We recently had a query from a user who asked us to explain the value of SCIS Subject Headings and the ScOT vocabulary — and the rather tricky subject of authority control. This query often comes up in our inbox, at conferences and at professional learning sessions, so now feels like a good time for a blog post on the matter.
SCIS vs ScOT — which to choose? Firstly, we do not consider this an either/or scenario; nor do 100% of our users. SCIS Subject Headings have been developed and refined to support best-practice for resource management in education. SCIS records provide the foundation of consistent, best-quality metadata, to which ScOT headings can be a valuable supplement.
The SCIS Subject Headings vocabulary dates back to the early 1980s and is a pre-coordinated subject headings list. It is intended as an educationally-focused alternative to the Library of Congress Subject Headings. SCIS subscribers can choose to supplement SCIS Subject Headings with ScOT, a post-coordinated vocabulary of topical headings.
SCIS catalogue records contain SCIS’s authorized name and subject headings. However, on their own, records will not display the See and See Also references that provide the optimal search experience for your students and staff. SCIS Authority Files provide these references, as well as providing all authorized forms of names and subjects used as access points in SCIS catalogue records. Installing them will enable your library management system to automatically create cross references, which will be visible in your library catalogue.
Schools can subscribe to SCIS Authority Files for only $90 per year, which includes both Name and Subject authorities. SCIS release a new version of the Authority Files twice a year, usually in March and August.
In this post we describe the benefits of installing SCIS Authority Files and provide advice on selecting and installing them, using two systems to demonstrate: Access-It and Softlink’s Oliver. You can find more information about SCIS Authority Files on the authority files help page. You can also watch our new Authority Files video…
SCIS Name Authorities specify the authorized name of authors, illustrators, and other creators, be they corporate (eg “Primary English Teaching Association (Australia)”) or individual. This includes See references for non-authorized names. For example, if SCIS Name Authorities are installed and one of your staff search for “PETAA”, they will be directed to all works by “Primary English Teaching Association (Australia)”. Without Name Authorities, they may get no results.
Not all systems support name authorities, so check with your vendor before installing them.
SCIS Subject Authorities
If a user searches on the term “Hurricanes” without a See reference to direct them to the authorized SCIS subject heading, “Cyclones”, they may believe that the library does not contain any resources about hurricanes. See Also references exist between related terms and are important for assisting the user to find resources on similar subjects, such as directing users from “Cyclones” to the related topic “Tornadoes”.
SCIS Subject Authority files include authorized names as subjects. That is, whilst SCIS Name Authorities specify the name “Carroll, Lewis” as an author of a work, SCIS Subject Authorities specify “Carroll, Lewis” as a subject for when a work is about Lewis Carroll.
Selecting Authority Files – Full versus Reference Only
On the SCIS Authority Files page, schools need to choose which files they require: the SCIS Full Authority Files or the SCIS Reference Only Authority Files.
The Full Authority files contain all authorized SCIS headings, including those without See and See Also references, such as “Science fiction films – History and criticism”. This may be useful for local cataloguing of resources not catalogued by SCIS, such as vertical file materials. Use the full list of authorized headings in your library system to ensure consistency with headings used in SCIS records.
If most of your catalogue records are sourced from SCIS and you do little or no original cataloguing, you may decide you only need the significantly smaller SCIS Reference Only Authority Files. These contain only those headings that have See and/or See Also references. We recommend that all schools install at least the Reference Only Subject Authority Files.
Downloading SCIS Authority Files
Twice a year, when SCIS release new versions of the Authority Files, go to the SCIS Authority Files page, select the correct files for you, and download them.
The next step is to import them into your library management system. Read your system’s manual carefully for the settings to choose when importing the SCIS subject authority files.
Imports should be regarded as an overnight housekeeping task as the download may take several hours.
In current generation systems, many of the steps will be similar.
In Oliver, go to Management > Import and select the MARC radio button. It is crucial to select “MARC-21 Authority” in the “MARC format” field is crucial.
In Access-It, click Cataloguing > Imports > Import MARC Authorities.
Your system may require you to make some or all of the following decisions:
Choose how to deal with existing, duplicate authority records: Unless you want to retain any Subject Authorities you have created, it is important to replace the existing subject authorities with the new SCIS authorities. In Oliver, select “Replace existing resources”.
Specify which authorities you are loading: In Oliver it is important to select “Load subjects” otherwise the subject authorities won’t be loaded. If you are importing Name Authorities, do not select “Load Authors into Subject Authority File” because SCIS Subject Authority files already contain author names as subjects.
Specify file encoding: MARC authorities will be encoded in UTF-8. Select this in Oliver, and leave Access-It as “auto-detect”.