Subject Cataloguing: Definition, Subject Headings, LC List of Subject Headings and Sear’s List of Subject Headings

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Structure of module : E Text


1. Introduction

2. Definition of subject catalogue

3. Objectives  of subject catalogue

4. Types of subject catalogue

4.1 Alphabetical subject catalogue

4.2 Alphabetico-classed catalogue

4.3 Classified catalogue

5. Importance of the List of Subject Headings (LSH)

6. Subject headings

6.1 Definition

6.2 Methods of deriving subject headings

1. Printed list of subject headings

7.1 Principles of Printed list of subject headings

7.2 Types of printed lists

8. Library of Congress List of Subject Headings

9. Sears List of Subject Headings

10. Making references

11. Maintenance

12. Questions

13. Glossary

14. Further readings


1 Introduction


Library catalogue has many inner forms, such as author, title and subject for access to collection of the documents of a library. When the user wants to find document through subject instead of author/title of a document, the facility of subject catalogue for subject approach is essential. Using such an approach, the user is able to find documents which are available on a given subject. For the purpose, library also maintains the subject catalogue displaying the subject entries. A subject catalogue of a library is one which shows documents on a specific subject possessed by a library. In other words, it attempts to bring together entries on a specific subject. Thus, the process of preparing subject entries for documents and organizing them for subsequent retrieval is known as subject cataloguing.


The main purpose of subject cataloguing is to list all the materials on a given topic under one uniform word or phrase that a library has in its collection. That uniform word or phrase is called subject heading. A subject heading is used in the library catalogue to express a topic. The use of authorized words or phrases only, with cross-references from unauthorized synonyms, is the essence of bibliographic control in subject cataloguing.


The purpose of a subject authority file, such as the Sears List of Subject Headings or the Library of Congress List of Subject Headings, is to provide a basic vocabulary of authorized terms together with suggestions for useful cross-references. Both lists is simply an alphabetical list of terms that have been established over time as warranted by the materials being catalogued. A subject heading list also indicates relationships among terms but does not attempt to establish any comprehensive hierarchies. In addition to simple descriptors, a subject heading list can include pre-coordinated strings composed of subject terms with subdivisions.


However, for a prefect subject catalogue, subject approach is the most fundamental approach on the part of cataloguer and user.




Cutter defined the functions of a library catalogue in 1876 when he published the first edition of his Rules for a dictionary catalog. He said that it should:


1. enable a person to find a book of which either (a) the author or (b) the title or (c) the subject is known ; what the library (d) by a given author , (e) on a given subject and (f) in a given kind of literature;

3. assist in the choice of a book (g) as to its edition (bibliographical) and (h) as to its character (topical).


These objectives still hold today, but the word ‗book‘ is replaced by ‗item‘ or ‗document‘. Cutter‘s objectives (c) and (e) are met by the subject catalogue. It means when headings on the entries represent the coverage of a specific subject matter of books/document and such entries are arranged systematically for the purpose of identification and reference of a particular reference or a few selected references, it can be regarded as a subject catalogue. If the headings are words, terms or phrases representing a specific subject and are arranged in alphabetical order it is an alphabetical subject catalogue. Thus, a subject catalogue is one which shows documents on a specific subject possessed by a given library. It attempts to bring together entries on a specific subject.


3 Objectives of Subject Catalogue


The objectives of a library catalogue were broadly described by Charles Ammi Cutter in 1876. He stated that ‗to enable a person to find a book of which the subject is known‘ and ‗to show what the library has on a given subject‘. These objectives emphasize on subject approach and for which the library maintains the subject catalogue consisting subject entries. All forms of subject catalogues have a two-fold objectives: first to enable a user to identify documents on a given subject and second, to make known the presence of material on allied or related subjects. Shera and Egan (1956) summarized the objectives of subject cataloguing as follows:


1. To provide subject approach to access to relevant materials of a library through all suitable principles of subject organisation, i.e. subject headings.

2. To bring together references to materials, which treat substantially the same subject regardless of differences among groups of subject specialists, and/or from the changing nature of the concepts with the discipline itself,

3. To show such affiliations among subject fields, which may depend upon use or application of knowledge;

4. To provide entry through any vocabulary common to a considerable group of users, specialists or laymen;

5.To provide formal description of the subject content of any bibliographic unit in the most precise, or specific terms possible: whether the description is in the form of a class, number or symbol; and

6. To provide means to the users to make a selection from among all terms in any particular category, according to any chosen set of criteria such as, most thorough, most recent, etc.


4 Types of Subject Catalogue


A subject catalogue is one which shows documents on a specific subject possessed by a given library. It attempts to bring together entries on a specific subject. A subject can be expressed either through words chosen to describe the different subjects or through notation based on a scheme of classification. In the first case it is called a subject heading and in the second case it is named as a class number. Subject catalogue can be categorized on the basis of variation of syntax and arrangement of subject headings. As such, subject catalogues are of the following types:


4.1 Alphabetical Subject Catalogue: It contains subject entries and cross reference arranged alphabetically in one sequence. Subject headings consist of a heading, from the index vocabulary, and a description which identifies the item being catalogued. Where it contains more than one word, it is necessary to lay down a significance order, to bring to the front the word most likely to be sought. The index vocabulary may be enumerative, may list simple and composite headings, and a section of readymade references section for relevant headings; such lists as Sears list of Subject headings and Library of Congress List of Subject headings are of this kind of authority files.


