SCISSHL and ScOT: Why use both?

Have you ever wondered why some SCIS records contain two similar or identical subject headings? SCIS cataloguers use two controlled vocabularies: the SCIS Subject Heading List (SCISSHL) and the Schools Online Thesaurus (ScOT). You’ll notice that the codes ‘scisshl’ or ‘scot’ appear in parentheses after each heading, representing which vocabulary the heading came from. Subscribers who access records through SCISWeb have the option to have headings from both vocabularies in their downloaded records, or just their preferred one.

These two controlled vocabularies serve complementary functions. Simply put, ScOT terms are informed by curriculum language and structure, whereas the SCISSHL is informed by topics in the literature itself: its headings reflect the content of the SCIS database.

Seasons_SH_MARCviewThe benefit of using both is that if one person – likely, in this case, to be a teacher or school library professional – enters search terms inspired by the curriculum, and another person – such as a student – searches with no consideration of the curriculum, both will find relevant resources. Oftentimes there is an overlap between SCISSHL and ScOT terms that can describe resources (see image to the left); to maintain consistency, both terms are always used.


MyProfileAdvancedOptionsWhile our cataloguers include terms from both vocabularies, you have the option to select a preferred subject heading format.

Once you’ve logged into SCISWeb, you can select ‘My Profile’ from the navigation bar, select ‘Advanced options’, and then choose your preferred subject heading format (you can press the ‘Help me choose which format’ if further clarification is needed), and then press ‘SAVE’.


Please note that the instructions above only change your settings on SCISWeb, and will not affect the format of records imported directly into your library management system through Z39.50 (otherwise known as rapid cataloguing or z-cataloguing).

When using z39.50 to import records directly into your system, some library systems allow you to choose between SCISSHL or ScOT terms. Others extract the ScOT headings and put them in special fields, treating them as keywords rather than specialised subject headings. Still others import both sets of headings and do not give you a choice in the matter. If the source of the heading is not displayed (‘scisshl’ or ‘scot’) it may appear that you have duplicate headings in your record, whereas one heading is from ScOT and the other from SCISSHL.

If you would like to know more about the differences between the two, see ‘ScOT in SCIS – more of the same … or different?’ and ‘The relationship between SCIS Subject Headings and ScOT’.

Now you can use SCIS cover images on your blog!

book cover imageWe’re pleased to announce that ESA and Thorpe-Bowker have recently upgraded their licence to extend the use by SCISWeb subscribers of the bookcover images provided with SCIS records. Schools may now use the book cover images not only within their library catalogues, but also on the school website, including in blogs, wikis, online newsletters and intranets.  Unfortunately this extension applies to online use only, and does not permit schools to print off these images and use them in book displays etc.  So while, for example, it may be tempting to print off that SCIS book cover image, turn it into a poster and laminate it, then use it to advertise Book Week, this does not fall within the licence agreement for the use of SCIS book cover images.  But hey, the artist who created that nice piece of artwork deserves a few royalties too!

Book cover images are also available on other web pages, including publishers’ web pages, but you would need to look at the terms of usage of that web page to see if they are freely available to be printed off. Contacting the  publisher to ask permission would be the safest way to go, or you could try asking your local bookshops if they could hang on to some of the promotional posters they receive for children’s and YA fiction.  For more information about this  and other copyright questions, a good place to refer to is the Smartcopying website, at

This post was contributed by Mary Gough, who provides SCIS cataloguing services for Queensland schools.

Two books but one ISBN?

Here at SCIS one of the most common enquiries we receive is from school library staff who have scanned an ISBN into SCIS Orders, only to get the SCIS record for a completely different book show up in their results file.

The reason this occurs is usually pretty simple, and it’s not our fault.  Sometimes publishers print the same ISBN on more than one of their publications.

ISBNs are supposed to be unique to one edition of a particular title, but irritatingly, it’s actually quite common for publishers to accidently give the same ISBN to two different books.

If your browser and school settings allow pop-ups, you can alter your SCIS profile to prompt you to choose from a pop-up menu when there is more than one record on the SCIS database with the ISBN you’ve just scanned.

Go into your SCIS profile at (NB. you will need to be logged in to SCISWeb first).  Go to Basic preferences, and under ISBN duplicates select the option ‘Prompt me to choose from a list’.

Of course, this will only work if both titles with the duplicate ISBN have been catalogued onto SCIS, but provided your school hasn’t blocked pop-ups, it can save a certain amount of confusion.

If your school has blocked pop-ups (and we know there are a few schools with this problem) then your next best option is to try a keyword search in SCIS OPAC for the ISBN of the book you want a record for (again, you will need to be logged into SCISWeb).  If there are 2 books with that ISBN in the database, both will be returned, and you can then copy the SCIS number for the record you want into the SCIS Orders box and then download the record normally.

If you still can’t find the record you want, we may not have created a SCIS record for that book yet, in which case you should contact us to see if we can arrange to have that record added to the database.

For more information about ISBNs, see our earlier blog post.