Fiction subject indexing and access in practice : searching the current LC file


In order to assess the current state of the assignment of form headings in fiction indexing, searches were carried out on the current LC file (titles from 1990 onwards). This is held on the British Library’s BLAISE-Line system. Searches were made for headings (command ‘sh’) and individual terms (command ‘sw’), with terms being combined using Boolean logic. These revealed that while the assignment of form headings is straightforward, there is inconsistency of practice with regard to the use of subdivisions and to the indexing of readers. These examples serve primarily to demonstrate the need for some clarification of some of the rules and policies of the existing LCSH system, but they also show the current limitations of access by form headings to the catalogue as a whole - i.e. the context for implementation of 655 and $v as a means to improve such access.

Form headings with topical aspects

(sh) love stories american
79 items retrieved, of which 67 fiction collections

(sh) love stories: [truncation]
183 items retrieved, of which 125 collections

(sw) detective and love
5 items retrieved, all collections of fiction indexed with both Detective and mystery stories, [language] and Love stories, [language].

(sh) domestic fiction english
31 items retrieved, of which 3 collections of fiction

Doubling form headings at different levels of specificity

(sw) love and stories and short
17 items retrieved, of which 9 doubled Love stories, [language] with Short stories [language]

Form and topical access

The LCSH heading College stories contains a see-reference from Universities and colleges$xFiction. Actual usage of these headings was found to be as follows.

(sw) college and stories
16 items retrieved , of which 1 collection of fiction with the heading College stories, American

(sw) colleges and fiction
46 items retrieved, of which 37 individual works of fiction
22 items contain the LC subject heading for children's literature: Universities and colleges$xFiction
11 items contain headings of the form Universities and colleges$z[location]$xFiction
3 items contain variants of the Universities and colleges heading
1 item contains the invalid LCSH heading Universities and colleges$xFiction

Non-topical form headings

(sw) epistolary and fiction
22 items retrieved, of which 5 novels, several non-English.

(sh) childrens stories american
462 items retrieved.

(sw) young and adult and fiction
90 items retrieved, of which 3 novels and 2 collections
At present, the category of teenage fiction is not reflected in subject indexing

The use of subdivisions

Searches revealed inconsistency of rule interpretation i.e. period and author group subdivisions being added to headings other than major genre headings.


(sw) 19th and detective
16 items retrieved, of which 5 collections, with 2 Russian titles incorrectly indexed

(sw) 20th and horror and tales
40 items retrieved, of which 10 collections, all correctly indexed

Author group

(sw) fiction and catholic and authors
11 items retrieved, of which 3 collections of fiction
All 3 are incorrectly indexed with subdivision $xCatholic authors being assigned to the minor genre heading Short stories, [language]

(sw) irish-american and fiction
3 items retrieved, all collections of fiction correctly indexed


(sw) california and fiction
1040 items retrieved. Looking at the first 50 records, 48 were novels and 2 were collections, all with California as a word in the subdivision.
Thus, in a keyword search place as a subdivision in the topical heading cannot be not distinguished from place as a subdivision in the form heading.


(sw) readers and language and fiction

36 items retrieved, of which 25 collections and 3 novels

There is a general inconsistency in the application of ‘Reader’ headings, with a disregard for the rule that headings of the type [Language]-Readers be further subdivided by topic or form and an additional heading for the topic or form be assigned (SCM H1975). This may be due to lack of clarity in the rule itself.

Pictorial fiction

LCSH indexing of pictorial fiction appears to be limited to form access, with few instances of topical access. This could be due to LCSH policy whereby juvenile material is indexed with the LC subject headings for children’s literature. Where LCSH topical headings are assigned, these are subdivided with -Juvenile fiction alone, and no reference is made to the pictorial content of the work.

(sh) picture books for children and fiction
10 items retrieved, with 7 containing topical headings with the subdivision -Juvenile fiction.

(sw) toy and movable and fiction
1028 items retrieved.
Of the first 50 items, 4 had no LCSH indexing. The remaining 46 predominantly contain the heading Toy and movable books-Specimens, with a few Musical books-Specimens, etc. 3 items contain additional LCSH topical headings with the subdivision -Juvenile fiction.

(sh) horror comic books strips etc
7 items retrieved, of which 4 collections and 2 individual stories
No other topical headings were assigned.
(sh) science fiction comic books strips etc.
16 items retrieved, of which 9 individual stories and 5 collections
No other topical headings were assigned.

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