Alternatively, we can also see in a compilation of an authority file separately on cards, in which we will find heading used, references made to them, and heading not used. It is possible to use the subject catalogue itself as the authority file; it certainly shows past practice, but it is rather more difficult to show reference made to a heading clearly in the subject catalogue than in a separate file.


In alphabetical subject catalogue we can be find two types of headings:


(a) Alphabetico-Direct heading: It contains natural form of a phrase taken from ordinary usage without a symbol. For example headings like EDUCATIONAL SOCIOLOGY; RURAL SOCIOLOGY; CHRISTIAN SOCIOLOGY are direct headings.

(b) Alphabetico-Indirect heading: It contains heading of atleast two words with a connecting symbol mostly by a comma (,) like SOCIOLOGY, EDUCATIONAL;


SOCIOLOGY, RURAL; SOCIOLOGY, CHRISTIAN. The alphabetical filing of these


headings provides collocation of materials relating to traditional fields of study.


4.2 Alphabetico-Classed Catalogue: It contains the self order of the alphabetical approach of indirect headings, in contrast with the direct headings, with the helpful grouping of the systematic approach by using an alphabetico-classed arrangement; within each heading, subheadings are arranged alphabetically.


Let us examine the example given below:












In the above example, every heading belonging to EDUCATION has been brought together. Within EDUCATION, there is again alphabetical scattering. Headings beginning with EDUCATION, UNIVERSITY have been brought together and there is again alphabetical scattering, this type of catalogue is called alphabetic-classed catalogue.


4.3 Classified Catalogue: It is based on the notation used in the scheme of classification. In a systematic arrangement, it is the notation which forms the index vocabulary for arrangement of subject entries. As such, systematic arrangement brings related subjects together by using notation as its index vocabulary.


Let us examine the following example of Colon Classification and Dewey Decimal Classification respectively:


In Colon Classification:







In Dewey Decimal Classification:






The above headings have been arranged on the basis of notation used in the scheme of classification .The notation of both classification schemes mechanizes a preferred order. The catalogues which use notational symbols, as explained above, to arrange entries are called classified catalogues. The arrangement of above notation is a systematic one which is providing maximum degree of collocation. In order to get the best out of this type of catalogue depends greatly upon the qualities of the scheme of classification used.


5  Importance of the List of Subject Headings (LSH)


In almost every type of library, the most of the users retrieve the documents through their subjects. To accomplish such task, extensive provision is made to give adequate representation to subjects of documents, with a considerable number of cross-references, directing the user to the various aspects of a subject. In view of this, the List of Subject Headings (LSH) serves as the standard source for validation of subject headings assigned to individual cataloguing records. It helps to ensure that (i) the same heading is assigned to all works on the same subject, (ii) each heading represent only that particular subject , and (iii) all headings assigned to cataloguing records confirm to the established forms.


In an alphabetical subject catalogue, entries are made under the name of the specific subjects of documents. Specific subject entries are strictly arranged in an alphabetical order. The fundamental rule of entry in an alphabetical specific subject catalogue is to enter a work under its specific subject.


LSH offers a basic list that includes many of the headings most likely to be needed in the libraries together with patterns and examples that will guide the cataloguer in creating additional headings as needed. New titles require new subject headings. Headings for new topics can be developed from the LSH in two ways, by establishing new terms as needed and by subdividing the headings already in the List. Instructions for creating new headings based on the pattern in LSH and sources for establishing the wording of new headings are given in the Principles of LSH. The various kinds of subdivisions and the rules for their application are also discussed in the Principles of the LSH. It is only by being flexible and expandable that LSH has been able over the years to fill the needs of various kinds of libraries. The degree or level of specificity required for a collection depends entirely on the material being collected. While a library is unlikely to need very narrow topics of a technical or scientific nature, it is not at all unlikely that it might have a gardening book on Irises. That term is not in the List, but it would be added as a narrower term under Flowers.


6 Subject Heading


6.1 What is Subject Heading: Definition


Let us have definition of subject heading. The educationists and authorities of Library science have defined the subject heading in following manner:


According to Margaret Mann: The subject heading is the word or phrase used on catalogue cards to express the theme or topic of a book. According to Maurice F. Tauber: Word groups employed to express the subject contents of a document. It means subject heading is the statement of document expressing the specific subject dealt in the book. According to H.D.Sharma: The term subject heading denotes a word or word groups used in cataloguing, indexing or documentation to describe the subject contents of a book. It is a summary in miniature of the book. Encyclopedia of Librarianship: A word or group of words expressing a subject under which as heading ,entries of all works on that subject are filed in a catalogue or bibliography.


6.2  Methods of deriving subject headings


The main aim of the most of the users is to seek the documents or information on a particular subject. To meet such requirements, subject approach is very important in the access to and exploitation of documents in a library. For the purpose, the first and most important step in subject cataloguing is to ascertain the true subject of the material being catalogued. This concept should never be far from a subject cataloguer‘s thoughts. It is a serious mistake to think of subject analysis as a matter of sorting through material and fitting it into the available categories and determining what it is really about. The subject of a work cannot always be determined from the title alone, which is often uninformative or misleading, and undue dependence on it can result in error. Hence, we should examine the following consideration of subject approach for assigning a subject heading:


(i) After reading the title page, the cataloguer should examine the table of contents and skim the preface and introduction

(ii) If the subject is still not clear, examine the text carefully and read parts of it, if necessary.

(iii) In the case of non-book materials, the cataloguer should examine the container, the label, any accompanying guides, etc., and view or listen to the contents if possible.

(iv) If the meaning of technical terminology is not clearly understood, reference sources should be consulted.


