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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
FIVE-YEAR PROGRESS REPORT ON
SUBJECT SUBDIVISIONS CONFERENCE RECOMMENDATIONS
December 1996

Executive Summary:

Attached is a report on the changes that have taken place in subdivision practice in the Library of Congress Subject Headings system in the five years since the Subject Subdivisions Conference took place at Airlie, Virginia, in May 1991. Following the conference, the Library of Congress addressed each of the six recommendations and made decisions regarding their implementation. In 1992, the Library began to implement the recommendations. The Library of Congress has an ongoing commitment to improve the Library of Congress Subject Headings system and to implement those recommendations that have been determined by the library community to be worthwhile. Since the implementations have now become part of the routine operations for the development and maintenance of the system, this is the final report to cover the Subject Subdivision Conference recommendations as a whole. Highlights of the decisions made and the actions taken on each recommendation are reported below.

  1. To facilitate geographic subdivision of headings, new topical headings for which geographic treatment is possible are now established with authorization for geographic subdivision, and such authorization is added to records for existing headings on a case-by-case basis. To achieve a standard order of subdivisions where it can be applied, new topical
    subdivisions for which geographic orientation is feasible are now established with authorization for further geographic subdivision, and such authorization is being added to existing topical subdivisions that were not previously divided by place. In 1993, the ALCTS CCS Subject Analysis Committee (SAC) established a Subcommittee on the Order of Subdivisions in Library of Congress Subject Heading Strings to pursue alternatives to the recommended order in special areas, such as art, literature, and history. The Subcommittee submitted its final report to SAC in 1996. Its basic finding was that many of the goals of the Subject Subdivisions Conference would not be met by a wholesale implementation of the proposed standard order, but its feasibility studies supported the hypothesis that some level of default order was possible if several broad areas of exceptions were identified and specified. The report included specific recommendations for changes regarding application of the subdivision History and the application of geographic and chronological subdivisions with art headings that the Library of Congress is currently considering.

  2. OCLC's Office of Research has supported investigation of the feasibility of a machine-generated subject validation file that would contain full strings of all types of headings, including name, topical, and geographic headings. In 1994, a Task Group on the Subject Authority File was established by the predecessor of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC) to define and evaluate the functional requirements and uses of the subject authority file and its relation to LCSH, including evaluating the feasibility and need for representing entire character strings in the authority file, and the necessity of creating authority records for subject subdivisions to allow for better online control of heading- subdivision combinations. Two of the task group's specific recommendations on investigating the recording of heading changes and identifying authority record changes to accommodate coding to allow automatic validation of heading-subdivision combinations were referred to SAC for consideration. The Library of Congress has begun planning for the creation of subdivision authority records to control free-floating subdivisions. The Library of Congress has expanded programs by which cooperating libraries may contribute subject headings proposals in the Subject Authority Cooperative Program (SACO). Information on participating in SACO along with subject heading proposal forms may be accessed through LC's gopher and Web site.

  3. The Library of Congress agreed that chronological subdivisions used under topical headings should relate to the coverage of the contents of the items rather than to their date of issue and cancelled nearly 200 subdivisions that had been used to represent date of issue rather than contents. The Library has no immediate plans to use numerals for dates or date ranges in chronological subdivisions in all cases, nor to change chronological subdivisions following the subdivision History where alphabetic characters appear as the initial elements. The Library decided not to pursue the use of free-form date subdivisions.

  4. In 1995, a proposal to define a new subfield $v for form subdivisions in the USMARC authority and bibliographic formats was approved. The Library of Congress is now planning for the implementation of subfield $v in authority and bibliographic records as well as the new field 155 for genre/form headings in authority records. The Library decided not to pursue further the coding of general subdivisions according to broad subject categories.

  5. The Library of Congress agreed to continue its practice of indirect geographic subdivision. The Library is currently planning for the implementation of the 781 linking field in authority records for geographic headings to use for recording their indirect geographic subdivision form.

  6. Simplying the form and application of subdivisions continues on many fronts and specific changes to headings and subdivisions are regularly announced. Changes that are deemed desirable are made in spite of their impact on existing databases. A planned global update facility will aid in updating bibliographic records for one-to-one changes. To date, over 450 subdivisions have been discontinued, updated to more current forms, or replaced by existing subdivisions or phrase headings. Documentation on subdivisions and lists of free-floating subdivisions in the Subject Cataloging Manual: Subject Headings have been improved and streamlined and a fifth edition of the manual was published in fall 1996.


