Acknowledging Indigenous communities and culture in SCIS Data

The Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) wishes to acknowledge the Kulin Nation, Traditional Custodians of the land on which our offices are located, and pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging. We also acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands across Australia, their Elders, Ancestors, cultures and heritage.

The theme for National Reconciliation Week 2020 is #InThisTogether2020, and in these trying times, this has never been more relevant.

SCIS recognises our responsibility to work for national progress in reconciliation and we are committed to continuing to work towards achieving this outcome.

SCIS cataloguing standards recognise the rich and special nature of indigenous communities in society. As an Australian and New Zealand focussed database, we have some unique cataloguing standards that recognise the Māori and Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures in our database.

Dewey Decimal Classification and book numbers

To give emphasis and a shorter number to religion, spirituality and creation stories of the Australian Aboriginal people, the permanently unassigned Dewey number 298 is used.

For works where the book number would, if built according to SCIS Standards, be ABO and covers topics on Australian Aboriginal peoples, substitute the letters ABL.

SCIS Subject Headings

Resources on specific indigenous people are entered under their name e.g. Iwi (Māori people), Torres Strait Islanders, Aboriginal peoples.

Māori terms where applicable are used e.g. Waka, Wharenui, Te Reo Māori.
Names of Māori tribes can be added to the list e.g. Tainui (Māori people), Waikato (Māori people).

Reconciliation of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australia is an allowed heading, along with Stolen generations.

Additionally, the names and languages of every major grouping of Australian Aboriginal peoples have been added.

SCIS Subject Headings SCIS Subject Headings

SCIS Standards are always changing and adapting to meet our school library communities’ expectations. We welcome feedback; the SCIS Information Services Standards Committee (ISSC) is happy to receive and review suggestions from our school library community.

#InThisTogether2020 #NRW2020

Renate Beilharz
Cataloguing team leader, SCIS

Renate has worked for SCIS since 2018. A qualified teacher librarian, she worked in secondary school libraries for 20 years before teaching library and information services at Box Hill TAFE. She is passionate about ensuring that schools receive the quality data needed to empower information discovery for students.

SCIS Data case studies

Stack of books

Read these SCIS Data customer case studies to learn how school library staff use the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) to save time and money and enhance their library service.

SCIS Data case study: Josephine Barclay, King’s College Taunton, UK

‘SCIS is like a trusted library assistant that builds my catalogue with accurate records, and allows me to focus on supporting the students.’

SCIS Data case study: Ruth Maloney, Tonbridge Grammar School, UK

‘I wouldn’t have such a high functioning system if I didn’t have SCIS, because it’s like having an assistant librarian whose job is just to catalogue, and who does that job really well. It’s an essential part of the library catalogue for me.’

SCIS Data case study: Chris Archbold, Riccarton Primary School, NZ

‘SCIS makes a consistent catalogue. If all the primary schools around New Zealand are using SCIS, they are all getting the same information. This means that students can move from school to school and know that they are still going to get good, consistent search results.’

SCIS Data case study: Caroline Roche, Eltham College, UK

‘Yesterday, a student asked for a book on Emmanuel Macron. It will be delivered today, and I will be able to catalogue it within five minutes because SCIS is quick. I’ll have it in her hands this afternoon.’

For more information about the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) please contact help@scisdata.com.

Literature’s greatest works are yours for free!

Julie Styles, SCIS Cataloguing Librarian, explores the Project Gutenberg ebook library.

Project Gutenberg is a volunteer effort to digitise and archive the world’s cultural works and make them available in ebook form for free. To date, it has over 60,000 free ebooks on its database. On average it adds 50 new ebooks each week.

It’s collection features mostly older literary works for which U.S. copyright has expired. Most were published before 1924, with some published in the decades after.

You will find some of the world’s great literature at https://www.gutenberg.org/

Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, Homer, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, the Brothers Grimm, Walt Whitman, William Shakespeare, and Emily Bronte are all available in multiple ebook forms for free.

In addition to novels, poetry, short stories and drama, the database also has cookbooks, reference works and issues of periodicals. You can also find a smaller collection of sheet music, audiobooks, still pictures, and moving pictures, including footage of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.

Although Project Gutenberg primarily has works of literature from Western culture, there are also significant numbers in many other languages. Non-English languages most represented are French, German, Finnish, Dutch, Italian, and Portuguese.

You can use the Search box to look for a particular title or browse titles by a favourite author.