After having made this preliminary examination we can determine the subject heading of a work.


The principle of specific and direct entry is fundamental in modern subject cataloguing. According to that rule a work is entered in the subject entry directly under the most specific subject heading that accurately represents its content. This term should be neither broader nor narrower but co-extensive in scope with the subject of the work catalogued. The principle was formulated by Charles A. Cutter (1837-1903) in his ‗Rules for a Dictionary Catalog’ and he stated ―Enter a work under its subject-heading, not under the heading of a class which includes that subject.‖


7Printed List of Subject Headings


For consistency and uniformity in subject headings for books or parts of books of the same subject, there should be some specific code or a carefully worked out list of subject headings for guidance so that standard and appropriate heading may be used. Such long felt need of standardised and experimented subject headings was fulfilled by Library of Congress. Such list is a list of the authorized words and phrases is being maintained by the library of Congress for assigning a subject headings of its collections is called as subject authority file. It consists of subject authority records in order to ensure uniformity and consistency in subject heading terminology and cross –references. The subject authority record is made when subject headings are established and used for the first time. To create subject authority records and to maintain the subject authority file is so called subject authority control.


7.1  Principles for Subject Headings (LSH)


To achieve good practice in assigning headings, it is important to understand the following principles involved in formulating subject headings.


7.1.1 Literary warrant: The terminology selected to formulate individual subject heading which is created for use in cataloguing should reflect the terminology used in current literature


7.1.2 Uniform heading: Subject heading is chosen to represent topic based on standard, contemporary English-language usage or preference given to terms in general use over technical terms or jargon where possible. In other words, Subject headings should be choosen neutral, inclusive, or unbiased terminology, especially regarding topics that might be controversial .References to headings are made from synonyms and variant forms. Catalogue users are guided from their entry vocabulary to the authorized headings


7.1.3 Unique heading: Each heading in LSH represents only one topic. If a term could represent more than one concept, it should be modified, viz. Venus (Planet) Stilts; Venus (Roman deity) Stilts (Birds) or, a [heading]—[subdivision] combination is created to provide context. In cases where a deliberate decision is made to allow a heading to represent more than one concept, a scope note is generally provided.


7.1.4 Specific entry: Each subject is represented by the most precise term naming the subject, rather than a broader or generic term that encompasses it .For a work on systems librarians, use: Systems librarians not Librarians. In other words, Terms should be co-extensive with subjects. Exceptionally some terms may be deemed too narrow, and therefore not likely to be sought by users .For example, Bait fishing is an authorized heading in LCSH Worm fishing is a specific type of bait fishing, but the heading Bait fishing is used to represent it.


7.1.5 Consistency: LSHs contain numerous inconsistencies in styles of headings in its various editions. Attempts have been made to maintain consistency in form and structure among similar headings because. Individual headings, unless they have been revised, reflect the prevailing philosophy in force at the time they were created. Consistency in the form and structure of headings promotes predictability for subject heading users. Predictability is enhanced when the terms chosen for a topic are those most widely used to refer to that topic. When headings are changed or new headings established, headings in bibliographic records need to be updated.


7.1.6 Dynamism: Changes to headings are made continuously to maintain the currency and viability of LSH. The benefit of making a change is weighed against its impact on the authority and bibliographic databases and the resources needed to carry it out. For example, Handicapped to People with disabilities; Internet (Computer network) to Internet; Machine-readable dictionaries to Electronic dictionaries; Medicine, State to National health services.


7.1.7 Pre-coordination and post-coordination: LSH is primarily a pre-coordinate system; combining elements into one heading string in anticipation of a search on that compound topic. For example, Furniture design—France—History—20th century— Exhibitions. Many complex or multi-element topics require post-coordination in LSH; combining of headings or keywords by a searcher at the time he/she looks for materials. For example, for a work on the architecture of Roman public baths in Great Britain: Baths, Roman—Great Britain or Architecture, Roman—Great Britain or Great Britain— Antiquities, Roman


7.2 Types of List of Subject Headings


For standardised guide to the subject content of a book by giving it a heading, Crestadoro was the first who stated this concept in his book ‗The Art of Making Catalogues‘. In 1895, the first standard list entitled ‗List of Subject Headings for Use in Dictionary Catalogue‘, produced by a Committee, of the American Library Association (ALA), of which C.A.Cutter was prominent member, was based on Cutter‘s principles. After three editions of it (1895,1898 and 1911), it had been discontinued when Library of Congress began publishing its list under the title ‗subject headings used in the Dictionary Catalogues of the Library of Congress‘. At present, two standardised lists of subject headings are famous in practice namely


Library of Congress Subject Headings’ (LCSH) and ‘Sears List of Subject Headings’.


Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) 8.1 History

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) is a list of the headings for subject cataloguing and indexing established at the Library of Congress which has been publishing since 1898. LC used the American Library Association‘s List of Subject Headings for Use in Dictionary Catalogues (1st ed., 1895; 2nd ed., 1898). LC began distribution of printed catalogue cards to subscribers in 1902. Library of Congress published a preliminary list of subject subdivisions for place names and of subjects in 1906. As a result, the first actual printing of Subject Headings Used in the Dictionary Catalogues of the Library of Congress began in the summer of 1909, which was then entitled as Library of Congress Subject Headings issued in parts and completed in March 1914. The 5th LCSH (1948) incorporated the ―refer from‖ references in the main list. LC had been publishing supplements on a quarterly basis from time to time. LCSH printed in Cataloguing Service Bulletin which continued and increased from the 1950‘s to the present day. In 1957 the 6th edition of LCSH was published with three columns of subject headings per page, a format which would remain constant through to 1999.


