Abstract – Dykstra

Dykstra, M. (1988). LC subject headings disguised as a thesaurus. Library Journal 113(4), 42-46.

Changes to the Library of Congress Subject Headings were introduced in December 1986 to help users make better sense of cross reference structure. At first glance, these changes appear to have provided a fix for the ambiguities that were characteristic with the prior “syndetic structure” of LCSH. It would seem that the implementation of the clearer coding associated with standard thesauri would be an appropriate adoption. The fact remains, however, that the LCSH list is not a thesaurus. The use of this coding structure, therefore, is misleading, impossible to achieve, and professionally irresponsible. By applying these codes, we, as librarians, undermine the work that has done to create clear standards for thesauri and harm our own professional credibility. Although the LCSH list is now easier to use, we must find a solution for subject access that allows the Library of Congress to adopt thesaural codes for LCSH without violating rules established by the International Organization of Standards; ensures a shift from an unruly to a rule-based system; enables library OPAC users to more intuitive and useful strategies for subject searching; and, position librarians concerned with subject access to contribute of fully automated retrieval systems.

~ R. F.


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