Full Text of Report

Following the Subject Subdivisions Conference that was held at Airlie House, Airlie, Virginia, in May 1991, the Library of Congress set up study teams to address each of the six recommendations that emerged from that conference. In January 1992, a report on Cataloging Modifications at the Library of Congress, which included the six recommendations and the
Library's decisions on their implementation, was disseminated for discussion and comment. The subsequent publication of the conference proceedings, The Future of Subdivisions in the Library of Congress Subject Headings System, which included papers on the implications of the conference, facilitated awareness of possible changes in subdivision practice. In 1992, the Library of Congress began to implement the recommendations. The decisions that were made and the actions that have been taken on each recommendation in the five years since the conference was held are reported below.

Recommendation #1: Under topical headings (as opposed to name or place headings), place, chronological, and form subdivisions shall be applied as needed and on an individual basis, based upon the judgment of the cataloger as to their appropriateness to the item being cataloged. If the cataloger chooses to apply subdivisions, the subdivisions should always appear in the following order: topical, geographic, chronological, form. This is not to suggest that each type of subdivision shall always be present under each heading; it is simply to specify a standard order for them when they are assigned. When a non-topical subdivision element is expressed or implied in a topical main heading, then as a general rule the main heading should be used rather than a subdivision under a topical heading. A topical heading should not receive geographic subdivision if it is used as a topical subdivision after geographic subject headings.

The Library of Congress identified two critical elements in this recommendation: 1)facilitation of the assignment of geographic subdivisions, and 2) standardization of the order ofsubdivisions in topical subject heading strings.

To facilitate the assignment of geographic subdivisions, new topical headings for which geographic treatment is possible are now established with authorization for geographic subdivision. Geographic subdivision is authorized by code i in USMARC field 008/06 in subject authority records and is represented by the designation (May Subd Geog) in LCSH and other subject authority products. In the past, headings were established with authorization for geographic subdivision only if actual items being cataloged discussed that topic in a particular location. Authorization for geographic subdivision is added to records for existing headings on a case-by-case basis as they are modified for any reason. Projects to add geographic subdivision authorization to specific types of headings have been undertaken. Currently, forty-one percent
of all headings, and fifty-four percent of topical headings are authorized for geographic subdivision.

To achieve the recommended standard order of [topic] [place] [chronology] [form] where it can be applied, new topical subdivisions for which geographical orientation is feasible are now established with authorization for further geographic subdivision. For topical heading/topical subdivision combinations, the standard order of subdivisions was traditionally
considered to be [topic] [place] [topic], for example, Construction industry France Finance, with a limited list of exceptional subdivisions for which further geographic subdivision was authorized in order to collocate by specific subtopics, for example, Construction industry Licenses Virginia. On a case-by-case basis, topical subdivisions not previously divided by place are now being authorized for geographic subdivision. To accelerate progress in moving toward a standard order of [topic] [topic] [place], a review of free-floating and non-free-floating subdivisions was begun in 1993 to add authorization for geographic subdivision to those that can be divided. Currently, approximately sixty-one percent of free-floating subdivisions for which geographic subdivision is possible are so authorized compared with twenty-eight percent in June 1993.

To bring the expression of more concepts into the recommended standard order of [topic] [place] and to eliminate exceptional practices, seventy subdivisions on the list of free-floating subdivisions used under names of places were discontinued in favor of dividing the corresponding main headings by place. For example, the subdivision Industries, which was previously used under names of places, was replaced by Industries [place]. Nine subdivisions on the list of free-floating subdivisions used under names of bodies of water were cancelled in favor of dividing the corresponding main headings by place. For example, the previous heading Mississippi River Bridges is now expressed as Bridges Mississippi River.

