Dissertation Information for Alenka Sauperl
MPACT Status: Fully Complete
Title: Subject determination during the cataloging process
Abstract: In spite of the long tradition of subject cataloging in libraries, there is still an incomplete understanding of how this process works. The research reported here investigates how catalogers decide on the topic of a document and create an appropriate subject description. Twelve experienced catalogers at three academic libraries in the Southeastern United States were observed (think-aloud method) and inter-viewed (time-line interview) about their work and experience with subject cataloging. They thoroughly examined different parts of books on different occasions. The extent of the examination depended on the difficulty the catalogers had with the identification of subject matter and in identifying appropriate subject headings. The examination of the book resulted in identification of tentative headings, which were used for searching for valid subject headings in authority files or library catalogs. These valid subject headings were searched in either authority files or catalogs. The final subject matter of the book is identified gradually because the retrieved candidate subject headings further stimulate the examination of the book, additional searching, and the review of retrieved records. It appears that catalogers consider three sources for generating a subject description: the document, i.e., author's perspective; how the document will be retrieved, i.e., the user perspective; and how the document fits into the existing collection, i.e., the library's perspective.
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