Subject Cataloging: Subject Heading Proposals, Background and Tips

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

Tips and Instructions

Internet Research

When researching the Internet for sources, a cataloger will frequently find links in one source that will lead him/her to other sources. This is good. Don't forget to circle back to the original source and close the loop, picking up other links that are found there if necessary. click on "References." Note the high quality of many of these sources (the second reference = the journal, Science).

After linking to one of these sources, the cataloger will want to return to this page, in order to research other sources found there. One method is to open a second tab or window, always keeping this bibliography open in the first window or tab, so that the cataloger can always return to the original "jumping off point."

SHM Subject Headings Manual

Catalogers should utilize the search function and index, in addition to the table of contents and/or opening the relevant sections. For example, if you are proposing a specific riot, look up "riots." If you are proposing a specific fire, look up "fires."

Searching Minaret

For searching, catalogers must use Minaret (Class Web), as opposed to, or in addition to, OCLC. This is because Minaret is the most up-to-date system, and includes subject proposals. OCLC is not as current, and lacks subject proposals. Catalogers may search OCLC if they are more comfortable with its interface and features, but they then must still additionally search Minaret.

Do NOT search:

When searching in Minaret, select "Browse and Propose a Change to an Existing Record" from the Subject Heading Proposal Menu. This will search both approved and proposed subjects in one search. It is the only selection needed for all searching in the Minaret system. Please use the instructions below as a supplement to those listed in the References section below.

1. This will put you into a left-anchored Browse search. Use this when desired. Otherwise, select the "Search" button at the top left.

2. Then, unless you are searching for a record number, search by either "Keyword" for greater retrieval, or by "Subject Heading" to browse the indexes for references (4XXs, 5XXs) and headings (1XXs). Note: searching by "Subject Heading" will perform left-anchored searches, while searching by "Keyword" will search all positions of these tracings (1XXs, 4XXs, 5XXs).

3. When you are ready to perform a new search, select the "Reset" button at the top, second from the left.

4. After viewing a MARC Record, select the "Close" button at the top, second from the left.

Additional Minaret (Class Web) Tips

1. When searching, a useful method is to retrieve a list of related subject headings by searching a broader term (BT).

2. For entering diacritics for degree, minutes, and seconds in the 670 field of Geographic subject proposals: copy and paste from the 670 field of an approved record (with an LCCN beginning with "sh") in Minaret. For other diacritics, copy and paste from OCLC or Aleph.

Examples of records to copy and paste from:

sh2013000196: 151  Crater Range (Ariz.)

sh2013000911: 151  Mattawoman Creek (Md.)

sh2013000374: 151  Qijiawan River (Taiwan)

sh2013000378: 151  Calawah River (Wash.)

3. Use the dollar sign ($) for the delimiter symbol in the tracings (1XX, 4XX, 5XX) and 67X fields.

4. When entering a heading with one or more subdivisions in the 952 (Note) field, do not input the delimiter symbol or letter. Instead, connect the subdivisions with a dash, e.g.: Small business—Finance. If you input the dollar sign ($) for the delimiter symbol in the 952 field, the system will remove it plus all subsequent text from the 952 field.

5. When placing your different categories of references (Used For (UFs), Broader Terms (BTs), and Related Terms (RTs)) in alphabetical order, use the filing rule that "nothing comes before something." If you consider a space to be "nothing," then:

450    EV charging stations

450    EVSE

6. Bibliographic File Maintenance (BFM) in the proposal form is optional. This is the 952 field that says "Bib. records to be changed:" You need not research this. If you happen to come across LC records which would require BFM (Bibliographic File Maintenance) due to your proposal, you may enter these, since they are readily available. In certain situations, this may improve the chances of your proposal being approved.

7. While inputting your proposal in the Minaret system, you may wish to save at least every hour, in order to avoid timing out and losing your data. To initially obtain the LCCN (sp number), select "Save" or "Save and Close" if using Mozilla Firefox, but only select "Save" if using Internet Explorer.

8. Update and resave your proposal in Minaret as often as you like. Keep a record of your sp number. However, once you email LC, you may no longer update your proposal.

Scope Notes

Include a scope note in your proposal whenever appropriate. This will improve the likelihood of obtaining full approval, without the proposal being returned for further revision.

Use of the Dictionary

Utilize Webster's Third New International Dictionary (Web. 3) whenever there is a chance that your term(s) may be found there. If not found, enter "Web. 3" in the 675 field of your proposal.

Use of Wikipedia

You may consult and cite Wikipedia as a source. However, always try to use other sources in addition to it. For topics of a current nature that have not yet found their way into the literature, Wikipedia and online newspapers/news services may be your only relevant sources. For discipline-specific topics, such as those in medicine, biology, agriculture, engineering, computer science, geography, etc., you are better off consulting discipline-specific government and private sources rather than Wikipedia. In these cases, the list of references in a Wikipedia article, may still come in handy, by leading you to journal articles and other relevant sources.  

Use of LCSH as a Thesaurus

LCSH, as a thesaurus, has a practical bent, and is based on actual usage rather than on exact technical definitions, differences in definitions, "accepted" terms vs. variant terms, etc., which might exist, but perhaps not have entered into common use. For examples of this, see the following records:

 1. Medical records—Data processing sh85083013

 2. Interstitial cystitis sh90000763

From the work cataloged for this record: "Because IC varies so much in symptoms and severity, most researchers believe it is not one, but several diseases. In recent years, scientists have started to use the terms bladder pain syndrome (BPS) or painful bladder syndrome (PBS) to describe cases with painful urinary symptoms that may not meet the strictest definition of IC. The term IC/PBS includes all cases of urinary pain that can't be attributed to other causes, such as infection or urinary stones. The term interstitial cystitis, or IC, is used alone when describing cases that meet all of the IC criteria established by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)."

The decision was made to ignore the indications in the paragraph above, that "painful bladder syndrome" is different than "Interstitial cystitis," albeit closely related. Instead, "painful bladder syndrome" was added as a UF reference for "interstitial cystitis," in agreement with other sources.

3. Gaura neomexicana   sh2013001721

670 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), June 5, 2013: $b (Oenothera coloradensis ssp. neomexicana, synonyms: Gaura neomexicana, New Mexico beeblossom)

In the source cited above, Oenothera coloradensis ssp. neomexicana is identified as the "accepted name," while "Gaura neomexicana" is identified as a "synonym (not accepted)." However, the decision was made to take the "accepted name" with a grain of salt, since it seems less common than the name found in the other sources. Therefore, this "accepted name" was entered as a variant (UF).   


Class Web or Minaret

SACO Resources

SHM Subject Headings Manual

These selected sections comprise basic training, to be completed by catalogers before making their first subject heading proposal.

  • Under "Making Subject Heading Proposals"
    • H 187
    • H 200: numbers 3-21
    • H 202
    • H 203
  • Under "Formulating Subject Headings"
    • H 285
    • H 290
    • H 306
    • Just note the titles of the other instruction sheets in this section, from H 310—H 364
  • Under "References"
    • H 370
    • H 371
    • H 373
    • H 374    
    • H 375
    • H 400 (Scope Notes)
  • SHM H 405 Name vs. Subject Authority File
  • In SHM, open up the following sections, and simply note the titles of the instruction sheets within:
    • Geographic Headings and Subdivisions
    • Subdivisions Controlled by Pattern Headings
    • Special Topics, Materials, Subdivisions, etc.  

Print Resources

  • Webster's Third New International Dictionary (Web. 3)
  • National Register of Historic Places
  • Various discipline specific dictionaries, thesauri, etc.  

Resources for Geographic Proposals

Geographic Print Resources

  • National Register of Historic Places
  • Columbia Gazetteer of the World, 1998
  • Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary, 3rd edition
  • Rand McNally ... commercial atlas & marketing guide
  • Rand McNally's The New International Atlas
  • The Times Atlas of the World  

Examples of GPO Subject Proposals

  • White-nose syndrome sh2009010759
  • Wallow Fire, 2011 sh2012002192
  • Robotic exoskeletons sh2010011967
  • Battery charging stations (Electric vehicles) sh2012003590
  • Chemicals
    • Butoxyethanol acetate sh2009009283
    • Aluminum oxynitride spinel sh2011002508
  • Drugs
    • Dextromethorphan sh2007010731
    • Rosiglitazone sh2009002732
  • Buildings
    • William T. Trant Post Office Building (Westfield, Mass.)  sh2012002551
  • Geographics
    • Namonuito Islands (Micronesia) sh2012000694
    • Carroll Creek (Ala.) sh2012000461
    • Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuge sh2012001808