging in the absence of a code; Subject cataloging issues specific to art; How proposing subject headings and SACO (Subject Authority Cooperative Program) work have changed in the electronic environment; and The current and future role of the web in art subject cataloging.
Joseph Miller, editor of the Sears List of Subject Headings, spoke of
the process employed by H. W. Wilson Company as they organize the huge
volume of subject entries in their numerous indexes to periodical literature.
He compared the Sears List with the Library of Congress Subject Headings,
stating that both had as their objective facilitating users access to information, and both grew by accretion. Unlike LCSH and Sears List is not tied to a particular library, and it does not attempt to be complete. The Sears List provides a skeleton to aid indexers in assigning topical headings for periodical articles. It, like LCSH is prey of the foibles of the English language that is at times too specific and at others not specific enough. For example: What is the difference between Architecture and Buildings? Well, it all depends upon context, and the list can only provide general guidelines for indexers to judge the content of the article in hand. The user of that particular index must take that into consideration when searching for information. Users must also remember that while the Sears List has been growing there have been other developments in the way we get our information and in the way we think about it that must be considered. This fact also suggests the problems faced by editors of the terms as they try to provide consistency to the guide terms so that users may glide more or less effortlessly between volumes of an index. This is especially true in the electronic environment as the company attempts to provide access to periodicals gathered over a number of years with a single search word of phrase.
Trudi Olivetti, Senior Cataloger, National Gallery of Art, presented
"1000 Words: Subject Cataloging for the Fine Arts" as a extension
participating in the Vancouver session entitled "Paving the Cow Path." Her task on the program was to summarize the history of the development of the
Library of Congress Subject Headings from Charles Cutter's Rules for a Dictionary Catalogue through the Airlie House conference on the Future of
Subdivisions in the Library of Congress Subject Heading System. Some of the attempts along the way to codify procedures for the application of subject headings, especially those dealing with subdivisions, ended up creating troublesome potential conflicts that stand as obstacles in the path of the
user. One may even begin to think that the days of subject searching have exceeded their use, especially with greater reliance on keyword searching in
the web environment. Those who apply subject headings should consider that other vocabularies, such as Art and Architecture Thesaurus, may provide
better access in specialized disciplines such as art.
Julie Wisniewski, Art Mongraphs Cataloger at the University of Maryland
Libraries continued the thread of discussion about subject headings with
"Every Good Path: Proposing Subject Headings via Cowpath or Interstate."
According to the speaker formulating and assigning subject headings is
long the exclusive purview of the Library of Congress. She pointed out a number of electronic forms and forums related to the subject designed to
invite participation from the library world at large rather than a specific body of catalogers. The Subject Authority Cooperative Program (SACO)
particularly invites participation for greater consensus for subject access between librarians. A number of examples were presented to compare the
"Cowpath", or previous method of seeking warrant for and formulating subjects and their subdivisions, with more recent methods likened that were
likened to the "Interstate."
Sherman Clarke, Head of Original Cataloging, Bobst Library, New York
University, concluded the roster of speakers with "Cataloging Art and Works
of Art With the Web in Mind." When subject headings were fixed on cards held in place by a rod within a drawer a user could more easily thumb
through a sequence of information until he or she found the appropriate subject formulation for the information they sought. With the demise of
paper catalogs, searching has become more slippery, and one failed search does not often lead to a successful one. Keyword searching, however is not
the answer, because of the plethora of "hits" returned to the user, even with the most sophisticated engine. We are still troubled with the vagaries
of the English language and still can't make the fine distinction between words, such as "Venetian", which can mean both something in a particular
style or something produced in a particular place. What may ultimately result from our current confusion may not be a set of rigid guidelines for
the application of subject headings. The outcome may rather result in a set of good practices documents that will guide the cataloger in connecting
information users with the appropriate documents whether they are textual or pictorial, print or digital.
The overall tone of the session was highly professional. Speakers
referred to each other and played off what went before and what was to
was clear that they had spent time together before the presentation that resulted in cohesive session that modulated smoothly from one speaker to the
Architecture and Art Librarian
University of Illinois at Chicago