Project Gutenberg

The Bookshelves allow you to browse by genre, age group, and topic. And if you are undecided where to begin there are Top 100 lists of titles to get you started.

Top 100 lists Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg and SCIS

SCIS has made catalogue records for nearly 400 of these titles.

The best way to locate them in SCIS Data is to do an advanced search of the phrase ‘Project Gutenberg’, choosing Publisher field, and the exact phrase from the drop-down options.

Each record contains a convenient link to the resource on the Project Gutenberg database. Once at the resource, you should find multiple ebook formats to access.

SCIS Data record

Project Gutenberg record for Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

If you want a title on Project Gutenberg, that we have not already made a record for, simply go to our online cataloguing request system and request the ebook:  https://my.scisdata.com/CreateCatalogueRequest

Once you have mastered the international Project Gutenberg website you may also be interested in the Australian digitised collection at http://gutenberg.net.au/

Enjoy searching through this treasure trove!

SCIS Data case study: Josephine Barclay, King’s College Taunton, UK

‘SCIS is like a trusted library assistant that builds my catalogue with accurate records, and allows me to focus on supporting the students.’

School: King's College Taunton
Type: Independent co-educational secondary day and boarding school (aged 13-18)
Enrolment: 470+
Cataloguing subscription: SCIS Data + Authority Files
Library management system: Infiniti
Size of collection: 10,000+

King’s College is part of King’s Schools, Taunton along with its prep school King’s Hall. The schools provide continuous day and boarding education for girls and boys aged 2 to 18 years. King’s College pursues academic excellence with a commitment to good teaching and effective learning. Librarian Josephine Barclay credits SCIS Data and Infiniti with reducing the time it takes to catalogue resources, leaving her free to assist students in other valuable ways.

Broadening the librarian’s role

Josephine said that since implementing SCIS Data, she’s been able to extend her role. She’s now more than the school librarian who just catalogues all the books – as cataloguing no longer takes much time.

‘I work a lot with the sixth forms. I assist with Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), History and English coursework and generally help students learn how to research, create bibliographies and use citation tools. I locate quite complex books to help students see what research has been done already. Then they can use the references from the books to look further on websites.’ Josephine also helps students plan and edit their work, ‘I am playing to my strengths now’.

Simple and intuitive to use

Josephine finds their library catalogue to be simple and intuitive and says it is easy for her students to use. She explains: ‘Our students know how to use the Infiniti catalogue and can show others how to do it.’

Infiniti is on the school portal now, so students can log on and search the catalogue from wherever they are, using their phones. Josephine provides students with the foundational skills to find what they’re looking for. She says that students can be really excited about locating a new book.  Then they come and see Josephine and she will assist them to locate the book on the shelves. Josephine notes ‘That’s the way they like to do things!’ Josephine likes them to come and talk to her about what they are looking for so she can help them personally.

Says Josephine, ‘Students are very good at finding websites but not so good at searching in books, and I maintain they’ve got to use properly researched books. I help them locate and read through books they need for their coursework.’ Students are also encouraged to make book recommendations for purchase.

Students help with cataloguing

Josephine has also taught some students to catalogue books using the library management system because it is so well-integrated and simple to use. She explained the process: ‘Using Infiniti, students first scan the barcode, then we go to SCIS and the record usually comes up. If it doesn’t, I deal with that book later.’

Josephine previously sourced records through the British Library. It didn’t always provide the correct details, so she had to do a lot on her own. ‘All I use now is SCIS,’ she says, ‘and sometimes the Scottish Library, which is quite useful for books that have gone out of print.’

‘I can find most items in SCIS’, she adds. ‘I would say the hit rate is above 80 per cent.’

Josephine’s students usually catalogue literature and young adult fiction, but can do any books that are on the SCIS site. ‘I might give them a big pile of books and get them to put the stickers and the security labels in’ says Josephine. ‘Then they take turns to learn how to catalogue – and they learn that really, really quickly.’

Josephine thinks it’s great that students can do cataloguing. And, of course, she makes sure it’s done properly. ‘At the beginning of the year, when I’ve got loads of books to process, I know that they can do 50 books each. And they enjoy it – there’s a sense of satisfaction.’

Supporting librarians to do their job

SCIS has definitely saved Josephine a lot of time. ‘It’s a bit like having an assistant librarian,’ she says. ‘And I can trust it to let the children use it and I know the records are accurate.’

