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Assigning Subject Headings

Guest Author - Paula Laurita

The series on assigning subject headings for catalogues continues.

The next book I looked at was Catholicism, by Richard McBrien. This book has been described as a more in-depth overview of the Catholic Church and its teachings. As Martin E. Marty stated, it is "astonishingly successful at bringing together 20 centuries of Catholic life..." This study edition presents the whole panorama of Catholic belief and practice.

The obvious subject heading again is: Catholic Church

This book is a modern summary of the Catholic Church's teaching and history, encompassing specific aspects of the Catholic Church. Utilizing the table of contents, index and personal use, these subject headings were determined:

  • Catholic Church
  • Catholic Church--Christology
  • Catholic Church--Doctrines
  • Catholic Church--History
  • Catholic Church--Heresies
  • Catholic Church--Sacraments
  • Catholic Church--Spirituality
  • Catholic Church--Ecclesiology
  • Catholic Church--Saints
  • Catholic Church--Traditions
  • Jesus Christ--Catholic Church, Dogma
  • Theology--Catholic Church

This is a situation of too much information being available. It is necessary to breakdown the subdivisions into major treatments in the book. It is possible to sub-divide into particular rites of the Catholic Church (e.g., Latin Rite, Byzantine Rite, and Malabar Rite). Since each of these rites is not a dominant aspect of the book I would not list them as sub-headings. Yet, if someone knows little about these rites this book is a good place to being finding information. A dilemma. How you catalogue this book might depend upon your library and patrons.

In the Gonzaga catalogue this book was only listed under "Catholic Church--Doctrines." In the Mount St. Mary's catalogue it was listed under "Theology--Catholic" and "Catholic Church." A woeful lack of information, again, about the specific areas that this book encompasses. If I were interested in studying the hypostatic union of Jesus (i.e., true God and true man) I would search under Christology. I would not be given this book which includes a very detailed section on the doctrine of the dual nature of Jesus.

The Library of Congress Subject Headings often fall short of their purpose. With no listing for Christology, Heresies, Sacraments, Ecclesiology, or Traditions, the sub-headings provided do not furnish adequate access to the information contained in this book. The sub-heading of "Catechisms" at first seemed appropriate. After reading the summary it seems very outdated. It states:

Here are entered works containing a summary or manual of doctrine intended for systematic instruction and often arranged in the form of questions and answers. Individual texts are always further subdivided by the language of the text.

This description reads as if describing the Baltimore Catechism. This methodology has not been used for catechetics in almost forty years. The Catechism of the Catholic Church would not fit this description since it is neither a "manual of doctrine intended for systematic instruction" nor "arranged in the form of questions and answers."

How can this be remedied? What terms would be better suited and helpful to the patron? Express you ideas at the Library Forum.

Have you read the first portion of this article series? Aboutness: Or Piles of Subject Headings

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Aboutness : How Subject Headings Are Dertmined
Aboutness : Or Piles of Subject Headings
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Content copyright © 2015 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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