Weekly Response Post – Elizabeth Frank

I wish that Thomas Mann, like the Chowdhurys, had provided a more screen shots to illustrate his point in his article “Why LC Subject Headings Are More Important Than Ever.”  He showed his results but not the unpopulated subject browse feature.  I’ve never seen an unpopulated OPAC subject browse feature and had to google “What does an OPAC subject browse feature look like?” (which is kind of ironic) to see what he was talking about.  (I also had to google “LCSH red books” since he refers to the “red books” so casually.)  Additionally, I was flummoxed by the example he gave regarding the search for Yugoslavia and history.  His search turned up many results, but none of them were actually “Yugoslavia history,” which was what the library patron was searching for.  All in all, I found the entire article confusing — perhaps natural, since I am a library student and established librarians are the target audience — I also felt that he failed to prove his argument that “LC Subject Headings Are More Important Than Ever.”  What he proved was that subject headings are important.  He describes as a “crucial need” the maintenance of “browse displays of precoordinated strings in the OPAC environment,” but I don’t see what is threatening it.  Is there a working group out there trying to turn OPAC into Google?

The Taylor chapter, which spells out the terms at hand, was much clearer.  “There is evidence that cataloguers using the same controlled vocabulary and the same rules for applying it will produce consistent subject headings, as long as they have the same understanding of the aboutness of the item to draw upon.”  So, it doesn’t have to LC.  This won’t help Mann’s patron, who wants to learn about Yugoslavian history and not library science, but it became obvious in last week’s readings and discussion that LC headings are oftentimes as much the problem as the solution.


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