‘I find the book summaries very useful. I’m planning to put some on the outside of the books, using my own handwriting. Then students can see why I think it’s a good book and what they’ll find in it. And I know I can trust what you’ve written about it, which really important for people who work on their own.’

For librarians who work on their own, it is not always easy to find someone to talk to about library matters. ‘I want to keep abreast of things,’ says Josephine, ‘but I work on my own and that makes it difficult.’ She finds that the Connections journal helps her stay in touch, and inspires her with ideas from librarians around the world.

Josephine happily recommends cataloguing through SCIS and Infiniti to other librarians. ‘I tell them if the children can do it, they can do it! I genuinely find it takes a lot off my workload.’

‘I talk to them about how SCIS helps me get cataloguing done really quickly so that so I have time do other things. The fact that your system helps me do that is great.’

The time saved by using SCIS allows Josephine to devote more time to the parts of her role that she finds most rewarding. She states, ‘I actually see it as allowing librarians to do their job.’

A cataloguing subscription means that library staff like Josephine have more time to support their school community and offer enriching programs and services.

Josephine’s verdict

Josephine says that she would recommend SCIS to others — ‘A SCIS subscription allows me to carry on with the parts of my role that I find most rewarding.’

To see which other library systems SCIS works with, please visit our Library management systems page.

What are special book numbers?

Mavis Heffernan, SCIS Cataloguer, explores special book numbers. 

Book numbers are the set of three letters found in the SCIS call number. SCIS records all contain call numbers:

  • Fiction items are given the collection code F and a Book number
  • Non-fiction resources are given a classification number using Dewey Decimal Classification and a Book number

 

 

Book numbers usually comprise the first three letters of the first filing word of the main entry, i.e. author or title (where there is no author or only an editor).

However, special book numbers are employed for certain classes of material. Some special book numbers serve as a shelving device for biographies or to place works such as commentaries and adaptations with the original text. Other special book numbers are a result of alphabetical sub-arrangement within Dewey classes.

Special book numbers are used in the following cases:

Works about the subject

  • Individual biography, Family biography, Musical group biography

SPR (Bruce Springsteen by Marty Monroe)

BRO (Everyman’s companion to the Brontes by Barbara Lloyd)

  • Commentaries and critical works

BEA (The complete guide to the music of The Beatles, by John Robertson)

BRO (Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, by Frances McCarthy)

  • Abridgements and adaptations of literary works, including film adaptations

AND (The ugly duckling [by Hans Andersen] retold by Brenda Parkes

MIT (Gone with the wind [videorecording of the motion picture based on the book by Margaret Mitchell])

Dewey instructions for sub-arrangement

Special Book numbers are used in all ADDC15 and DDC23 classes where the Dewey Editors give the instruction to sub-arrange alphabetically. For example specific named automobiles, specific television programs, specific computers, computer programming languages and computer programs. Also, special book numbers are provided in the schedules for DDC23 numbers for William Shakespeare:

629.2222 MG (Specific named automobiles, e.g. MG) DDC23

791.4572 STA (Specific television program, e.g. Star Trek) DDC23

004.165 MAC (Specific named computer, e.g. Macintosh) ADDC15 and DDC23

H (Lamb’s tales from Shakespeare) DDC23

P3 (The merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare) DDC23

Extraordinary special book number – ABL

It is SCIS policy to use this special book number for works where the book number would, if title main entry and covering topics on Australian Aboriginal peoples, be ABO:

305.89915 ABL (Aboriginal studies)

635.089915 ABL (Aboriginal bush gardens: teacher and student information and examples)

We hope this offers an insight into how the SCIS team creates high quality, consistent catalogue records for school libraries. Happy cataloguing!

Free SCIS short course: Managing your library collection and catalogue.

Hello all! The amazing SCIS team have created a free short course for new school library staff (and for those that would like a refresher). Focusing on collection curation and cataloguing, we will help you get started in organising the resource offerings of your library. We have created 7 SCIS Blog posts, each containing a lesson in managing your library collection and catalogue. Click on the links below and explore at your own pace.

We are so pleased to take you on this journey!

Lesson 1: Help! I’ve taken over a library. What do I do now?

We’ll start slow, and take you through the basics of a library: what it is, and what it can be. Ideal for those of you who have just stepped into the role of librarian. But this is also a nice refresher, and a chance for those of you who have been working in a library for some time, to take a step back from your current practices and think about the basics.

Lesson 2: Managing your collection – what does your library collect?

Now we start to get into the juicy stuff! This lesson looks at the library collection policy and why it is so important. We cover sourcing and acquisition — building up your library collection — along with the necessary evils, otherwise known as weeding and stocktake.

Lesson 3: Introduction to cataloguing – unleash your library collection

This lesson dives right into the heart of cataloguing. We discuss why we need to follow cataloguing standards, what standards you’ll need to be aware of, and how to make standards work for your library.

Lesson 4: Descriptive cataloguing – describing your collection and finding resource information

We’ll start looking at the ways you can describe your library collection, and where you can find information on a particular item. We also look at how most people perform searches, and the important fields to consider when cataloguing.

Lesson 5: Subject cataloguing and authority files – why it is important to keep control

This lesson uncovers the benefits of controlled vocabularies. We also delve into authorities and authority files: what they are, and how they can make your collection more discoverable to staff and students.

Lesson 6: Organising your collection –classification, Dewey and call numbers

Here is where you can start to make your library work for you and your school. We discuss the importance of classification, describe the difference between full and abridged Dewey, and provide an overview of call numbers and genre classification.

Lesson 7: The value of your library collection – now that I’ve set up my library, what’s next?

Our final lesson ties everything together. We’ll look at how to evaluate and advocate your library, suggest activities for engagement and networking, and touch on creating efficiencies. In a nutshell, we discuss how you can make the most of your time to serve the needs of your school.

Thank you and enjoy!

Lesson 7: The value of your library collection – now that I’ve set up my library, what’s next?

Welcome to lesson 7 of the SCIS short course! So, what’s next?

Now that you understand the basics of cataloguing and collection management, it’s time to look further afield. Your school library exists to improve student learning and information literacy. You know this, but do your users know this? Are the school’s decision-makers aware of this? Do the students’ parents understand this value provided by their school library? Is your library all that it can be?

Evaluation

The best way to find out is to perform a comprehensive evaluation of your library. The survey you conducted back in lesson 1 was intended as a basic feedback tool to gauge your library’s popularity and its perceived value. Now that you have a handle on the basics of your library, it is time to perform a more thorough evaluation. This is an all-round evaluation of your library’s information literacy and literacy programs, staffing, budget and funding, collection and resources, technologies, and facilities.

The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) School Library Guidelines contain an evaluation checklist in Appendix D on which you can model your evaluation. Evaluation activities can include student, teacher and/or parent surveys; and analysis of records from the library’s circulation and cataloguing system. The results of your evaluation should help you to see exactly where your school library’s strengths and weaknesses are. You will then be able to form a plan of action to promote the strengths and improve the weaknesses. You will also be able to gain a greater understanding of your library and its offerings, as well as the educational and teaching needs of the students and teachers. These types of evaluations, large and small, should be done periodically to enable you to always understand, be aware and sufficiently respond to the changing needs of your users as well as the needs of the school.

Advocacy

Advocacy for your library involves long-term planning and continuous activities, but it is so worth the time. This will help you to establish relationships with decision-makers and garner support from those who can influence the decision-makers. Ask yourself: how do the members of your school community think about your school library? Is it just a room with books? Or is it an essential space that supports teaching and learning? Build relationships with school management and administrators. Be loud and proud of what your library is offering. Let people see its worth. To give weight to your case, perhaps refer to international research that demonstrates the contribution of school libraries to student achievement, as well as statements to this effect made by respected international organisations. The IFLA website[i] provides links to some great content that you may find useful. See also the latest advocacy campaign called Students need school libraries.

While advocacy should be directed at school administrators and parents i.e. those who make decisions and those who can influence these decision-makers, don’t forget to market and promote the products and services of your library to your users — your staff and students. Have a plan for marketing your library, and periodically review and adjust to suit changes in users’ trends and needs. Enlist the support of school administration in order to engage their interest and participation, and to ensure your marketing plan is carried out effectively.

Engagement

One of the outcomes of marketing and advocacy for your library is to engage the interest of the entire school community. You want them to be aware of your library, and have a vested interest in what your library has to offer. To that effect, use every opportunity available to you to engage and build your relationships with all levels of the school community.

If you find yourself short-staffed, recruit students and parents to become volunteer helpers. They can assist you with tasks such as making displays, shelving returned items, keeping shelves tidy, and so much more. It is a way that gains you helping hands while making your library’s presence known to the school and its wider community.

Use social media to communicate news about your school library. Social media provides great platforms on which to advertise events and programs held at the library, share results of library surveys you’ve run, and showcase the personality of you and your library staff.

