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.
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.
The 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.
While 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.
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”.
Education Services Australia manages multiple vocabularies including SCIS Subject Headings List and ScOT. At the SCIS consultation SCIS Asks, Ben Chadwick, ESA Metadata analyst outlined how vocabularies assist search.
Search expansion and faceting
Navigation and browsing
Collections Redirects (“See”)
Related topics (“See also”)
Mapping between repositories
ScOT as Linked Open Data
Ben outlined how ScOT is published as open linked data and can be linked to other unique identifiers, inside and outside the vocabulary. It is available for consumption on the open web and is expressed in a standard, machine-readable format (RDF).
ScOT linking curriculum to resources
To date ScOT has been used to tag 20,000 resources in Scootle and 350,000 resources in SCIS MARC records. The Softlink survey 2013 showed that schools want curriculum alignment. Aligning existing resources to the Australian Curriculum is one of three top priorities of school library staff. Future decisions for SCIS around curriculum alignment include
dealing with pre-2006 records without ScOT terms,
increased records for digital resources,
retrospective updates of schools’ SCIS records
viability of Linked Open Data authorities as a new model for authority files.
Many have indicated that they would love to be able to search by curriculum in order to find related resources and that this would be a huge time saver. Suggestions included looking at the 658 MARC field to introduce a curriculum element.
It was noted that there was demand for automated updating of bibliographic records. This would require a new process to ensure that library management systems can handle requests. It was agreed that the ability to refresh bibliographic and authority records is an important one and further discussion is needed about whether models of linked data could address this problem.
SCIS is conducting a consultation workshop in Melbourne on Tuesday 4 December 2012 from 9.00-1.00pm. The consultation aims to engage SCIS and its partners in discussion about future priorities in our support of school libraries.
1.00pm SCIS Consultation closes
Participants are encouraged to stay for a light lunch and then join delegates at the keynote session and opening reception for the IDEA 2012 conference at the Sofitel, 25 Collins Street Melbourne.
2.00pm Keynote: The science and technology of learning, Professor Erik Duval, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
3.15pm Afternoon tea
3.45pm Panel: Challenges and opportunities for digital learning including Rhyan Bloor, Digital Education Branch, DEEWR; Rodney Spark, eWorks; Kerri-Lee Krause, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education), University of Western Sydney and Bevan Doyle, Chief Information Officer, Department of Education Western Australia
Selecting the subject tab before entering a search term provides the most comprehensive option for a subject heading search, looking for the subject term anywhere in subject, and returning any matching SCIS Subject Headings and ScOT terms in an alphabetical list.
The number of related titles, and details of any broader and narrower terms are provided below the subject heading.
While the default display is set to a list of 20 subject terms per page, this number can be changed to 10, 25 or 50 records per page prior to searching.
The Subject browse drop down option within Basic search returns an alphabetical list of SCIS Subject Headings and ScOT terms that start with this term and also provides a count of titles and details of references.
This is helpful for finding the most appropriate subdivision of a SCIS Subject Heading.
2. TO FIND RESOURCES ON A SUBJECT Note: these search options will provide a list of records, not a list of subject headings.
Subject search within basic search looks for the search term anywhere in any subject heading and returns the records that meet that criteria.
Results are sorted alphabetically by title, but can be changed to a sort by publication date or author using the drop down options at the top right of the search results.
To find the subject heading used for a particular title, click on the title to display the full record and view the subjects. Click through from the full record to investigate that subject heading further.
Advanced search is accessed from the top right hand banner menu of the SCIS Catalogue, and provides the option to combine a subject search with other search parameters. Advanced search will return a list of records, sorted alphabetically by title.
Screenshots of SCIS Catalogue courtesy of Ex Libris Voyager system
The SCIS Information Services Standards Committee met by teleconference on 25 May 2011. The major outcome of the teleconference is a revision of the SCIS subject heading hierarchy covering types of computers and device names.
The New South Wales SCIS agency prepared the original paper which was raised for discussion in February 2011. As the paper was complex and included many aspects of the subject area of computers and related devices, further discussion and consultation, particularly with the WA SCIS agency was required before the proposal was approved.
New headings for the following categories of devices are now available:
Digital media players
Most of these headings allow for the construction of further headings for specific devices, such as iPad (Tablet computer) and Kindle (E-book reader).
Further details of the changes will be announced in the term 3 2011 issue of Connections (issue 78).
The changes included 2 new subject headings, Non-government organisations and Case studies, as well as revisions to the reference structures of the terms Matter, Operas, Biology, Evolution and Variation (Biology).
A detailed list of the changes is available from the SCIS website, and if you are a SCISWeb subscriber you can of course review all the above headings and their reference structures in the SCISWeb OPAC, or in Subject Headings Online if you have a subscription to that (Note: you’ll need to login first).
For those of you who download the SCIS Authority Files for implementation of the Subject Headings in your own library system, the newly authorised headings and amended reference structures will be included in the August 2010 Authority File update.
The ISSC continually revises the SCIS Standards for Cataloguing and Data Entry and SCIS Subject Headings in order to ensure that they remain in keeping with international standards, whilst also ensuring that schools’ specialised needs are taken into account. Members of the ISSC draw on their experience in providing cataloguing and support services to school libraries and their links to curriculum experts within their organisations in order to provide informed discussion on the adoption of new or modified headings, alterations to the cataloguing standards and other enhancements to the SCIS service.
The ISSC group conducts regular meetings throughout the year via teleconference, as well as utilising an edna group page which acts as an online forum for the exchange of discussion papers, regular updates and news.
If you have any questions about how SCIS Standards for Cataloguing and Data Entry are implemented in SCIS bibliographic records, or wish to suggest a change to the SCIS Subject Headings we would love to hear from you. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org – we’re here to help!