Another development of the latter half of the 20th century were the ―uniterms‖ (later called ―descriptors‖) designed for coordinate indexing via machine manipulation , a proliferation of keyword indexes (KWIC, KWOC, etc.) ,PRECIS and Boolean search techniques utilized in most online public catalogues (OPACs). Thesauri became popular during the same period. More technical changes occurred in the 1970‘s.The 8th LCSH (1975) was published in two volumes and adopted its modern title, Library of Congress Subject Headings. In 1976, the Library of Congress offered the list in a microfiche version for the first time that had converted to or were planning for COM (computer-output microform) catalogues. In the 1980‘s and 1990‘s the emphasis shifted to enhancing, rather than eliminating, the LCSH access, e.g., through mapping to other vocabularies or linking to classification numbers. Weekly Lists of new and changed subject headings and references were first offered in 1984. In 1985 the Library of Congress began to regularize its practices regarding the provision of cross-references for new subject headings.


The LCSH converted its notation devices to those most often used in thesaurus construction, i.e., BT for ―broader term,‖ NT for ―narrower term,‖ and so forth.


The late 1980‘s also saw the introduction of two new formats for LCSH: one was the CDMARC Subjects for use on personal computers with CD ROM drives; the other was the Subject Authorities in MARC format issued on magnetic tape (later also available via FTP transfer).


The latter product enabled bibliographic utilities such as OCLC and RLIN to load the LCSH authorities in their databases and make searching of them available to their member libraries.


LCSH continued to grow and its 11th ed. expanded into three volumes since 1988 on an annual basis.


The 1990‘s ushered in a new era of cooperation. In May 1991, LC hosted an invitational Subject Subdivisions Conference, which resulted in many changes to LCSH, still ongoing and regularly summarized in Cataloguing Service Bulletin. One more significant has been the development, under the auspices of the Program for Cooperative Cataloguing, of the Subject Authority Cooperative Program (SACO). The SACO process allows specially-trained ―outside‖ cataloguers to propose new subject headings based on their libraries‘ new acquisitions or their users‘ needs. LCSH list grew to four volumes by 1992, and reached five volumes beginning with the 21st ed. (1998) and onwards.The printed Library of Congress Subject Headings (Red Books) is being published annually.


LCSH is the best way to keep subject headings current–the key to accurate cataloging and topical searching. The 34th edition of LCSH in 6 volumes published in 2012 is indispensable. It contains approximately 329,000 total subject headings and references, including approximately 8000 new headings. It includes all authorized forms of headings as well as variant references created by catalogers and used in cataloging at the Library of Congress through March 2012 to provide users with all the authoritative access points to make subject searching quick and easy.


8.2 Structure


Main headings are identified by terms or phrases that represent what the material covers. Headings can also reflect the form of the material. There are three general categories of headings: Topical, Form/genre and Names.


8.2.1 Topical headings: A topical heading represents a discrete, identifiable concept. These can be things, concepts, philosophies, disciplines, activities and processes, organisms and some types of events, classes of people, ethnic groups, names of individual animals, legendary and fictitious characters, places, and organizations


8.2.2 Form / Genre: Form / Genre headings indicate what a work is, rather than what it is about. These headings can identify a form and represent a style or mood


8.2.3 Name headings: If the work being catalogued is about a person or a place or a corporate entity, then a name heading is appropriate .The rules for constructing these headings will depend on the type of name. Personal names: A biography will have a subject heading for the biographer. Personal name headings are constructed according to AACR2/LCRI practice. Family names and royal houses and dynasties are coded as personal names, but they are constructed according to subject cataloguing rules.


8.2.4 Corporate names: Generally, a corporate body is an organization or a group of persons identified by a particular name. Certain vessels and vehicles are considered to be corporate bodies. Corporate name headings are constructed according to AACR2/LCRI practice. Works about conferences and organized events can have subject headings for the name of the conference or event.


8.2.5 Geographic names: Headings can be assigned for jurisdictional areas and geographic features. If a place name used as a subject has uniform title or a subordinate body, it is considered a corporate name.


8.2.6 Titles: Works about other works may have subject headings that consist of the catalogue entry for the work being discussed. name-title heading uniform title heading


8.3 Subdivisions


Subdivisions are used to combine various aspects of a topic into one heading, and as a device for arranging entries that share the same main heading. Following subdivisions are used to combine various aspects of a topic into one heading, and as a device for arranging entries that share the same main heading.


8.3.1 Topical subdivisions: They indicate a part, element, or aspect of a subject. They are used under main headings of all types or under other topical subdivisions to limit the concept expressed by the heading to a specific subtopic: Construction industry— Management. Each additional subdivision refines the concept expressed by the heading and makes it more specific: Construction industry–Management–Employee participation. Many common topical subdivisions represent actions, processes, or attributes. In some cases, particularly with headings for objects, subdivisions are used to designate parts of the whole for example, Airplanes–Cockpits. LCSH makes use of topical


subdivisions as a standard way of expressing concepts, methods, or techniques that are common to several fields, or that may be applied to numerous headings: Data processing;–Library resources:–


Psychological aspects:–Social aspects:–Statistical methods


8.3.2 Geographical subdivisions: They indicate the geographic area to which treatment of a topic is limited. They may indicate where something is located, where something is from, or either, depending upon the topic. For instance: Income tax (May Subd. Geog). Headings with (May Subd Geog) may be subdivided by authorized forms of names of countries or other political jurisdictions, or of regions or geographic features, as appropriate: Income tax—Brazil; Water quality–Amazon River. For a locality within a country, or a territorial entity or geographic feature that falls wholly within a country, interpose the name of the relevant country between the topic and the locality: Subways–Korea (South)–Seoul; Stone carving–Cambodia–Angkor (Extinct city). For localities in Canada, Great Britain, and the United States, interpose the relevant province, constituent country, or state. In some cases and with some topics, headings are established with national qualifiers to indicate origin or derivation: Technical assistance, American (May Subd Geog).Such headings may be divided by place to indicate recipients: Economic assistance, Scandinavian—Africa( For Scandinavian development agreements with African).


