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Aboutness : How Subject Headings Are Dertmined

Guest Author - Paula Laurita

A continuing examination of how we determine subject headings for materials in our collection?

In the previous article Aboutness: Or Piles of Subject Headings, I discussed how the book The Catholic Fact Book, by John Deedy has been assigned subject headings. In our automated cataloguing systems many of us have the ability to assign endless subject headings. How will these subject headings best serve our patrons?

The subject heading of "Catholic Church" could be overwhelming. It is a far cry from the ideal of 29 hits. It was especially disappointing for me to find that two large Catholic institutions of higher education did not provide better subject access to a book that deals with Catholics and Catholicism.

The Library of Congress Subject Headings have several pages that deal specifically with the Catholic Church and its various rites, orders, geographic locations, etc. The only three areas that coincide with mine are Catholic Church, Catholic Church--Doctrines, and Catholic Church--Saints. Major traditions (what are referred to as the big "T" traditions) of Catholicism would fall under Doctrines. This subdivision would not cover the cultural traditions (the small "t" traditions) that many people associate with Catholicism. Therefore the subdivision of "Traditions" would more adequately include this aspect of the book. A free floating subdivision of Customs and Practices would also be beneficial.

There was no area in the Library of Congress Subject Headings that would incorporate Catholic Church--Pilgrimage Sites. Many of these places of pilgrimage involve Marian apparitions. Neither apparitions nor Mary was listed in the subject headings. The latter was quite surprising. Considering the importance of Mariology in shaping Catholic culture. It was astonishing to see no specific subject heading for Mary. Perhaps an appropriate inclusion would be Catholic Church--Mary, Mother of Jesus? Church--Mary, Blessed Virgin? Saints--Apparitions and Miracles? There of course could be further breakdowns. The needs of the population being served by this catalogue would determine how far the breakdown should continue.

The list could include approved places of pilgrimage. There are many pilgrimage sites that have nothing to do with Mary. Since there is no listing for "Pilgrimages" they would not be listed. Of course the Library of Congress has catch-all phrase of, "Mary subd Geog". If the cataloguer or the patron does not know that the place is a pilgrimage site it provides very little help.

CatholicismThe next book was Catholicism, by Fr. Richard McBrien. This book may be described as a more in-depth overview of the Catholic Church and its teachings. It has been described by Martin E Marty as, "...astonishingly successful at bringing together 20 centuries of Catholic life..." This study edition presents the whole panorama of Catholic belief and practice.

How has this essential study tool been catalogued? Aboutness Part 3

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Professional Development
Aboutness : Or Piles of Subject Headings
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Content copyright © 2014 by Paula Laurita. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Paula Laurita. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Christine Sharbrough for details.


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