A Practical Guide to Library of Congress Subject Headings

A Practical Guide to Library of Congress Subject Headings

Karen Snow


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Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) is used by more libraries worldwide than any other controlled vocabulary system. Yet, many librarians and paraprofessional staff do not have any formal education or training in LCSH. They find themselves having to decipher or construct LCSH strings and don’t know where to begin.

Here’s a resource that uses language non-catalogers can understand and provides hands-on, user-friendly training in LCSH.

Here Karen Snow transfers her popular LCSH workshops and continuing education courses to book form for those who can’t attend her courses.

This book offers material on the basics of subject analysis, the importance of controlled vocabularies, and the main features and principles of LCSH. It explains and provides guidance on the application of LCSH. Library of Congress’ instruction manual for LCSH, the Subject Headings Manual, is discussed at length.

Several chapters concentrate on assigning LCSH to resources of a certain focus or genre: fiction works, biographical works (or works that focus heavily on a certain person or their works), and resources that emphasize a geographic location. A separate chapter on encoding subject information in the Machine-Readable Cataloging (MARC) standard will be particularly useful for library staff.

Most chapters contain exercises (with answers at the end of the book) that test a reader’s understanding of the chapter material and provide opportunities to practice applying LCSH and subdivisions.


Karen Snow:

Karen Snow is an associate professor and PhD program director in the School of Information Studies at Dominican University, River Forest, Illinois. She teaches cataloging, classification, and metadata courses and has written many journal articles on cataloging topics and cataloging education. She is the author of A Practical Guide to Library of Congress Classification published in 2017.

Snow holds a Master’s degree in library science and a PhD in information science from the University of North Texas (UNT), where she cataloged for UNT’s main library, the Rare Book Room, and the University Archives.

Snow has taught many LCSH workshops to continuing education groups and teaches LCSH in her courses at Dominican.