8.3.3 Chronological subdivisions: Subdivisions for dates are used to indicate time periods covered in the contents of a work with the interposition of the subdivision — History. For instance: Japan–History–Tokugawa period, 1600-1868; United States–History–Civil War, 1861-1865; Women–History–Modern period, 1600-. Under topics, inherently historical, periods are established directly without the interposition of the subdivision History: Argentina–Economic conditions–1945-1983; World politics–1919-1932; Russia–Social conditions–1801-1917;Japan–Politics and government–1600-1868. Date subdivisions established or used under artistic, literary, or music form/genre headings modify the main heading: Engraving–18th century ; French poetry– 19th century ; Sonatas (Piano)–20th century. Sometimes chronology is indicated by a heading with an adjectival qualifier, for example, Medicine, Medieval.


8.3.4 Form subdivisions; Indicate the format of the work: what the item is rather than what it is about. Generally, form subdivisions may be used under all types of headings: topics, names of persons, corporate bodies, places, etc., unless restrictions on the use of a particular subdivision are given in the Subject Cataloguing Manual. Some frequently used form subdivisions are: Engineering–Indexes; Sociology–Congresses; Malaysia-


-Foreign relations–Bibliography; Vegetable gardening–Handbooks, manuals,etc.;Porcelain,Chinese–Catalogues; Singapore–Guidebooks; Sports– Juvenile humor; Brewing–Amateurs’ manuals; Astronomy–Observers’ manuals


9. Sears List of Subject Headings 9.1 History


Sears List of Subject Headings (SLSH) was first designed in 1923 by Minnie Earl Sears


(1873-1933) and published as first edition in 1923in the title of ‗List of Subject Headings for Small Libraries‘ based on the headings used by nine small libraries of the USA. Minnie Sears used only See and “refer from” references in the first edition. In the second edition (1926) she added See also references. To make the List more useful for that purpose, she wrote a chapter on ―Practical Suggestions for the Beginner in Subject Heading Work‖ for the third edition (1933). Isabel Stevenson Monro edited the fourth (1939) and fifth (1944) editions with the inclusion of Dewey Decimal Classification numbers. The sixth (1950), seventh (1954), and eighth (1959) editions were prepared by Bertha M. Frick.


In recognition of the pioneering and fundamental contribution made by Minnie Sears the title was changed to Sears List of Subject Headings with the sixth edition. The phrase ―for Small Libraries‖ was deleted from the title. The symbols x and xx were substituted for the ―Refer from (see ref.)‖ and ―Refer from (see also ref.)‖ phrases to conform to the format adopted by the Library of Congress. The ninth edition (1965) continued the policies of the earlier editions. With the eleventh edition, the ―Practical Suggestions for the Beginner in Subject Heading Work‖ was retitled ―Principles of the Sears List of Subject Headings‖ to emphasize ―principles,‖ and a section dealing with nonbook materials was added. The thirteenth edition (1986) prepared by Carmen Rovira and Caroline Reyes responded to the computer validation capabilities and online public access catalogues. This effort was taken further in the fourteenth edition (1991) under the editorship of Martha T. Mooney, who reduced the number of compound terms, simplified many subdivisions, and advanced the work of uninverting inverted headings and incorporation of Subject Headings for Children‘s Literature. The fifteenth edition (1994) edited by Joseph Miller was shortened to provide a more timely updating of subject headings. Sears remains a list of subject headings and not a true thesaurus, it uses the labels BT, NT, RT, SA, and UF for broader terms, narrower terms, related terms, See Also, and Used for respectively. It also included new headings for access to individual works of fiction, poetry, drama, and other imaginative works, such as films and radio and television programs. In the sixteenth edition (1997) further instructions were added for the application of subdivisions. The major feature of the seventeenth edition (2000) was the revision of the headings for the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere. The headings Indians, Indians of North America, Indians of Mexico, etc., were cancelled in favor of Native Americans, which may be subdivided geographically by continent, region, country, state, or city. Many headings that formerly incorporated the word ―modern‖ were simplified and clarified, such as Modern history and Modern art, and headings for various kinds of government policy were revised and regularized. The eighteenth edition of the Sears List (2004) included significant addition to the Principles of the Sears List regarding the treatment of individual works of fiction, drama, and poetry. The 20th edition (2010) incorporated many hundreds of new subject headings and features a major development of new headings in the areas of Islam and Graphic novels


The major feature of twentieth edition of the Sears List is the inclusion of more than three hundred new subject headings such as Rainforest ecology, Grassland ecology, Climate change, and Sustainable agriculture, various kinds of dinosaurs like Raptorex, Pteranodon, and Edmontosaurus, social networking such as Twitter (Web site) and Facebook (Web site) , Acrylic painting and Wire craft. In these and other areas many provisions have been added for creating more new headings as needed.


