From the desk of a cataloguer

By Julie Styles

SCIS cataloguer Julie Styles reviews some cataloguing decisions made by SCIS, and presents some of the issues librarians face when downloading records from other catalogues and using them to supplement SCIS records.

SCIS works very hard for the fantastic hit rate we consistently achieve. We strive to anticipate the needs of our subscribers, and to facilitate this we have fostered relationships with many Australian publishers, both large and small, who send resources to us for cataloguing before they are available for sale. We run regular reports to see which ISBNs being entered into the ‘Order details’ page of SCISWeb are coming up as unmatched. For this reason it is advisable that subscribers have their ‘My Profile’ set to email a reminder up to four weeks later when a record has been made for an unmatched ISBN.

If you cannot find a record on SCIS, you can send resources into one of our agencies around Australia or New Zealand to be catalogued. We aim for a 14 day turnaround for these cataloguing requests. If you live a long way from the nearest metropolitan agency, we provide an online cataloguing request form.

When you can’t find a resource on SCIS, it may be tempting to download records from other sources and integrate these into your catalogue alongside records downloaded from SCIS. This is the point where issues can arise.

SCIS records look slightly different from other records; they are unique because they are tailor-made for the school library environment. As cataloguers we still abide by RDA cataloguing rules and standards, but we leave out information which our research has shown is of less relevance to the school library setting. For example, we do not provide information about whether the work contains an index or bibliographical references, but we will add information about the Lexile or word count of a text if it is printed on the book.

In addition, SCIS records do not use the Dewey numbers 823 for English fiction, 843 for French fiction, or 895.63 for Japanese fiction, but prefer to simply use the call number 'F' to indicate that an item is a work of fiction. We also add the call number 'F' to DVDs that are fictional stories, rather than the Dewey number 791.4372 (Motion pictures - single films) which is commonly used in non-SCIS records. We treat works with rhyming text as poetry and give them a Dewey number to reflect this, as well as the subject heading Stories in rhyme.

The most significant way a SCIS record differs from other records is that, unlike most other libraries in Australia, we do not use Library of Congress subject headings. A subject headings list is essentially a controlled vocabulary thesaurus. The Library of Congress Subject Headings is a widely-used, comprehensive, controlled vocabulary thesaurus. But it is very American in its terminology, and not specifically aligned to the language used in education. At SCIS we use two Australian and New Zealand Curriculum-based controlled vocabulary thesauruses: SCIS Subject Headings and the Schools Online Thesaurus (ScOT). Our subscribers have the option when setting their profile to download SCIS and ScOT subject headings at the same time, or just one. Subscribers are able to freely browse both SCIS and ScOT subject headings.

Accessing records from another source and integrating them into your school library catalogue alongside SCIS records may be a quick fix to an immediate problem. However, in the long run libraries that do so will see the problems of mixing two controlled vocabulary thesauruses, and in time they are going to want to clean it up. This will be a labour intensive and frustrating task.

Take the SCIS Subject Heading Excursions as an example. In Library of Congress the subject heading used is School field trips. If only SCIS Subject Headings are used, a simple search for Excursions will access all the resources the school library has on the topic. However, if the two vocabularies are intermingled, users will have two subject headings to search under when looking for resources about the same topic. A search for Excursions will miss all those resources under the subject heading School field trips. There will be no way for users to discover them without manually adding a note to the subject authorities directing students to search under School field trips as well.

Below is a short list of SCIS Subject Headings and their Library of Congress equivalent.

If you have considered going down this path, ask yourself these questions: Do you have the time to predict all the ways your users are going to search for resources, and create all the necessary extra links and cross references? Will your users bother using multiple search terms or the cross referencing you have worked so hard on? As you supplement your database with more records from varied sources, you may have the beginnings of a small problem that will become a very large problem.

SCIS subject heading Library of Congress subject heading
Motor cars Automobiles
Bushfires Wildfires
Bushwalking Hiking
Excursions School field trips
Railways Railroads
Underground railways Subway
Petrol Gasoline
Primary schools Elementary schools
Mobile phones Cell phones
Pioneers and pioneer life Frontier and pioneer life
Colour Color


Julie Styles

Julie Styles

Cataloguing Librarian, SCIS

Education Services Australia