Perhaps consider stocking some resources for parents and caregivers as a way of showing relevance to the learning needs of the whole school community.

Run events of interest in your library. Ideas could include inviting authors as guest speakers, holding library-themed exhibitions, celebrating international library and literacy days, and running reading, media and information literacy programs (opportunity to collaborate with teachers here). The possibilities are as endless as the opportunities to be creative.

Networking

In addition to your own school community, it is also useful to connect with other school librarians and public and academic libraries. Networking ideas include:

  • follow social media pages to see what others are doing and generate inspiration for yourself
  • attend library-related professional learning sessions where, besides acquiring new skills, it’s a great way to meet other school library professionals who can share their knowledge and practises with you
  • find out what school library/library associations there are for your region, and become a member to gain access to industry news, contacts, and information
  • join library listservs for firsthand knowledge of the current issues and concerns that are being discussed by your peers.

These activities will help you to build a support network of colleagues who understand your role and, more importantly, what you are trying to achieve.

Create efficiencies

By now, you may have come to recognise that a school librarian’s role is quite varied and takes up a lot of time and energy. So to free up your time, you may wish to invest in services and equipment that help automate certain processes and procedures. For example, there are services available that can catalogue your newly acquired resources for you. If an average working day is 7.25 hours and it takes 16 minutes to create one catalogue record, then you will be using up 19 working days to create 500 records. On the other hand, if you take up a subscription with the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS), you’ll be done with the 500 records in a matter of minutes, and then you can spend the extra 19 days doing other things that may have more impact on teaching, learning and library advocacy.

Whichever way you decide to run your school library, just remember one thing: what you are doing is a great job – it is a job that is crucial and relevant to the learning needs and development of the next generation.

Activity

Under each of these areas: evaluation, advocacy, engagement, networking, efficiencies, note one task/goal/thing you can achieve in the next month.

Make a second list of tasks that you would like to achieve in the next term, semester or year. Keep the list handy to remind you of the larger/end goals you have for your school library.

Conclusion

Congratulations on completing our short course! We’ve covered a lot during the past seven weeks, from library basics to managing and organising your collection, and cataloguing resources. We hope you’ve come away inspired, and full of ideas to turn your school library into a vibrant hub that improves student learning and information literacy.

We hope you found the content useful, and we look forward to hearing about the experiences and challenges you’ve faced in your school library. If you have any questions about this course, or Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS), please do not hesitate to contact us.

Good luck and all the best to you!

References

Further reading

  • Schools Catalogue Information Service, Connections 99: School libraries supporting literacy https://www.scisdata.com/connections/issue-99/school-libraries-supporting-literacy
  • Schools Catalogue Information Service, Connections 100: Guerrilla book fair: getting staff involved in your school library https://www.scisdata.com/connections/issue-100/guerrilla-book-fair-getting-staff-involved-in-your-school-library
  • Schools Catalogue Information Service, Connections 103: Ten ways to advocate for your role as a teacher librarian
    https://www.scisdata.com/connections/issue-103/ten-ways-to-advocate-for-your-role-as-a-teacher-librarian

[i]IFLA School Library Advocacy kit, https://www.ifla.org/publications/school-library-advocacy-kit

Lesson 6: Organising your collection – classification, Dewey and call numbers

Library books on shelf with Dewey number

Welcome to lesson 6 of the SCIS short course! Let’s get started …

What is classification?

Once an item has been described and assigned subject headings, it needs to be classified. A classification system enables materials to be arranged according to a designated order. When users search the library catalogue, the classification will direct them to the correct area on the shelves to locate items. Most often items on the same subject will be grouped together.

One of the most widely used classification systems is the Dewey Decimal System.

Dewey Decimal System (DDC)

The Dewey Decimal Classification System (DDC) assigns a three-digit number to each area of knowledge so that materials can be shelved in numerical order with materials on the same subject together. Within each area, subjects can be further defined by adding additional numbers after a decimal point.

The ten main classes defined by the DDC System are:

Dewey number Class
000 Computer science, information and general works
100 Philosophy and psychology
200 Religion
300 Social sciences
400 Language
500 Science
600 Technology
700 Arts and recreation
800 Literature
900 History and geography

DDC is a hierarchical system. This means that all topics within each of the main classes are part of the broader topic above them. In general, the longer the number, the more specific the topic it represents.

