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Subject Headings (LCSH)


J. McRee (Mac) Elrod

30 May 2011

See also Subject Cataloguing, Genre Headings.

Order of subject headings is not important, beyond the convention that the first subject heading should agree with the classification. Most headings in LCSH have an LCC associated with them, while will help in this.

In system which arrange MARC tags in field number order, in the finished record a 600 person as subject, 610 corporate body as subject, 611 conference as subject, or 630 uniform title as subject, may come before the 650 which agrees with the class number. In such
a system, 651 place as subject heading would come after.

You do not use a term from the title in 650 unless it is an LCSH, either the "Red Books" or LC online authorities. All headings in the LC authority file, whether persons, corporate bodies, conferences, topics, or places, have 2nd indicator 0.

Usually you would not assign more that three specific subject headings. If more are needed to reflect the content of the book, you would use a more general heading. If a book is about apples, pears, and plums, you would have a 650 for each. If a books is about
apples, pears, plums, and oranges, you would the 650 0 $aFruit.

It would be good to have a print copy of "Free-Floating Subdivisions" at your side. Not only does it tell you which free -floating subdivision may be used with which type of heading, but which are coded $x (topic) and which $v (genre). But note the $x is used
if the book is about the genre. A book about chemistry bibliographies would be 650 0 $aChemistry$xBibliography. A bibliography of books about chemistry would be 650 0 $aChemistry$vBibliography.

In addition to $x (topic) and $v (genre) subdivisions, you have $z (place) and $y (period, common in history). Usually the order of heading and subdivisions is $a$x$z$y$v. There are a few exceptions, e.g., 650 0 $a$vReaders$xEnglish.

Not all headings and subdivisions may be divided by $z however. LCSH tells you which may be divided geographically and which may not. Once some were divided directly, i.e. the name of the city. Now all are indirect, i.e., the name of the state, province or
country, followed by the city in a 2nd $z.

Field 650 is for what an item is *about*, e.g., 650 0 $aSymphony, for a book about symphonies. Field 655 is for what an item *is*, e.g. 655 0 $aSymphonies, for the score of a symphony. The confusion is caused by the fact that LC continued to code genre terms as
650 long after 655 was introduced. Added confusion was caused when 600-651 2nd indicators were not extended to 655 until later, resulting in the now outdated 655 7 $aSymponies.$2lcsh in older records.

Some music cataloguers are continuing to use 650 for LCSH music genre headings, because a new list of genre music genre terms is being developed. MARBI has accepted different 2nd indicator and $2 subfield code for LC 155 as opposed to 150 headings used in 655:

655 07 $a.$2lcgft

It is likely that "Symphonies" (used as an example above) will move to LCGFT along with other plural music terms, while single terms for the concept will remain in LCSH. Whether terms used in both ways (e.g., Electronic books, Board games) will have duplicate
authorities is not yet known.


All authorities including LCSH:

LCSH is available on the Web through the Library of Congress Authorities and Vocabularies service . The Subject Headings are all there as SKOS, and the file is updated weekly. The service is free, and the full LCSH file may be used online or
downloaded by anyone. (Instructions for download are in the Technical Center tab on the Web site.)

LCSH subject guidance if you don't have access to SCM: Subject Headings:


Tentative monthly list:

Approved monthly list:

The latter also available here: