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Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) - Subject Headings Manual (SHM) H 202 and H 203 Revised


Revisions to Subject Headings Manual Instruction Sheets on Authority Research and Source Citations

Subject policy specialists in the Library of Congress’ Policy and Standards Division (PSD) have revised Subject Headings Manual instruction sheets H 202 (Authority Research for Subject Heading Proposals) and H 203 (Citation of Sources). The instruction sheets had not been thoroughly reviewed and revised since the early 1990s, and while most of the instructions remained valid, they needed to be updated and clarified for the twenty-first century. The examples in particular needed to be replaced in order to depict long-standing, but undocumented, practices and policies on authority research and citations.

This announcement provides some background on the importance of fully supported proposals, and then summarizes the substantive revisions to H 202 and H 203.

Importance of Fully Supported Proposals

Source citations in proposals for new and revised subject headings serve two purposes: to allow for vetting of the proposal during the editorial review process, and to provide a permanent reference for future consultation.

It is important to include information that supports every aspect of a proposal, including the form of heading and any qualifier, UFs based on usage, the BTs and RTs, and the scope note. This support is typically provided by quoting or paraphrasing passages from the work being cataloged and the reference sources that were consulted. In some cases, though, it may take the form of a cataloger-supplied summary. Further, since the language of the vocabulary is English, information (other than the titles of foreign-language works) should be provided in English when possible.

Provision of full information from the work being cataloged and the reference sources that were consulted allows for much more expeditious review by the policy specialists. It also assists catalogers at LC and in SACO institutions, all of whom are strongly encouraged to review the Tentative Lists and provide feedback on the proposals. 

The authority record also serves as a permanent record of the rationale for proposing the heading. Catalogers use the source citations of approved headings to understand what the headings mean and how they should be used. Catalogers also use the citations to assist them when considering whether to propose another heading. 

Citation of an “LC pattern” in a 952 field is not a substitute for source information provided in the 670 fields. Source citations provide intellectual support for the need for the heading and references, while the LC pattern justifies the form of heading and references.

The editorial meeting has always marked some incomplete proposals as “resubmit” and sent them back to the proposing catalogers for additional work. Formerly, policy specialists would complete some of the proposals themselves, or take certain things on faith and approve them. In the current era of diminished resources and increasing workloads, however, the policy specialists are unable to complete the proposals, and providing incomplete information for consultation is a disservice to current and future catalogers. The meeting therefore requests that catalogers consult H 202 and H 203 to ensure that they submit complete proposals.

Summary of Substantial Revisions

H 202 Authority Research for Subject Heading Proposals
  • The instruction sheet was rearranged to emphasize research instead of the identification of patterns.
  • The instructions on consulting reference sources (which now comprise sec. 1) were lightly revised to clarify terminology and to incorporate twenty-first century sources such as websites.
  • Sec. 3, on using the 952 field to provide clarifying information, was corrected. The 952 field (Cataloger’s Permanent Note) should not be used for definitions of the term, evidence of usage, etc.; rather, the 670 field (Source Data Found) serves that purpose.
  • The brief examples that formerly appeared as sec. 2.a have been deleted, and the new sec. 5 includes 17 examples of full authority records from various disciplines. Each example includes an explanatory note on the purpose of the citations provided in the record. 
H 203 Citation of Sources
  • Some of the sections were renumbered to follow a logical progression.
  • The instructions citing websites were removed from the section on unpublished sources and now comprise sec. 6.
  • The instructions on parenthetical information (now sec. 7) were revised to indicate that information from the source being cited, not just the source’s title and date, should be provided.
  • Sec. 8 was revised to provide instructions on citing email correspondence.
  • The examples were updated throughout.
Source: Library of Congress

Subject Headings Manual (SHM) provides guidelines to use Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). The manual was originally conceived as an in-house procedure manual addressed to cataloging staff at the Library of Congress. From the very beginning, however, the manual included not only procedures and practices to be followed by LC catalogers but also substantive explanations of subject cataloging policy.  Other libraries who wish to catalog in the same manner as the Library of Congress as well as faculty at schools of library science who wish to teach Library of Congress subject cataloging policies to their students should follow the guidelines of the Subject Headings Manual (SHM).

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