Key Issues About Cataloguing and the Use of SCIS

By Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS)

Occasionally Teacher Librarians want to know how we catalogue resources to add to the SCIS database and especially how we assign the subject headings to those records. The following key issues may be of interest to other people in their school libraries.

Subject headings

SCIS is a national database which reflects the most common terms which will be accessed by most students, with over 150,000 SCIS subject headings with cross references. The majority of headings are proposed by Teacher Librarians in schools who are in touch with the terms appearing in the curriculum and the terms used by their students. SCIS agencies, located within the curriculum areas of their Departments of Education, meet every two months to submit new subject headings, to make changes and deletions to existing headings. These amendments reflect language shifts, new terminology and curriculum changes which regularly occur. The prime concern of the SCIS cataloguers is to ensure the suitability of the subject headings for use in the school library and to ensure the headings reflect Australian-English usage.

Applying cross references to the school's catalogue

If a term is not an authorised SCIS term cross references become essential. SCIS assigns reference structures to its headings to ensure that students will be led from rejected terms to the authorised heading 'See references', and to direct them to other related and broader terms 'See also' and 'Seen also from'.

It is important for Teacher Librarians to apply these SCIS reference structures to their catalogues. Cross references are integral to ensuring that students are navigated from the invalid term to the correct heading and to ensure that they find information which is related to their topic. If SCIS has not included a term used locally by students in its reference structure, then Teacher Librarians should add the term as a See reference to their authority file.

The application of 'generic' headings e.g. 'Sportsmen and Women -Australia', are used in conjunction with more specific headings. A resource which is about a variety of sportsmen and women requires a broader heading to reflect the content of the resource. SCIS will and does use the more specific headings e.g. 'Freeman, Cathy', for works specifically about Cathy Freeman or for works containing significant amounts of information (e.g. a chapter) about her. Again cross referencing is relevant to this issue. If students are likely to search for a general work on all Australian sportsmen and women under an individual's name then we recommend that a cross reference be added e.g See also from that individual's name to the appropriate SCIS heading. More information about SCIS reference structure is available in SCIS Subject Headings List 3rd edition.

Feedback to SCIS about subject headings

If you believe a term would be useful for a significant number of students then please let your local SCIS Agency know. If it is not accepted as a heading then it will most likely appear in the reference structure to ensure that otber schools can update their authority list to ensure their students find the correct heading and access the information they require.

Hit rates and searches

When SCIS staff advise customers whether to purchase SCISWeb or SCISCO the deciding factor is how important it is to the Teacher Librarian to have currency of records. If it is vital for the Library to have access to current records then they should purchase SCISWeb which ensures that they are working with the live database and have access to records as soon as they are added.

Customers using SCISWeb or SCISCO will experience varying hit rates because the CD data is at least one month old by the time it is delivered to schools. If you are currently using the SCISCO and you would like to improve your hit rate with new publications please ring the SCIS support staff to discuss changing to SCISWeb.

A reduced hit rate may occur if the recommended methods for searching are not used. SCIS recommend searching initially on ISBNs for the records. If this is unsuccessful then other searches such as title can be used. It is important for users to be very familiar with the searching techniques by thoroughly reading the manual. We encourage people to contact us if they are experiencing difficulties as our aim is to ensure that all customers receive the maximum benefit from our products.

Collection policy for adding SCIS records

Every month approximately 3,000 resources are added to the SCIS database. When our cataloguers add resources. priority is given to recent publications and to items which they believe the majority of schools across Australia would be purchasing for their libraries.

Different editions of materials

Librarians must be certain that they download the correct cataloguing records for the resources in hand. Some resources that were originality published many years ago were catalogued according to standards at that time. Newer editions may have different details such as publisher or date, or our standards may have changed. Thus it is possible for apparently similar resources to have different records.

Current policy now allows our cataloguers to add up to ten subject headings per item whereas previously only up to five headings were assigned. Subject headings for the same title may vary depending on the date it was added to the database and current trends in education.

Maintenance of SCIS Database

We aim to maintain the database and update old records to current standards. However as the database grows (it is currently over 600,000 items) we are bound to miss some. As always we appreciate Teacher Librarians contacting their local agency so that alterations can be immediately made to the database for the benefit of all our other customers.

SCIS Agencies
NSW 02 9886 7595
WA 08 9264 4927
SA 08 8340 4961
VIC 03 9428 5800
QLD 07 3406 2463

Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS)