s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: October 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tribond Tuesday

Karl Marx
Marilyn Monroe
Edgar Allan Poe

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cat. & References: Class vs. Instance (and Basketball!)

The other day, I had to catalog a book about the Brownville Junction Railroaders, which are a local high school basketball team.

When you're working with local history, you're very often cataloging books about subjects that are so obscure, no one has ever written about them before. On the one hand, this makes them interesting. On the other hand, this makes it hard to find the right call number.

Doing a keyword search in the catalog on "Brownville Junction Railroaders" was useless, because this was the first book ever written about them.

I hunted through the GV schedules (GV = Recreation and Leisure), but I don't catalog a lot of sports, so I couldn't find what I was looking for. I did find "Sports - Individual schools and colleges" (but that was only for colleges and universities), "Basketball - By region or country - By city" (only for city-wide programs, not for individual high schools), and "Basketball for children and youth" (only for youth league programs).

What I needed to do was find where other books on an individual high school basketball team would be classified. (Individual team is the key, here, because books about an individual member of a class are often located in a somewhat different place from books about a class, in general.)

I racked my brains to try to think of a well known nonfiction book about an individual high school basketball team, so that I could look up its call number. Barring that, I reasoned, I could try to think of a book about an individual high school team from another sport. (Similar topics are often structured similarly in the schedules, so if I could find the correct classification in another sport, I could probably use it to figure out the correct classification for basketball.)

Any guesses as to the book I finally thought of?

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Tribond Tuesday


Thursday, October 04, 2012

Cat. & Reference: Birds of a Feather

The 41 volumes of the Library of Congress classification schedules (i.e., the list of all the Library of Congress call numbers) take up about three feet of shelf space in my cubicle. In theory, I'm responsible for cataloging material on any topic in any volume, but in practice, the materials that cross my desk tend to cluster in a few areas (Canadian literature, Maine history and geography, etc.). However, I do occasionally work with material that is well outside my comfort zone, and since I don't have time to familiarize myself with every single page of every single classification volume, I have to use a lot of tricks to figure out where a book should be classed.

Keyword Search

The simplest trick is a keyword search. So, if I have a book about Fabergé eggs that needs a call number, I can do a keyword search on the term "Fabergé eggs" in our catalog to find other books on the same topic to see where they're classed. (Verifying that a given call number is correct is much simpler than coming up with a call number from scratch. Plus, even if a call number from another book isn't quite what I'm looking for, it's likely to get me into the right general area of the schedules, and I can explore from there.)

Subject Heading Correlation

A second trick is look up the Library of Congress Subject Heading for a book (subject headings are kind of like standardized keywords) and see what number or numbers it corresponds to. The LC classification website has a neat feature where I can enter a subject heading and see what call number have been assigned to it by Library of Congress librarians. So, if I have a book with the subject heading "Bears," I get the following breakdown:

QL737.C27 - used 21 times (This number corresponds to the family Ursidae.)
QL795.B4 - 9 times ("Bears" under the broader heading of "Stories and anecdotes about animal behavior")
QL737.C2 - 4 times (General works about the order Carnivora)
PZ10.3 - 2 times (Children's stories about animals)
SK295 - 2 times ("Bears" under "Big game hunting")

This technique is useful when you have a very general subject heading or when a subject might be classed in more than one area. It's less useful when you have an obscure subject heading that doesn't correspond to any books in the Library of Congress, or when you don't have a subject heading at all, for whatever reasons.

Hierarchy Browse

This involves browsing from the most general classification terms to the most specific ones, and it's theoretically the standard way that catalogers are supposed to look for new class number, but in practice it's very complicated, because things are often hiding where you don't expect them. (Looking for the history of Alberta? It's not under Canada > History. Looking for books on Inuit linguistics? You'll need to pick the top heading "Hyperborean, Indian, and artificial languages," which is useful only if you know what "hyperborean" means.)

Of these three techniques, I'd say I probably use #2 most often and resort to the others only when I have to (or I go to #3 if I'm already pretty familiar with the schedule). However, there is one situation that I sometimes encounter which renders the first two techniques utterly useless and leaves me to rely on #3 or on my own knowledge of the world. I'll blog about that situation in a future post.