The Library of Congress team that investigated this recommendation recognized that a significant change to current practice would occur if the proposed order were applied in special areas, such as art, literature, and history. They also recognized that potential loss of meaning could result in some categories of headings. Therefore, they recommended that those areas be studied further. At the 1993 midwinter meeting of ALA, the ALCTS CCS Subject Analysis Committee (SAC) passed a motion expressing concern about the applicability of the recommended order with the subdivision History, and with headings for art, music, and literature. They voted to establish a Subcommittee on the Order of Subdivisions in Library of Congress Subject Heading Strings to pursue alternatives to the prescribed order in those cases, and to conduct a review of other potential problem areas. They encouraged the Library of Congress to continue its effort to authorize geographic subdivision of topical subdivisions during their review. The Subcommittee began its work in 1993 and submitted its final report, including appendices of discussion papers and feasibility and end-user understanding studies, to SAC in January 1996 for transmittal to the Library of Congress. The basic finding of the Subcommittee was that many of the goals of the Airlie House Subject Subdivisions Conference, particularly the improvement of subject access for online public access catalog users, would not be met by a wholesale implementation of the order proposed in the Conference's first recommendation. The Subcommittee's feasibility studies supported the hypothesis that some level of default order was possible if several broad areas of exceptions were identified and specified. The Subcommittee recognized that the intent behind the recommendations was the goal of simplifying subject heading application and use of headings in OPACs. The Subcommittee's report included specific recommendations for changes regarding application of the subdivision History and the application of geographic and chronological subdivisions with art headings that the Library of Congress is currently considering.

Recommendation #2: The developing "national authority file" should contain authority records for topical headings and for topical heading-topical subdivision(s) combinations. Further non-topical elements in any given string will not normally be established, unless such a record is desirable for cross-reference purposes. Authority records for headings containing subdivisions governed by pattern and free-floating lists will not require formal editorial review. Topical subdivision records and coding showing relationships between headings and topical subdivisions would be desirable features to help create the file and to assist validation. The Conference encourages the Library of Congress to continue and expand its programs by which other libraries contribute to a national subject authority file.

Following the Airlie House Conference, the Library of Congress worked with staff from OCLC's Office of Research to develop a base file of topical heading/topical subdivision strings derived from LC bibliographic records in the OCLC database for which corresponding subject authority records did not exist. In 1994, the Cataloging Distribution Service surveyed MARC Distribution Service subscribers to assess the level of interest in such a file. Since then, Lois Mai
Chan, Professor, School of Library and Information Science, University of Kentucky, and Diane Vizine-Goetz of OCLC's Office of Research have investigated the feasibility of a machine-generated subject validation file that would contain full strings of all types of headings, including name, topical, and geographic headings. A report is currently in preparation: Lois Mai Chan and Diane Vizine-Goetz, "Feasibility of a Computer-Generated Subject Validation File Based on Frequency of Occurrence of Assigned Library of Congress Subject Headings: Phase I, Statistical Analysis," sponsored by the Office of Research, OCLC, Dublin, OH.

In 1994, the Cooperative Cataloging Council (CCC), the predecessor to the Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC), established a Task Group on the Subject Authority File to define and evaluate the functional requirements and uses of the subject authority file and its relation to LCSH (as a thesaurus), including evaluating the feasibility and need for representing entire character strings in the authority file, and the necessity of creating authority records for subject subdivisions to allow for better online control of subject heading/subject subdivision combinations. In its final report submitted to the CCC in November 1994, the Task Group made recommendations in four areas: 1) enhancements to the current subject authority file, 2) creation of a validation file, 3) creation and use of records for subdivisions, and 4) creation and use of authority records for heading-subdivision combinations. In 1995, the Executive Council of the PCC accepted the report of the Subject Authority File Task Group and asked that two of its specific recommendations be referred to SAC for further discussion and recommendations on actions needed for their implementation. They are: 1) "Investigate ways of recording the history of heading changes in authority records," and 2) "Identify changes to authority records for main headings and subdivisions needed to accommodate coding that will allow automatic validation of heading-subdivision combinations." In 1996, the SAC Subcommittee on Subject Authority File Recommendations was formed to study those issues.

The Library of Congress has begun planning for the creation of authority records for subdivisions in the subject authority file to control free-floating subdivisions.

Since the Airlie House Conference, the Library of Congress has expanded programs by which cooperating libraries may contribute subject heading proposals. The Cooperative Subject Cataloging Project (CSCP), which started in 1983, has been transformed into the Subject Authority Cooperative Program (SACO), one of the components of the PCC. Currently over seventy libraries regularly contribute proposals to SACO. Information on participating in SACO is posted on LC MARVEL, the Library's gopher, and is accessible through the PCC's homepage on the Library's Web site. Also posted there are instructions for making proposals and a subject heading proposal form that may be downloaded to a local system, filled out, and emailed to LC's Cooperative Cataloging Team.