The most significant revision in this edition was dealt with subject headings relating to Russia and India. Where materials on Russia were formerly separated among three headings: Russia, Soviet Union, and Russia (Federation), there is now a single heading, simply Russia. The heading for the Commonwealth of Independent States, which no longer exists, has been canceled. It was in the seventeenth edition of the Sears List (2000) that the headings Indians, Indians of North America, Indians of Mexico, etc., were canceled in favor or Native Americans, which may be subdivided geographically by continent, region, country, state, or city. Further headings were added as a pattern for headings relating to Native American, such as Native American women, Native American music, etc. In this edition the heading Indians has been re-established to denote the people of India, replacing East Indians, and a number of headings relating to the literature and culture of India have been similarly established, such as Indian literature and Indian music, replacing Indic literature, etc. New chronological subdivisions have been established for the history of India as well. This revision reflects the increasing globalization of our culture and the international use of the Sears List in library cataloguing. Another revision in this edition is the addition of more than 1,400 notes indicating that headings may be subdivided geographically. Additional scope notes have also been added in this edition so that now every heading in the List that may be used for individual works and collections as well as for materials about a topic, such as Picture dictionaries, is so identified. This note indicates that in cataloguing a heading can be coded as a form or genre heading rather than as a topical subject.


9.2 Types of Subject Headings


In Sears List of Subject Headings there are four types of subject headings: topical headings, form headings, geographic headings, and proper names.


9.2.1 Topical headings: Topical subject headings are simply the words or phrases for common things or concepts that represent the content of various works. In choosing the word or phrase that makes the best subject heading several things should be considered. The first and most obvious is the literary warrant, or the language of the material being catalogued. For instance,(i) the word most commonly used in the literature is most likely the word that best represents the item catalogued,(ii) a subject heading should represent the common usage of the English language, and (iii) uniformity in subject headings should be maintained by choosing a single word or phrase from among its synonyms or near-synonyms in establishing a subject heading.


9.2.2 Form headings: Form heading describes not the subject content of a work but its form. In other words, a form heading tells us not what a work is about but what it is. Form in this context means the intellectual form of the materials rather than the physical form of the item. Some form headings are as follows:


(i) The general arrangement of the material and the purpose of the work, such as Almanacs, Atlases, Directories, and Gazetteers.


(ii) Headings for the major literary forms, Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Essays, are usually used as topical subject headings. As form headings they are used for collections only rather than for individual literary works. Minor literary forms, also known as genres, such as Science fiction, Epistolary poetry, and Children’s plays, are much more numerous and are often assigned to individual literary works.


(iii) Physical forms of some non-book materials, such as puzzles, sound recordings, or comedy films are also identified by form headings.


9.2.3 Geographic headings: The geographic headings found in Sears, such as United States, Ohio, and Chicago (Ill.), are only as examples. The cataloguer using the Sears List must establish geographic headings as needed with the aid of above standard references sources. The geographic headings and geographic subdivisions found in Sears follow the form of abbreviation for qualifying states, provinces, etc.


9.2.4 Names: Three major types of name headings are personal names, corporate names, and uniform titles. Individual or personal name headings are usually established in the inverted form, with dates if necessary, and with See references from alternate forms. For example:


Personal name: Clinton, Bill, 1946- would require a See reference from Clinton, William Jefferson. Cooperate: Rockefeller Center or Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show are entered directly under the corporate name heading as a subject. Uniform titles: Established names of sacred scriptures, anonymous literary works, periodicals, motion pictures, radio and television programs, etc. are entered directly under the uniform title. For example: Motion picture such as Gone with the wind (Motion picture) or Beowulf, literary work such as Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616. Hamlet for a book about Shakespeare‘s play.


Like geographic headings, name headings are numerous beyond the scope of the Sears List and must be established by the cataloguer as needed. Suggested sources for personal and corporate names are Who’s Who; Who’s Who in America; Merriam-Webster’s Biograph-ical Dictionary; The Dictionary of National Biography; the Encyclopedia of Associations; and the Library of Congress Name Authories on the Web. General encyclopedias and standard reference works limited to specific fields are also useful sources for names.


9.3 Forms of Headings: The Grammar of Subject Headings


In order to construct subject headings consistently the cataloguer should understand the grammar of subject headings. In Sears List of Subject Headings, the forms of headings are Single Nouns, Compound Headings, Adjectives with Nouns, Phrase Headings.


9.3.1 Single Nouns: Abstract ideas and the names of disciplines of study are usually stated in the singular, such as Biology or Existentialism. An action is also expressed in the singular such as Editing or Fraud. Headings for concrete things to be counted are most commonly in the plural form such as Playgrounds or Children. Concrete things that cannot be counted, such as Steel or Milk, obviously remain in the singular


9.3.2 Compound Headings: Subject headings that consist of two nouns/things joined/linked by ―and‖ are of several types. Some headings link two things because together they form a single concept or topic, such as Bow and arrow or Good and evil. Some headings are so closely related they are rarely treated separately, such as Forests and forestry or Publishers and publishing. Some headings are so closely synonymous they are seldom distinguished, such as Cities and towns or Rugs and carpets. Other headings that link two words with ―and‖ stand for the relationship between the two things, such as Church and state or Television and children.


