'A valuable national asset...'

By Tricia Nathan

SCIS Subject Headings Fourth Edition book launch

In launching the SC!S Subject Headings Fourth Edition Keith Gove, Manager of Information Services at Curriculum Corporation, described the SCIS Subject Headings as 'a valuable national asset' and 'a unique contribution to the use of Australasian terms, language and cultural ideas in schools'.

The book was launched on 29 November 1999 in the Library of Academy of Mary Immaculate School in Melbourne. The school's Teacher Librarians value the importance of SCIS in the management of their library procedures and were pleased to have the launch in their library. Over fifty people attended, representing the wide range of those who have an involvement with SCIS: Teacher Librarians, for whom SCIS exists, and who make the service what it is; cataloguers from the SCIS Agencies; representatives from government and non-government sectors; colleagues from national and state school library associations; tertiary institutions who train Teacher Librarians; representatives from Ii brary automation suppliers; and current and former SCIS staff.

Wesley Young and Douglas Down were the guest speakers a t the launch. They were the founding fathers of SCIS. They were educators and leaders in Teacher Librarian circles, and held positions within SLAV, ASLA and the ASCIS Board. Their 1974 and 1977 reports which were funded by the Commonwealth Schools Commission led to the creation of the then ASCIS, now SCIS. They gave a most entertaining and informative joint presentation with dialogue and songs which immersed the audience in the background to the establishment of a national cataloguing service to schools.

Keith Gove reiterated the long way that SCIS has come since those early days. Nearly 8,000 schools are subscribing to SCIS in 2000 (80% of all Australian schools), with over 6,000 of these schools downloading catalogue records via the Web. In 1999 over 4 million records were downloaded, which could be seen as a saving of about $30M in cataloguing time. SC/S Subject Headings Fourth Edition sold over 2,000 copies pre-publication which is a major achievement for a $90.00 publication. Keith said that he was hopeful that most Teacher Librarians in Australia would come to view this publication as a valuable cataloguing and searching tool in schools.

Keith outlined the new features of the fourth edition:

  • new easier to read format, conforming to international subject headings approaches
  • nearly 200 new headings, almost 100 replaced headings and a number of cancelled headings
  • significantly expanded 30 page introduction that provides more advice to Teacher Librarians about how to use the subject headings
  • major revision of headings for Aboriginal peoples.

'The revision of the headings for Aboriginal peoples aimed at replacing dated terminology with more acceptable vocabulary that is consistent with that used in Aboriginal studies courses. Initiated by the New South Wales Agency, the revision process involved consultation with State Aboriginal Studies Consultants and research and debate by all the Agencies over a two year period'.

'Feedback from Teacher Librarians helps SCIS to monitor changing terminology and the need for new subject headings. Proposals for new headings from Teacher Librarians are studied at Agency level, curriculum experts are consulted, and position papers are written for national teleconferences at which new headings are discussed and confirmed if agreement has been reached. With the pace of change in the world of education this process needs to be ongoing'.

Keith also recognised the work of the many people who had contributed to SCIS and the Subject Headings publication, now and in the past.

'This edition is not created in a vacuum. It builds on the substantial work of many people who have gone before us. People like Doug and Wes who commenced the process, and Lance Deveson and Ellen Paxton who continued the development of SCIS throughout most of the last decade. Recognition is due to them and to others such as Cherryl Schauder, SCIS National Cataloguing Coordinator, who did very important work conceptualising the new formqf. The final product has been a team effort of all those in SCIS, the SCIS Cataloguing Agencies and staff in other parts of Curriculum Corporation. Significant input in the creation of the headings comes from the Agencies, with special thanks going to Bev Blackwell, Anne Dowling, Edwina Dunn, Mavis Heffernan and Noel Carthew. Dawn Whitmore and Rod Barker assisted Cherryl with aspects of the content and layout. Jan Matthews assisted at the outset in extracting data from Voyager and Tricia Nathan achieved over 2,000 pre-publication sales. Curriculum Corporation IT support has been essential, with contributions from Rebecca Morton and Graham Williams. The publishing and editorial team along with Corporate Services in Curriculum Corporation supported SCIS in the process of this publication'.

Keith also reminded the audience of how Bev Blackwell and Janet Hansen from SCIS Cataloguing Agency in Western Australia created the first Subject Headings list in 1983. 'They faced a mammoth task when they began the project of taking headings from the five State lists and placing them on 10,500 individual cards. They rationalised terms based upon criteria they had established, ending up with 8,000 accepted terms. The list was machine readable and available in a variety of other formats as required'.

'This fourth edition containing 559 pages is a valuable cataloguing and searching tool for all Australian schools. It is needed by SCIS subscribing schools when assigning subject headings to those locally produced resources for which a SCIS record is unlikely to be available, and it is helpful as a 'look-up' tool to suggest terms that students might use when searching their school catalogues. We hope Teacher Librarians will purchase this latest edition to ensure that they are using the most up-to-date tool in their library'.

Tricia Nathan

SCIS Customer Support/Marketing