Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part blog series on Library of Congress Subject Headings and social justice co-authored by Netanel Ganin, Metadata Coordinator at Brandeis University and Catherine Oliver, Metadata & Cataloging Services Librarian at Northern Michigan University. Part one may be found here.
On Tuesday, we discussed why you might want to propose a Library of Congress Subject Heading, or LCSH. Today, we’ll discuss the how. In scary detail. With MARC fields. No, don’t run away!
The formal process as given by the Library of Congress (LC) itself on how to propose new headings can be found here. We’re going to be providing a slightly more detailed explanation of how to formulate subject heading proposals using the specific form for people who don’t work at the Library of Congress or who aren’t Subject Authority Cooperative (SACO) members. (If you don’t know whether your institution is a SACO member or not, check at the link.) We will be linking to the Subject Headings Manual, which contains some 300 memos on the construction and application of headings, throughout this post. Full documentation can be found here (PDF).
To submit a heading, you will need to use this PDF form for a new heading and possibly this PDF form for a new classification number. Each form requires you to fill out information in MARC field order: brief explanations of the fields and links to relevant memos follow. Have your work in hand (i.e., the published work you’re using as a source)? Good.
008/06: Indicates whether a heading is to be allowed to be geographically subdivided or not; that is, whether a cataloger can assign a narrower access point based on place (e.g. Sandwiches–Massachusetts–Boston, as opposed to just Sandwiches). Select one as per the instructions in H 364:
053: The field for the new Library of Congress Classification number for the proposed topic (assuming the heading requires its own classification number). If you are proposing a new classification number as well, it will need to be done separately, using the second form above. See:
150: The field for the heading being proposed.
450: The field for “used for” references, i.e. variant headings that will point the user towards the preferred heading for that topic. For example, UFs for Pancakes, waffles, etc. include Flapjacks, Griddle cakes, and Hot cakes– all of which will redirect you to the authorized term.
550: The field for “broader term” and “related term” references, which will point the user towards headings higher in the hierarchy and terms which may have a similar or overlapping meaning. Note that you don’t get to pick narrower terms in a MARC environment!
670 Work cat.: Cites the work that necessitates the creation of the proposal.
670 Additional sources: Although a single 670 is all that is required, many proposals are strengthened by adding additional sources demonstrating usage, form of the heading, any broader/related/narrower terms, qualifiers used in the heading, etc. For example, when the authors of this post (together with two others) were preparing a proposal for Asexuality, we used extra 670 fields to justify our inclusion of the broader term Sexual orientation by citing authors describing asexuality as such.
675: This is the field where sources consulted which did not contain the term are listed. It demonstrates the breadth of the research done by the proposer.
781: This field is only used when proposing a geographic heading and is thus outside the scope of this post.
667: This field is for an internal note intended to communicate something about this heading to other catalogers. It is not a scope note to be seen by the users.
952: Catalogers are required to search the LC catalog (catalog.loc.gov) and determine approximately how many records will need this subject added to them. If the proposal follows the specific pattern set by another heading, or the instructions of a memo, that heading or memo number is entered here.
Contact Information: Completely optional, to be entered if the proposer wishes to be contacted by LC as their proposal advances through the system.
Once this form is filled out (either by printing it, hand-writing, and scanning back in, or in a PDF editor), send it to SACO@loc.gov. What happens next is the proposal evaluation process. The official explanation of this process can be found here. Briefly, the proposed heading will be placed on a tentative list along with others to be evaluated by the Policy and Standards Division (PSD) of the Library of Congress (recent tentative lists can be viewed here). Each tentative list includes an email address to which comments on the proposals may be submitted. PSD accepts comments from LC and SACO program catalogers, other library and archive professionals, lawmakers, and members of the general public. The comment period lasts approximately one month, beginning with the publication of the tentative list and continuing until the closing date indicated on the list.
Next the PSD, with an eye towards several factors laid out in the previous memo, evaluates each proposal; those that are approved are placed on the approved list. Those that are not approved (“not approved” statuses may include outright rejection, a request for more information, or a request for editing and resubmission) are mentioned in the editorial meeting summary of the PSD. The meeting summary notes can be found here and are quite instructive. Reading through them can give one a sense of what grounds the PSD uses to reject proposals. Common pitfalls include not including information in English in the proposal and not justifying in sources the presence of broader terms, variant terms and scope notes in the proposal. Headings that are approved will be noted on the Approved Lists. The PSD will keep you posted if you included your contact info.
Good luck on your headings submissions! Enjoy the subjects! Remember to tip your catalogers!