Recommendation #3: Chronological subdivisions under topical headings should relate to the coverage of the content of the item and not to its date of issue. The Library of Congress should investigate using numerals as dates or date ranges in chronological subdivisions. The Library of Congress should consider the pros and cons of the use of free-form chronological subdivisions. Vendors and utilities should be encouraged to develop range searching capabilities.

The Library agreed that chronological subdivisions under topical headings should relate to coverage of the contents of items and took steps to cancel over thirty subdivisions that had been used to represent an item's date of issue under selected headings. For example, five date subdivisions that had been established under the heading Arithmetic to break up the large file of records by date of publication were cancelled in favor of either assigning the unsubdivided heading, or using it with a form subdivision Early works to 1900. In 1993, period subdivisions that had been established after more than 160 headings for regions and countries subdivided by Description and travel were cancelled in favor of using the heading [place] Description and travel without subdivision, or subdividing it by the free-floating form subdivision Early works to 1800 for works published prior to that date.

The Library of Congress has no immediate plans to use numerals for dates or date ranges in chronological subdivisions in all cases, nor to change chronological subdivisions used following the subdivision History where alphabetic characters rather than numerals appear as the initial elements. However, words have been deleted from over one hundred chronological subdivisions established under names of places where the words were deemed not necessary, for example,
England Church history Modern period, 1485- was changed to England Church history 1485- .

The Library of Congress decided not to pursue the use of free-form date subdivisions because such a change would require additional cataloging time for many items and would necessitate substantial enhancements to online systems.

Recommendation #4: The question of whether subdivisions should be coded specifically to improve online displays for end users should be considered by organizations such as the Network Development/MARC Standards Office at the Library of Congress, MARBI and SAC of the American Library Association, and the utilities, among others. In particular, the Library of Congress should investigate implementing a separate subfield code for form subdivisions.

Initial investigations at the Library of Congress determined that it would be possible to distinguish form subdivisions from other subdivisions. However, the Library deferred its decision on the need for a separate subfield code until after it received a report from the SAC subcommittee that was studying the issue. At the 1993 midwinter meeting of ALA, SAC voted to recommend to the Library of Congress that a separate subfield code for form subdivisions be implemented. Its
Subcommittee on the Nature and Use of Form Data produced a definition of form data and investigated issues involved in applying that definition and a possible code. A discussion paper on defining a new subfield code for form subdivisions in the USMARC formats was considered by the USMARC Advisory Group at the February 1994 MARBI meetings. A fuller discussion paper that posed questions on retrospective conversion, the use of a form subdivision subfield by online
systems, issues of authority control, implementation options, and general user opinions was considered by that same group at its June 1994 meetings. In February 1995, a proposal to define subfield $v for form subdivisions in the USMARC formats was approved. Updates to the USMARC Format for Bibliographic Data and USMARC Format for Authority Data were subsequently issued that incorporate subfield $v as well as X55 fields for genre/form headings. In 1995, the Library of Congress set up a Form/Genre Working Group to plan for the implementation of subfield $v in authority and bibliographic records and the new field 155 for genre/form headings in authority records as well as the greater application of the existing 655 field for Index Term -- Genre/Form in bibliographic records. In 1996, a new SAC Subcommittee on Form Headings/Subdivisions Implementation began deliberations to advise the Library of Congress on these issues and to foster greater awareness of form/genre access. Implementation of subfield $v in authority and bibliographic records is expected later in 1997.

Because of workload considerations, the Library of Congress decided not to pursue further that aspect of the recommendation calling for coding general subdivisions according to broad subject categories. The application of subject category coding to subdivisions would require a substantial effort among many parties as well as changes to the format. It was not clear what use would be made of more specific subdivision coding or whether desired objectives could be
achieved through the use of other elements in records, such as classification.

Recommendation #5: The current policy of indirect geographic subdivision should be continued. The Library of Congress should investigate including the indirect form of geographic headings in authority records for geographic names.

The Library of Congress agreed to continue its practice of indirect geographic subdivision. A longstanding exceptional practice of using the heading New York (N.Y.) directly as a subdivision was abandoned in February 1996 in favor of applying standard indirect geographic subdivision practice and assigning the city indirectly through New York (State).

In 1992, a 781 linking field to use for recording the indirect geographic subdivision form of geographic headings was added to the USMARC authority format and included in its 1993 revision. The Library of Congress is currently planning for the addition of this field to its internal authority format and its implementation in both the name and subject authority files.

