Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Through the storm we reach the shore

Last week, I wrote a blog post that tried to answer the question: Is there a better alternative to the SACO process of LCSH review to ensure that change happens?

After I put the question into context by talking about the SACO proposal process, I wrote about how the Program for Cooperative Cataloging and the ALCTS CaMMS Subject Access Committee could change their process to become more inclusive.

This week, I want to talk about how alternative thesauri could be used instead of, or in conjunction with, LCSH.

Metadata creation using MARC as a content standard allows for a variety of thesauri to be used in the topical subject access field (field 650). If using a thesaurus other than LCSH, a cataloger can enter a term source code in $2 of field 650 to indicate which thesaurus the term comes from. This list is lengthy, though not exhaustive.

MARC also allows catalogers to employ a local subject access field (field 690). This field allows a cataloger to create a local subject term or to choose a term from an existing thesaurus not included on the term source code list. As with field 650, catalogers should document the source of the heading in $2 of field 690.



Given the freedom that MARC gives catalogers with regard to employing a variety of thesauri, a potential better alternative to the SACO proposal process is to circumvent the use of LCSH entirely. Or, perhaps, to augment the flawed thesaurus with other controlled vocabulary. Using alternative thesauri gives libraries the opportunity to bring language into their catalog that is both more inclusive and more culturally responsive. Alternative thesauri are also a way to negotiate around the fact that LCSH is slow to change when language changes. 

A shift toward using alternative thesauri in MARC records requires buy-in both from the cataloging community as a whole and from individual libraries. As a cataloging community, we need to accept that disciplines and communities often have a better understanding of their organization and of their lexicon. As individual libraries, we need to understand that investing the time in identifying appropriate alternative thesauri for types of material and subject areas is a valuable investment in creating a more inclusive search environment.

If our goal as libraries is to create a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable space for our users, I would argue that metadata is as important as how we change our policies, practices, and spaces.

Stay positive,

1 comment:

Chris Stanton said...

Great post.

Whenever thinking about this topic, I always think of the folks in New Zealand and the great work they've done with Ngā Ūpoko Tukutuku / Māori Subject Headings.