9.3.3 Adjectives with Nouns: Subject headings are expressed by a noun with an adjective, such as Unemployment insurance or Buddhist art. In the past the expression was frequently inverted (Insurance, Unemployment; Art, Buddhist). There were two possible reasons for inversion: 1) an assumption was made that the searcher would think first of the noun; or 2) the noun was placed first in order to keep all aspects of a broad subject together in an alphabetical listing, as in a card catalogue. In recent years these arguments have been abandoned in favor of the direct order because users have become more and more accustomed to searching in the order of natural language. The only headings that have been retained in Sears in the inverted form are proper names, including the names of battles and massacres.


9.3.4 Phrase Headings: Some concepts that involve two or more elements can be expressed only by more or less complex phrases. These are the least satisfactory headings, as they offer the greatest variation in wording, are often the longest, and may not be thought of readily by either the maker or the user of the catalogue, but for many topics the English language seems to offer no more compact terminology. Examples are Insects as carriers of disease and Violence in popular culture.




Instruction is given for the use of subdivisions included in the Sears‘ List. Subdivisions are as follows:


9.4.1 Topical Subdivisions: Topical subdivisions are those subdivisions that bring out the aspect of a subject or point of view presented in a particular work. For example:For a work of a history of the subject, such as Clothing and dress—History; Religion— Philosophy; Oceanography—Research; Automobiles— Law and legislation; Mathematics—Study and teaching.


9.4.2 Geographic Subdivisions: Another aspect of subjects that can be brought out in subdivisions is geographic specificity. The unit used as a subdivision may be the name of a country, state, city, or other geographic area. Geographic subdivisions can be either direct or indirect. The Sears List uses the direct form of subdivision, whereby topics are subdivided directly by cities, counties, metropolitan areas, etc. For example: Bridges— France; Agriculture—Ohio; Italian art—Great Britain ; American authors—Paris (France); Theater—Paris (France) ; Hospitals—Chicago (Ill.).


There are only two types of topical subject headings that can never be subdivided geographically. The first are those headings, such as Exploration or Church history, that are used instead as subdivisions under geographic headings, as in Arctic regions— Exploration or United States—Church history.The second are those subjects, mostly in the fields of literature and the arts, for which the geographic qualification is conveyed by a modifying adjective rather than by a subdivision. Many of these subjects have a general reference similar to this reference at the subject Authors: ―SA [See also] authors of particular countries or regions, e.g. American authors.‖


9.4.3 Chronological Subdivisions: Chronological subdivisions, which correspond to generally accepted periods of a country‘s history or to the spans of time most frequently treated in the literature, make such a search much simpler by bringing together all works on a single period of history, such as United States—History; United States— History—1945-1953 ; United States—History—1600-1775, Colonial period. The Sears List includes chronological subdivisions only for those countries about which a small library is likely to have much historical material, with the greatest number of period subdivisions under United States, Canada, Great Britain, France,Germany, and Italy, and a few subdivisions only under several other countries. For other countries, the above subject headings to be followed.


9.4.4 Form Subdivisions: Form headings tell what an item is rather than what it is about. Some of the most common form subdivisions are Bibliography; Catalogues; Dictionaries; Directories; Gazetteers; Handbooks, manuals, etc.; Indexes; Maps; Pictorial works; Portraits; Registers; and Statistics. Form subdivisions are particularly valuable under headings for the large fields of knowledge that are represented by many entries in a library‘s catalogue. In applying form subdivisions the cataloguer should be guided by the character of an item itself, not by the title.


For example: Children’s literature— Bibliography or Geology—Maps 9.5 Complication in the Application of Some Areas


In many areas the application of subject headings and their appropriate subdivisions is a simple and straightforward matter. There are, however, areas in which either the complexity of the material or the vagaries of the English language create persistent problems. By maintaining sound principles, following instructions carefully, and using common sense to catalogue library materials in such a way that users can find what they need. Some of these problem areas are dealt with here.


9.5.1 Biography: Biography as a form of writing are given the topical subject heading Biography as a literary form. Works that are themselves biographies are given either the form heading Biography or the form subdivision Biography. Such works are considered here in two groups, collective biographies and individual biographies. Collective Biographies: Collective biographies are works containing biographies of more than three persons. Collective biographies not limited to any area or to any class of persons. For example: Lives of Famous Men and Women assigned the heading as Biography. Leaders of the Arab World assigned the heading as Arab countries—Biography, Dictionary of American Biography assigned the heading as United States—Biography;Who’s Who among Hispanic Americans assigned the heading as Hispanic Americans—Biography; Dictionary of American Biography or Who’s Who in America United States—Biography—Dictionaries. Class of persons or occupational group with the subdivision Biography, such as Women—Biography or Librarians—Biography. Any or all persons connected with a particular industry, institution, or field of endeavor, such as Computer industry—Biography; Catholic Church—Biography; Baseball—Biography. Individual Biographies: Usually the only subject heading needed for the life of an individual is the name of the person, established in the same way as an author entry. Subdivisions are added to the person‘s name to specify the various aspects treated, among them Biography. As examples of such persons, the Sears List includes Jesus Christ and Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616, with subdivisions appropriate to material written about them. The subdivisions listed under Shakespeare may also be used, if needed, under the name of any voluminous author.


The subdivisions provided under Presidents— United States may also be used under the name of any president or other ruler, if applicable.


9.5.2 Literature: A work about the history of poetry or about the criticism of poetry would be entered under Poetry—History and criticism. Form subdivisions may also be used under these headings to indicate the form the work takes, such as Drama— Dictionaries or Poetry—Indexes. The second consists of literary works themselves, and those works are assigned form headings to describe what the item is rather than what it is about, such as Literature—Collections; Poetry— Collections; or Drama— Collections. Genre headings with national or linguistic adjectives, such as Australian science fiction or Latin epic poetry, are applicable to collections but are never assigned to individual works.


