February 17, 1997
Discussions of the LCSH implementation of subfield "v" for form subdivisions, as well as field 155 for genre/form headings in the USMARC Format for Authority Data and application of the existing 655 field for Index Term--Genre/Form, were begun formally in June 1995. The charge of the Working Group is to create lists of form/genre headings and subdivisions and to develop and document guidelines for the use of subfield $v and the more widespread use of the 655 field.
The implementation and application of these elements with LCSH and other LC thesauri is an extremely complex issue affecting many parties, most of whom are represented on a Library-wide Form/Genre Working Group headed by the assistant chief of the Cataloging Policy and Support Office. Except for months designated "production-only," the Working Group generally meets every month.
GENERAL UPDATE ON ACTIVITIES
The Working Group was less active in 1996 than in 1995, in part owing to the amount of institutional energy we devoted to reducing the arrearage, completing the new edition of the Subject Cataloging Manual: Subject Headings, and absorbing the responsibilities of staff who retired.
1. Stormy weather. As the 20-member Working Group began to tackle more difficult, philosophical issues in 1996, it became increasingly harder to achieve consensus. This frustration coupled with the constant pressure to reduce the arrearage resulted in the Working Group experiencing what some of us have called a "storming period," a "dark night of the soul," or simply "weathering adolescence." On October 3, I received an email message from a member of the working group entitled, "Is All of This Worth It?" The message asked who was behind the push to implement 655; and would the implementation of the field improve access enough to justify the massive job it is going to take to revise LCSH. The Working Group member ended by stating that he was as baffled about the task of the Group as he was at the beginning and still thought that tagging the same LCSH term differently according to its application was insane. In response, at the next meeting of the Group, Lynn El-Hoshy reviewed how LC got from the Airlie House Subject Subdivision Conference in 1991 to the systems and cataloging implementation issues we face today. Lynn's review in addition to David Miller's message of October 29 helped the Working Group to focus again on the issues before us.
2. SAC Subcommittee recommendation. The Working Group discussed recommendation 3 of the final report of the SAC Subcommittee on the Order of Subdivisions in Library of Congress Strings:
"Form subdivisions should be retained in subject heading strings, even in the event of implementation of more widespread use of the 655 field."
Because of concerns raised by representatives of cartographic materials, the Working Group agreed to interpret this recommendation to mean that
"the possibility of using subfield $v exists in constructing subject heading strings, even in the event of implementation of more widespread use of the 655 field."
3. Reference contact. On October 17, Abby Yochelson, British literature reference specialist, was appointed reference contact to the Working Group.
4. In mid-December, CPSO staff forwarded specifications related to LCSH subject authority upgrades to LC's Information Technology Services through the Automation Planning and Liaison Office. A large part of these upgrades consist of specifications for the creation of 155 authority records for form headings and the 18X authority records for free-floating subdivisions. We expect these LC systems changes to be completed sometime in the Fall of 1997.
SPECIAL FORMAT UPDATES
Moving image materials. The Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division has issued a complete draft of some 150 genre and form terms, all fully defined with generous examples. This Moving Image Genre-Form Guide has been widely shared with the prospective community of users, and has been posted on the listservs for film archives and cinema studies, and has been presented to date to three of four planned conferences: the Society of American Archivists, the Association of Moving Image Archivists, the Modern Language Association, and the Society for Cinema Studies. An editorial board has been established, and the guide has been submitted for review to a number of scholars who have worked extensively in genre studies. The staff of the Moving Image Processing Unit look forward to being able to apply terms with greater clarity, and users can anticipate far more exact search results.
Cartographic materials. In December 1996 the Cartographic Form Genre Working Group, composed of representatives from the Library of Congress and the major American map librarian organizations, mailed a list of 76 potential cartographic form and genre terms with scope notes to constituencies of the cartographic community. Those receiving the list were asked to 1) evaluate the usefulness of the addition of form and genre information to bibliographic records for cartographic materials and 2) to review the contents of the list for appropriateness of specific terms and scope notes. This request went to reference librarians, geographers, and other map users. The list went to only a few catalogers, because the Working Group wanted primarily the opinion of users of cartographic materials. To date there has been a response rate of about 16 per cent. Each member of the Working Group will review the responses in preparation for their meeting in San Francisco.
Rare books. The Rare Book Cataloging Team subcommittee that was formed to look at how to best implement 655s and subfield $v for rare books decided to take a very conservative approach at this time. It was decided to postpone activity in this area until a permanent chief was appointed who could give clear and authoritative direction about the Rare Book and Special Collections Division's needs and requirements for form/genre access to materials in its custody. Workload considerations also factored into this decision. The team is facing severe arrearage-reduction demands, and experimentation without clear direction from the custodial divisions seemed ill-advised at this time. As a general principle, the team supports proposing terms for LCSH as needed, rather than using specialized thesauri.
Graphic materials. The Print and Photographs Division is awaiting responses to a document of proposed additions and changes to the Thesaurus for Graphic Materials.
Music materials. "Application of form-genre content designation to headings for music materials will begin with free-floating form subdivisions, many of which have already been identified in the lists that appear in instruction sheets in the Subject Cataloging Manual: Subject Headings. However, the discipline of music is unusual in that its entire controlled vocabulary is contained in LCSH, including thousands of headings for musical works that have been used until now as though the headings were topical."
Computer files. The subgroup focusing on computer files and works about computer files will be revising its draft guidelines for Form Headings and Subdivisions for Computer Files dated May 6, 1996. The subgroup has been identified as a "test" group that will be the first to implement fully form/genre access once subdivision authority records have been created. We anticipate that the lessons learned from the challenges encountered by this computer file experiment will smooth the way for the Library-wide full implementation to follow.
In order to guard against any significant drop in cataloger productivity, to minimize impact on LC's goal to eliminate the monograph arrearage by the year 2000 as mandated by Congress, to avoid split files, and to insure that there are corresponding 155 and 18X subject authority records for 655 headings and subfield $v, CPSO and the Working Group will follow these general steps to implementation:
1. Meet with cataloging and reference staff to discuss form/genre issues. LC Form/Genre Working Group members will form subgroups to concentrate on specific formats or subject areas. (March 1997)
2. Identify form and topical subdivisions and prepare for the creation of subdivision authority records. (March to Fall 1997)
3. Once system changes are made, create subdivision authority records in the LC SUBJECTS authority file. Update existing subject authority records that have form subdivisions in order to change subfield $x to $v. (Fall 1997- )
4. Implementation of subfield $v: catalogers will begin subfield coding form subdivisions as $v without making any change to the way subject heading strings have been constructed to date. (Fall 1997-1999)
5. Implementation of 655: as a result of the work of subgroups, 155 authority records used in a format or subject area will be created and subject documentation updated. As they are created, catalogers will tag headings as 655 without making any change to the way subject headings strings have been constructed to date. (Fall 1997-1999)
6. As non-computer file catalogers become comfortable with labeling form headings and subdivisions, we anticipate they will be more able to identify and propose solutions to form/genre issues in each of the major disciplines (e.g. literature, art, law, science, music, etc.). Defer changes and file maintenance until LC has an ILS. (ca. 1999)
6. Implement major changes to the construction of subject strings with corresponding bibliographic file maintenance. (2000- )
LC will continue to communicate its plans and decisions regarding form/genre implementation through appropriate channels, including electronic bulletin boards and other appropriate forums for form/genre dialogue.