For example:

Dewey number Topic
700 Arts and recreation
790 Recreation and performing arts
796 Athletic and outdoor sports and games
796.3 Ball games
796.33 Inflated ball drive by foot
796.336 Australian-rules football

Editions of DDC

DDC is available online, by subscription or print-on-demand.

Call numbers

Libraries use call numbers to label their materials for shelving. A call number for nonfiction resources is usually made up of the classification (DDC) number, and then other information to help users find the item on the shelf, such as letters from the author name, or a location prefix. A location prefix refers to the section of the library in which the item is shelved, such as Nonfiction, Reference, Fiction, or Teacher Reference. The call number suffix may be based on the author’s name and allows items with the same classification number to be shelved in alphabetical order so that they can be easily found.

REF ← Prefix for Reference Area
636.708 ← Classification Number
RIC ← Suffix based on the first three letters of the author name

Using DDC as a component of a call number ensures that materials on similar topics are shelved together and supporting browsing for items of interest.

Genre

Fiction collections have traditionally been shelved in alphabetical order, according to the author’s surname, without a classification number. In recent years, many libraries have started to split the fiction collection up into ‘genres’. This means that the books are shelved in small sections, with the same type of books shelved together. Within each section, the books may still be shelved in alphabetical order.

This ensures similar fiction materials are stored together, and helps students and teachers to find the books that they like.

Things to consider

  • Determine the genres that you want to use. You don’t have to make up a list yourself; you can use authorised genre lists from agencies such as SCIS or Library of Congress as a guide.
  • Review the space you have, and plan how you will rearrange your shelving and signage.
  • Decide how you will label the books, and reflect their location in the catalogue.

Activity

Take a look at your current collection, and how resources are shelved and displayed in your library. Do you already use classification, Dewey and/or call numbers? If so, fantastic! Are you satisfied with the order and layout you have chosen? Do any sections or shelves need review? If you don’t already use genre to group items, is this something you might consider?

If your library is not yet organised, how can you begin to implement these important changes? Consider what we’ve discussed here, review your current resources, and come up with a plan to classify and shelve them in a way that will best serve the needs of your users.

Conclusion

Classification helps you to keep your library organised, and ensure that resources can be easily found by educators and students in your community. We’ve explored Dewey, and provided an overview of call numbers and genre classification. Next week is our final lesson, where we bring everything together.

Further reading

Lesson 5: Subject cataloguing and authority files – why it is important to keep control

Welcome to lesson 5 of the SCIS short course! Let’s get started …

Subject cataloguing is the process of assigning terms that describe what a bibliographic item is about.

Cataloguers perform subject analysis for items in their library, most commonly selecting terms from an authorised list of subject headings, otherwise known as a ‘controlled vocabulary’. Controlled vocabularies often take the form of a ‘thesaurus’, which is used to link similar and related terms. In addition to this, a thesaurus also shows hierarchical relationships between terms. For the sake of simplicity, we will refer to this as ‘subject headings’ throughout this lesson.

Do I need to use a controlled vocabulary?

The decision not to use a controlled vocabulary is not something that would be noticed by most library users. The impact of controlled subject headings is subtle, yet it has a profound impact on your catalogue’s ability to retrieve results. It is an ‘unknown unknown’ for users, who do not know about items that their search does not retrieve.

The most common examples of uncontrolled vocabularies are social media tags or user-generated tags — in both examples, users are free to choose any term they wish. It is important to note the limitations of working with an uncontrolled vocabulary.

Consider how controlled vocabularies would help to clear up any confusion in the following situations:

  • Synonyms (two words with the same meaning)
  • Homographs (different words with the same spelling).

Without a controlled vocabulary, one cataloguer may assign the subject ‘Insects’ to a record, and another may assign the subject ‘Bugs’ to a similar record. This would result in discrepancies between search results, meaning that the two different subject headings will return two different sets of resources.

Subject heading lists will likely include preferred and non-preferred headings. A controlled vocabulary would choose an authorised, or preferred, subject heading such as ‘Insects’. It may also display ‘Bugs’ as a non-preferred term.

Please note, more than one subject heading can be assigned to a record.

How do people search?

Library catalogues usually provide two main types of search:

  1. A ’basic’ or keyword search that allows the user to type in a search term or phrase and then search across the whole database. This will often bring back too many search results, which then have to be narrowed down or filtered.
  2. An ’Advanced search’, which allows the user to do a much more specific, or targeted search by selecting particular fields. Typical fields include author, title, series, subject or ISBN. This allows for greater precision in your search results.

How do users benefit from subject headings?