9.5.3 Nonbook Materials: Subject headings for electronic media and for audiovisual and special instructional materials should be assigned on the basis of same principles that are applied to books. The uniform application of the same headings to book and nonbook materials alike is especially important in an integrated catalogue, which brings all materials on one subject together regardless of format. There are many form and genre headings that apply equally to nonbook materials and to books about such materials, such as Biographical films; Comedy television programs; and Science fiction comic books, strips, etc. Topical subject headings assigned to nonbook materials should not include form subdivisions to describe physical format, such as motion pictures, slides, sound recordings, etc.


10 Making References


References direct the user from terms not used as headings to the term that is used, and from BT and RT to the term chosen to represent a given subject. The Sears/LC Lists use the symbols found in most thesauri to point out the relationships among the terms found in the List and to assist the cataloguer in establishing appropriate references in the public catalogue based upon these relationships. There are three types of references: See references, See also references, and general references.


10.1 See References: See references direct the user from unpreferred or unestablished terms and phrases to the preferred or established terms that are used as subject headings. Under most headings in the Sears/LC Lists, following the UF [Used for] label is one or more suggested terms for See references in the public catalogue. A cataloguer may want to use some or all of them as references, and many cataloguers add other See references they deem useful. The references will be more useful if the cataloguer considers materials from the reader‘s point of view. The reader‘s profile depends on age, background, education, occupation, and geographical location, and takes into account the type of library, such as school, public, university, or special.


10.2 See also References:See also references direct the user from one established heading to another established heading. Under most headings in the Sears List, following the BT [Broader term] label, is a term that is broader in scope than the heading itself. A See also reference is made from a broader term to a narrower term, but not from a narrower term to a broader term. For example: the broader term Clothing and dress on the heading Gloves. When the heading Gloves is assigned for the first time to a work in the collection, a reference is made at Clothing and dress ―See also Gloves.‖ If Clothing and dress has never been assigned to a work in the collection, it is entered in the catalogue for the sake of the reference, and the reference ―See also Gloves‖ is made.


Under many headings in the Sears List, following the RT [Related term] label, one or more terms are listed that represent similar or associated subjects. These RT are neither broader nor narrower than the main term but roughly equal in specificity. The term Pardon, for example, is related to Amnesty. When the term Pardon is assigned for the first time to a work in the collection, a reference is made in the catalogue at Amnesty ―See also Pardon.‖ The reciprocal reference at Pardon ―See also Amnesty” is also made, but only if Amnesty has also been assigned to a work in the collection.


10.3 General References: The SA [See also] label is called a general reference, not to a specific heading but to a general group or category of things that may be established as headings as needed. In the example of Clothing and dress given above, the general reference is to ―types of clothing articles and accessories, {to be added as needed}.‖ This reference is addressed to the cataloguer as a reminder not to be limited to the types of clothing and dress items given as examples in the List—Hats, Hosiery, Shoes, etc.— but to create a heading for any other clothing item, such as Gloves, when the need arises. A second function of general references is to provide instruction in the application of subdivisions. If the subdivision is also a heading, the general reference is given under the heading. For example: Folklore is both a heading and a subdivision. Under the heading Folklore the general reference reads: ―SA [See also] topics as themes in folklore with the subdivision Folklore, e.g. Plants Folklore. There is a general reference that reads: ―USE types of scientific phenomena, chemicals, plants, and crops with the subdivision Industrial applications, e.g. Ultrasonic waves—Industrial applications {to be added as needed}.‖ At Flowers, for example, rather than a specific See also reference to Day lilies, Orchids, Peonies, Poppies, Roses, Tulips, and Violets, there would be a general reference ―See also types of flowers.‖


11. Maintaining a catalogue


The library catalogue is a vital function at the very center of a library, and as such it is always growing and changing to reflect the growing collection and to meet the changing needs of the users. It is a challenge to the cataloguer to add new records, revise existing records, and make all the appropriate references, and at the same time maintain the integrity of the catalogue.




Authority control: The establishment and maintenance of consistent forms of terms, as of names, subject, and titles, to be used as heading in bibliographic records. Broader terms (BT): The term denoting super-ordinate ideas in a hierarchy. Narrower terms (NT): The term denoting sub-ordinate ideas in a hierarchy.


Reference: A Reference from the one heading to another

Related terms (RT): The terms denoting equal/relation concept to each one.

Subject authority file: A collection of subject authority records.

Subject authority record: A record of a subject heading

Subject catalogue: A catalogue is arranged according to the subjects treated.

Subject Headings list: A list of subject headings, including references to be used for subject cataloguing.

Scope note: An explanatory note indicating the way in which a term is used in a list of subject headings/thesaurus.

you can view video on Subject Cataloguing: Definition, Subject Headings, LC List of Subject Headings and Sear’s List of Subject Headings

Further readings

  1. Chan, Lois Mai, Phyllis A. Richmond, and Elaine Svenonius, eds. Theory of subject analysis :a Sourcebook. Englewood, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 1985. [Contains excerpts from Charles A. Cutter’s Rules for a Dictionary ]
  2. 2.Coates,E.J. Subject catalogue: headings and structure. London: The Library Association,1960.
  3. Foskett,A.C. The subject approach to information. 5th edition. London:The Library Association,1997.
  4. Girja Kumar and Krishan Kumar. Theory of cataloguing. New Delhi: Vikas,2000.
  5. Library of Congress List of Subject Headings. 34th edition (2012. Available online as part of: