Subject Cataloging: General Policies

The inclusion of subject access points in catalog records aids users to retrieve information and to identify and locate specific resources based on subjects.

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH)

1. The Library of Congress' (LC's) Subject Headings Manual (SHM) provides for the establishment of Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) for topical concepts/ideas, buildings, non-jurisdictional geographic names, etc., the addition of new subdivisions, cross-references, and the updating of subject authority records.

2. GPO is a member of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging's (PCC) Subject Authority Cooperative component, SACO.

3. GPO catalogers access LC subject authority records via OCLC's authority file, or via LC's Classification Web system (aka Class Web or Minaret). GPO has its own subject authority records in its Integrated Library System (ILS), Aleph. The local versions of these records are essentially the same as their counterparts in LC or OCLC. Except for cataloger codes and other minor proprietary information, GPO adds no additional information to its local versions of subject authority records.

4. GPO proposes new subject authority records, and changes to existing ones, according to the instructions in the Library of Congress' Subject Headings Manual (SHM).

5. With the possible exception of certain NASA records, catalogers enter LCSH in all bibliographic records. These are tagged 600, 610, 611, 630, 650, or 651, and coded with second indicator "0." The number of LCSH fields in a bibliographic record may vary between one (1) and ten (10), but usually average between three (3) and five (5). Catalogers follow SHM H 80 for the order of subject headings. When SHM H 80 does not prescribe any order, subject headings are placed in order by MARC field tag.

6. With the exception of certain titles that do not need to be established (see SHM H 1435), all subject headings entries and subject heading subdivisions appearing in GPO records must be confirmed in the OCLC authority files or by a subject heading proposal in the Library of Congress’ Classification Web system. This includes all subjects and names used as subjects (personal names, corporate/conference names, uniform titles, and jurisdictional geographic names) that appear in the 6XX fields of bibliographic records. A temporary exception may be made for Congressionals or other priority titles, when names used in these as subjects (fields 600, 610, or 611) are in the process of having NACO records prepared.

7. Catalogers are responsible for correctly assigning and recording subject added entries in the 600, 610, 611, 630, 650, and 651 fields. These must be authorized in the OCLC subject authority file, and follow SHM instructions. Catalogers should additionally follow instructions in the other souces cited below. If a subject heading is needed for the resource cataloged, that is not found in OCLC's subject authority file, or if the heading is found but requires additional authority work, such as the addition of cross-references, the cataloger creates a new or change subject proposal in LC's Classification Web system, following SACO procedures. The new proposed subject heading may be entered in the bibliographic record before being approved by LC, as long as the record is entered at level I, and not at the PCC level. If catalogers are not sure whether to make a proposal or not, they should ask the SACO liaison first (before beginning any work).

GPO catalogers consult the sources listed below for instructions on subject heading assignment, checking and revising subject headings in existing records, and the proposing of new and changed subject authority records needed for subject cataloging.

The primary sources consulted are:

NASA Thesaurus Terms as Subject Headings

For publications assigned NASA technical report SuDocs numbers (NAS 1.15: NAS 1.26: NAS 1.2/2-2: NAS 1.60:) GPO assigns subject headings from the NASA Thesaurus.  The NASA Thesaurus is a list of subject descriptors that NASA assigns to records for technical publications available at the NASA Technical Report Server and other sites.  These records are available at the NASA Center for AeroSpace Information (CASI) Aeronautics and Space Database, which is password-protected and requires a user name.  The cataloger searches the title being cataloged in the database, opens the "full display" of the found record, and locates the NASA "major" subject terms on the record. The terms are then transcribed as 650 subject headings in the corresponding OCLC record, following standard Library of Congress subject heading capitalization practice, and coded as NASA Thesaurus headings (i.e. second indicator "7" and subfield "2" followed by "nasat").

650  7  Boundary layers. ǂ2 nasat

If a NASA technical report is published as a multipart, there will be a record for each part in the CASI database.  All NASA Thesaurus terms for the parts will be transcribed in the OCLC record, with the exception of identical terms already transcribed from other parts.

Library of Congress subject headings are included on a NASA technical report bibliographic record when a record cannot be found in the CASI database for the title being cataloged. If an OCLC record containing Library of Congress subject headings is being used for copy cataloging for a NASA technical report, those headings will be retained on the OCLC record, as well as the record in the CGP.  

Because NASA Thesaurus headings meet the BIBCO standard of being derived from a "recognized thesaurus," catalog records containing such headings are eligible for upgrade to PCC status, provided that the records meet all other PCC standards.   

MESH, NAL, and Other Non-LC Subject Headings

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) and National Agricultural Library (AGL) maintain their own subject thesauri for use in their cataloging work. The headings are coded in the 6xx Marc field as:

  • Medical Subject Headings (MESH): second indicator "2"; and
  • National Agricultural Library Subject Authority File (NAL): second indicator "3".

When encountered during copy cataloging, GPO retains these headings for the CGP only when there is clear indication that they were entered by NLM or AGL (i.e., NLM or AGL appear in a 040 subfield). MESH and NAL headings meet the BIBCO standard of being derived from "a recognized thesaurus" and bibliographic records containing such headings are eligible for upgrade to PCC status, provided that the record meets all other PCC standards and NLM or AGL appear in a 040 subfield. GPO never verifies or authorizes NLM or AGL headings, neither do these headings undergo authority control processing. They are merely removed or retained locally, per the guideline above.

Other non-LC subject headings may be retained in an OCLC record, but are not included in the corresponding CGP record.   

Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms for Library and Archival Materials (LCGFT)

Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms for Library and Archival Materials (LCGFT) appear in the 655 fields of bibliographic records. These headings are identified by second indicator “7,” and subfield 2 with value “lcgft.”

GPO adds LCGFTs to original and modified records for Congressionals, cartographic resources, audiovisual resources, and to any other records that describe works for which General genre/form terms are appropriate. These will be included in the OCLC master and local CGP records. For adapted records, any LCGFTs that do not control in OCLC will be removed from the local record (although retained in the OCLC master record).

1. Catalogers should review LCGFT authority records to ensure accurate application. Genre/form terms are searchable in the Subject Authority File by words/phrases and LCCNs (010) beginning with “gf,” and identifiable by Subject/thesaurus convention (040 ǂf) with “lcgft”:


Pay attention to scope notes:


2. Alternatively, catalogers may search for LCGFTs in Classification Web. Many find Classification Web to have superior search, retrieval, and display capability.

3. Catalogers can enter the term in their bibliographic record in OCLC, by inputting, for example, the following: 655 #7 Topographic maps. Then, the cataloger need only control the heading in OCLC, and the system will supply the subfield 2 with the value “lcgft.”

Adding General LCGFT to Bibliographic Records

The addition of general LCGFT terms augments LCGFT already used for audio-visual, cartographic, and legislative materials. See the table below for a subset of general LCGFT for use with government documents.

Selected terms for use with government documents:  

Commemorative works:


Illustrated works:


Creative nonfiction:


Informational works:

Activity Books
Conference materials
Conference papers and proceedings
Environmental impact statements
Records (Documents)
Annual reports
Census data
Reference works
Handbooks and manuals
Serial publications
Annual reports
Land surveys

Derivative works:


Instructional and educational works:

Handbooks and manuals
Programmed instructional materials

Discursive works:


Recreational works:

Puzzles and games


Conference materials

Tactile works:

Braille books

Background Resources for LCGFT

Genre/Form Headings in the Library of Congress

Introduction to Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms for Library and Archival Materials  

Frequently Asked Questions about Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms for Library and Archival Materials (LCGFT)  

Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms [via the LC Linked Data site] 

Subject Headings in the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP) [LSCM LTS full webcast] LCGFT are covered in slide presentation, pages 12-14.   

Adding LCGFT to Cartographic Records

Catalogers should use the following terms for these specific types of maps:

  • Road maps: use for Motor vehicle use maps
  • Nautical charts: use for nautical charts from NOAA and other agencies
  • Quadrangle maps: use for USGS quadrangles.
  • Tourist maps: use for maps from the National Park Service, National Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and other agencies that show trails, recreation sites, and other features of interest to visitors.
  • Remote sensing maps: use for satellite imagery
  • Topographic maps: see authority record gf2011026697, especially scope note
  • Bathymetric maps: see authority record gf2011026081

Other terms may be used as appropriate.   

Adding LCGFT to Audiovisual Records

Commonly applied LCGFTs for audio-visual resources cataloged by GPO include:

655 _7   |a Internet videos|2 lcgft

655 _7   |a Video recordings for the hearing impaired |2 lcgft

655 _7   |a Sponsored films |2 lcgft

655 _7   |a Public service announcements (Motion pictures)|2 lcgft

655 _7   |a Documentary films |2 lcgft

655 _7   |a Podcasts|2 lcgft

655 _7   |a Radio public service announcements |2 lcgft

655 _7   |a Legislative materials|2 lcgft

655 _7 |a Video recordings |2 lcgft

655 _7 |a Sound recordings|2 lcgft

GPO verifies and authorizes LCGFT in OCLC, when added to or retained in, its local records. LCGFT undergo authority control processing. In some cases, they may be added to bibliographic records. The most common occurrence of this, is when form subdivisions for maps, such as “Maps, Topographic,” that have been removed from LCSH, are encountered in bibliographic records. In such cases, the authority control process substitutes the authorized form subdivision “maps” for the unauthorized one, but adds “Topographic maps” as a completely new LCGFT to the record.

GPO catalogers consult and follow:Frequently Asked Questions about LCGFT and the main menu labeled "Search Genre/Form Terms" in Classification Web.