Subject headings update

By Les Kneebone

An update on SCIS Subject Headings.

Where to find summary lists of subject heading revisions

A summary list of new and revised subject headings is available from the SCIS website. Readers should note that we will not list detailed changes in Connections as was done previously. Consult the SCIS website for recent changes and an archive of all previous changes.

In future this page will include broader discussion about subject heading maintenance, use, and industry trends. The scope will be broadened to include issues arising for other types of authorities (e.g. name, geographic) or other projects (e.g. Schools Online Thesaurus).

Fit for purpose

Any subject vocabulary project is a study in managing terms that are descriptive but also robust (not over-fitted). Metadata needs to be specific, or precise enough to describe the intellectual elements of a resource. But as our metadata vocabularies trend towards specificity, the greater the challenges for inter and intra-indexer consistency. Should I use 'Lead industry', or 'Lead' AND 'Metal industry'? The problem is as relevant to the resulting collocation of alike resources as it is to consistent cataloguing.

The 'industry' example is no accident–in the forthcoming release of SCISSHL authorities, many specific industries have been removed in favor of a more post-coordinate approach. High-level industries such as Manufacturers, Primary industries and Service industries have been retained, which may be combined with relevant headings to properly describe a resource in question. Many compound terms are more difficult to decompose into constituent factors – ranging from the difficult (Cottage industry) to the awkward (Sex industry) to the ridiculous (Clay pigeons). SCIS Subject Headings will always authorize and retain these as they are needed.

Subject headings projects are a significant undertaking for any agency. The challenge for SCIS into the future is to provide subject heading services that are sustainable and fit for purpose–and these are services SCIS will continue to deliver.

Les Kneebone

Les Kneebone

Metadata Services Manager

Education Services Australia