There are several benefits of using subject headings, rather than keywords, in advanced searches. Although it can be assumed that most novice catalogue users will use keyword search rather than subject search, it is important that we communicate the benefits of the latter in order to enhance our library users’ information retrieval skills. This, in turn, means they will make the most of your high-quality cataloguing.

Subject searches expand their understanding of what is available

By performing a subject search rather than a keyword search, users can gain a broader understanding of the resources available in the library. For example, say a user enters the search query ‘Super heroes’ — but the preferred term is ‘Superheroes’. Users will be pointed toward the correct term and will see a broader range of subject headings that may assist their search.

Look at the following image as an example. If a user performs a subject search on ‘Flowers’, they will be directed to a range of resources tagged with that subject heading. But before they do, they might be interested in seeing what other options are available. While the user started their search broadly, they might be interested in browsing narrower terms that they didn’t think to search on — or perhaps a related search that might be of interest to them.

Example of subject search

Subject headings as access points

In the Resource Description and Access (RDA) standard, subject headings are presented as access points, which allow users to follow an efficient path for resource discovery. If we go back to the idea of the key functions of the library catalogue that we explored in lesson 3, we can understand that subject access points support both greater discoverability and navigation.

RDA supports the inclusion of access points, which, together with authorised subject headings and name headings, allows users to refine their searches. Of course, without authorised terms here, the catalogue’s ability to point users toward relevant resources is hindered; say one person has used the subject heading ‘bugs’ and another has used ‘insects’ — a user will only find one or the other, not both.

Choosing which subject headings to use

Your library users should be at the forefront of your mind when choosing which subject headings to prescribe to your catalogue; it is important that the subject headings align with the vocabulary that they would use. Luckily for cataloguers, there are a number of subject heading lists available for you to choose from, many of which have been created specifically for use in certain fields.  Two lists commonly used in the school library environment are SCIS Subject Headings List and Schools Online Thesaurus (ScOT).

Each cataloguing authority that creates these subject headings often has an additional product called ‘authority files’ that allows the catalogue and, ultimately, the users, to reap the benefits of
authorised subject and name headings.

What are authority files?

An authority is the authorised or preferred form for a heading — most often names and subjects — in a controlled vocabulary. An authority file is an index of all authority records of any given agency or library. When your library users perform subject searches, authority files also act as ‘recommended searches’. It can point users to the correct subject heading and help them understand how to narrow or broaden their search.

The inclusion of authority files in your library catalogue ensures compliance with RDA standards. As part of the RDA standard, data used in records to describe ‘an entity’ associated with that resource — be it a concept, person, family, or corporate body — should help users find, identify, clarify and understand each entity.

Look at the example below. The authority record for ‘Superheroes’ leaves no confusion as to how to use this subject heading. This not only helps make the cataloguer’s job easier but also the library users.

Superheroes authority file

SCIS Subject Headings List (SCISSHL) or Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) have authority files available for you to subscribe to. Please note, your subject headings and authority files should come from the same source.

Activities

Become familiar with different search options offered by OPACs and observe the usefulness of controlled vocabularies. Go to an OPAC in your library system or any other catalogue.

  • Do a basic keyword search for a term eg Houses, then go to advanced search, select subjects and search for the same term. Compare the results.
  • Find a ‘Browse search’ option for subjects. Browse for any term e.g. Houses. This browse list is populated from the system’s authority list of subject headings. Can you ascertain which subject heading list the terms come from?

Some library management systems use tag clouds and others use facetted searches to display the controlled vocabularies. Look for examples of these in your system or any other catalogue.

Conclusion

So now you have an understanding of the importance of controlled vocabularies, subject headings, and authority files in the library catalogue. Each one significantly enhances the consistency, value, and usability of your library management system and search functionality. You have seen how people search for resources and how different search interfaces produce varying results. Next week we’ll explore classification, Dewey, and call numbers.

Further reading

  • Schools Catalogue Information Service: Subject Authority: avoiding the unknown unknown http://scis.edublogs.org/2017/03/27/subject-authority-avoiding-the-unknown-unknown/

Lesson 4: Descriptive cataloguing – describing your collection and finding resource information

Hands of librarian holding books

Welcome to lesson 4 of the SCIS short course! Let’s get started …

Libraries use descriptive cataloguing to describe the resources within their collections so that they can be found by users. A library catalogue helps your users to discover what is in the library collection, helps them select the resource that meets their need, and directs them to where the resources can be found or accessed. This includes ’physical’ materials, such as books and DVDs on the shelves, as well as online resources, ebooks, apps and websites.

Cataloguers use a number of international standards to create consistent records so that related resources can be found, identified, selected and obtained. International standards also ensure that users can navigate and explore the catalogue database to find other resources of possible interest.

Doing your own cataloguing takes a lot of time. Rather than creating a brand new record from scratch every time a resource needs to be added to the collection, many libraries prefer to obtain their records from outside, saving them a lot of time. We will look at this a little more in lesson 7.

The level of cataloguing addresses how completely a record is catalogued. Full cataloguing generally takes more time as it includes verification with international standards.

Describe your library collection

In lesson 3, we introduced you to cataloguing. The information, or metadata, that the catalogue record contains provides access to the materials. Consistent and accurate cataloguing means that your users can find all of the information that the library holds to match their search.

Descriptive cataloguing is when standardised sets of rules such as RDA: Resource Description and Access are applied so that the title, authorship, publication data, and the physical extent of a work (for example, how many pages a book might have) are easy to find.

As well as the cataloguing standard used, such as RDA, libraries use an international standard called MARC (MAchine Readable Cataloguing). This gives each part of the catalogue record a number, or MARC field. For example, the 100 field contains the author’s name, and the 245 field contains the title.

Descriptive cataloguing focuses on what the resource is — whether it is a book 300 pages long, or a DVD in black and white — whereas subject cataloguing focuses on what the item is about; for example, a book about pet care.

Fields in a catalogue record

The most important fields in a catalogue record are listed in the table below.

Type of information MARC Field Description
Author 100 The name of the main author, for works by individuals. If there is no author, this field is left out. If the author is a corporation or a meeting, then a different field is used. An individual author’s names is usually formatted to show the surname first.
Title 245 The title, sub-title and statement of responsibility of the work.
Publication details 264 Publisher and place of publication. Older records will contain this information in a 260 field.
ISBN 020 International Standard Book Number. This is an identifying number that is assigned to each book by its publisher.
DDC 082 Dewey Decimal Classification number. This field contains the DDC number and information about what edition of Dewey was used.
Description 300 Physical description, number of pages (for books with numbered pages), and information about whether the item is illustrated.
Summary 520 A brief summary of what the item is about.
Subject 650 Topical subject heading, taken from a thesaurus or controlled vocabulary. This field contains additional information to identify which controlled vocabulary was used.
Genre 655 Genre heading for the resource. This field contains additional information to identify which controlled vocabulary was used.

Most of the fields in the above record are considered part of the description of the resource, providing information to help the user identify and select the resource that best meets their needs.

The DDC, Subject and Genre fields relate to what the resource is about. The standards used to create these will be covered in lessons 5 and 6.

How do people search?

  1. A “basic” or keyword search that allows the user to type in a search term or phrase and then search across the whole database. This will often bring back too many search results, which then have to be narrowed down or filtered.
  2. An “Advanced search”, which allows the user to do a much more specific, or targeted search by selecting particular fields. Typical fields include author, title, series, subject or ISBN. This allows for greater precision in your search results.

Cataloguing digital resources

Digital content is an important part of library collections. By including records for digital materials in the library catalogue, you make it easier for your students and teachers to find all the information they need from a single search point — the library catalogue. Records are catalogued using the same standards and subject headings that are applied to print-based materials so that resources of all formats for the same topics will be found.

Activity

As has been mentioned before, each library management system will display the cataloguing data differently, even though underpinning all records are the cataloguing standards mentioned earlier.

Study the OPAC display in your library management system. Identify where and how your systems display the following data:

  • Title (and statement of responsibility)
  • Author’s name
  • Publication details
  • Description
  • Summary
  • ISBN

Go to your library management system’s cataloguing module. Can you see your catalogue record in the MARC format (see example in lesson 3)? If you can, locate the following descriptive fields and identify the actual data it contains.

020                       ISBN

100                       Author name

245                       Title

264 (or 260)        Publication details

300                       Description

520                       Summary

Compare the MARC record with what your users can see in OPAC.

Conclusion

In this lesson, we have explored how you can describe the resources in your library collection. We provided an overview of important fields used in a catalogue record and how they are displayed in an OPAC. Next week, we’ll take look at controlled vocabularies, subject headings, and authority files.

Further reading

Kelsey, Marie, 2018, Cataloging for School Librarians, 2nd edition. Blue Ridge Summit: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2018.