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’.

Urgent Z39.50 access message

SCIS Z39.50 IP change Tuesday 23 Nov 2010

All SCIS Z39.50 subscribers should be using the host address name: as advised on the SCIS Z39.50 help page.

Today, Tuesday 23 November 2010, the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) is planning to turn off an old IP address (

For most SCIS Z39.50 subscribers this should have no impact at all, but for some systems it may require a change to router or firewall as outlined below.

If possible, please test your Z39.50 access to SCIS today to ensure it is working. If it is? Cheer and take no further action.

If you experience the ‘Failed to connect’ or other error message, please contact your library’s technical support in the first instance and provide them with the following router / firewall settings to allow an additional access list as follows:


Protocol: TCP
Port: 7090

In some cases the system may require a flush of the DNS to remove the old IP address.
Click on the Start button (bottom left of Windows computer)
‘Start’ -> ‘Run’ -> type the command ipconfig /flushdns (note the space between ipconfig and /)
and press <Enter>

If you have any questions about this process, or require further assistance at any stage, please contact the SCIS helpdesk
By email:
By phone: 1800 337 405 (free call within Australia outside Melbourne)  or +61 3 9207 9600 or +61 8 8334 3209

SO WHAT IS Z39.50?

An introduction to Z39.50 is the subject of a separate blog post.


X, Y, Z of  Z39.50

Over 800 schools using SCIS are now set up to get their catalogue records via Z39.50. They are enjoying the seamless way that Z39.50 searching allows them to search remote databases such as SCIS for library records from within their Library Management System and import individual records directly into their library catalogue.

So what is Z39.50?

Z39.50 is an international standard for information retrieval described in ISO 23950 and ANSI/NISO Z39.50. This standard is a protocol for searching and retrieving information from remote databases, and is maintained by the Library of Congress.

Can I use Z39.50?

All schools that have a current SCISWeb subscription are able to use Z39.50 for retrieving catalogue records directly from SCIS to their Library Management System provided that system supports Z39.50, Z cataloguing or Rapid Entry as some systems call it. Check this with your Library system support person.

If you would like to try out this workflow for importing your catalogue records from SCIS, send an email to and ask us to activate Z39.50 in your SCIS profile.

There are some settings to change in your library system. These are available from the SCIS Z39.50 help pages. Then follow the instructions provided by your library system.


For those already using Z39.50 please share your experience on how it has changed your cataloguing workflow for the benefit of schools just starting out. Let us know which library system you are using and any tips for new Z-cataloguers.

Future directions

Although many school libraries are relatively new to Z39.50, as Wikipedia points out Z39.50 is a pre-Web standard, originating in the 1970s. It has served the library world well since particularly in the area of consortium partnerships, interlibrary loans and shared cataloguing services. There is new work happening in this space and new formats for data which we will be watching with interest.