Recommendation #6: The Conference strongly recommends that the Library of Congress simplify subdivisions in the Library of Congress subject headings system. Target areas for simplification include the reduction of overly fine distinctions, the consolidation of lists, and increased consistency in syntax. The Conference acknowledges the potential impact of such changes on existing files, but the changes are of such importance that they should be made in spite of possible disruptions to existing databases. The Conference urges the Library of Congress to pursue vigorously enhancements to its automated systems that could compensate for disruptions caused by these changes.

Simplifying the form and application of subdivisions continues on many fronts according to general principles articulated by the original team that studied this recommendation. Specific changes to headings are announced in the Weekly Lists and the Cataloging Service Bulletin. In response to requests for an easily used list of changed free-floating subdivisions for ready reference, a list of changed or cancelled free-floating subdivisions is published quarterly in Cataloging Service Bulletin.

Changes that were deemed desirable have been made in spite of their impact on existing databases. A planned global update facility that is currently in development at the Library of Congress will aid in updating bibliographic records when there are one-to-one subject heading changes.

Progress in simplifying subdivisions may be reported in terms of the specific types of improvements made:

  1. Reduction in overly fine distinction in subdivisions is being achieved by the cancellation or merger of subdivisions that represent the same or similar concepts in differing forms. Since the conference took place, over seventy-five variant subdivisions have been discontinued or merged. For example, the subdivision Terms and phrases, which was established under the general heading Law and authorized for use under headings for legal topics, was replaced by the existing free-floating subdivision Terminology, which is used under topical headings in other fields.

  2. As part of the effort to streamline documentation on free-floating subdivisions in the Subject Cataloging Manual: Subject Headings, the list of subdivisions used under groups of Indians was merged with the list of subdivisions used under ethnic groups, and the list of subdivisions used under domestic animals was merged with the list of subdivisions used under animals in general. Three additional lists of free-floating subdivisions were discontinued. Work continues on consolidating the lists of free-floating subdivisions used under names of individual persons and individual literary authors.

    For the 1994 Update Number 1 to the Subject Cataloging Manual, individual pattern lists of free-floating subdivisions were shortened by removing from them: 1) subdivisions that are so specific to the heading that serves as the pattern that they are not, for all practical purposes, free-floating; and 2) subdivisions that are valid under a broader category that encompasses the pattern heading.

    In early 1994, the Cooperative Cataloging Council established a task group to investigate subject cataloging documentation. In fall 1994, the task group distributed a survey to solicit comments and suggestions for improvements on the format, organization, and contents of the Subject Cataloging Manual: Subject Headings. The group analyzed 219 returned surveys and submitted a report to the PCC in May 1995 for posting on LC MARVEL.

    Based on its discussions and analysis of the results of the survey, the task group prepared a statement of principles and recommendations for the next edition of the Subject Cataloging Manual: Subject Headings for the Executive Council of the PCC in September 1995. In early 1996, subject cataloging policy specialists in the Cataloging Policy and Support Office (CPSO) began work on revised text for the manual with the assistance of catalogers detailed to CPSO. The four-volume fifth edition became available in fall 1996. It includes a form to return to CPSO for suggesting further improvements to documentation.

  3. Over 250 subdivisions were cancelled in favor of phrase headings in cases where it was judged that a phrase would provide a better form of heading. For example, use of the free-floating subdivision Buildings under types of institutions was discontinued in favor of establishing phrase headings: Airports Buildings was changed to Airport buildings; High schools Buildings was changed to High school buildings; and Postal service Buildings was changed to Post office buildings.

  4. Over sixty subdivisions were updated to more current forms. For example, the subdivision Preventive inoculation, which was used under diseases, was changed to Vaccination, and the general free-floating subdivision Data bases was updated to Databases.

  5. Thirty-five subdivisions that were determined to be no longer needed were discontinued. For example, the subdivision Mechanical aids was cancelled under the headings Composition (Music) and Harmony with no replacement.

The Library of Congress has an ongoing commitment to improve the Library of Congress Subject Headings system and to implement those recommendations that have been determined by the library community to be worthwhile. Since the implementations have now become part of the routine operations for the development and maintenance of the system, this is the final report to cover the Subject Subdivision Conference recommendations as a whole.

*** Last update 1/31/97 (srm) ***

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January 24, 2003

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