Locating the Best Subject Heading, Page 2
The best balance for assigning subject headings seems to be a blend of both the traditional approach and the freedom that computers offer. This can be accomplished in several ways. When dealing with materials that cover a wide spectrum of a topic at a specific level, such as the encyclopedia of reptiles mentioned earlier, using many subject headings to indicate the contents of the work would be appropriate. If the work just covered general information about types of reptiles, the subject headings should be broader, to reflect the level of information included. Headings indicating categories of reptiles, such as lizards, snakes, etc. would be better choices than specific names of each type of reptile. If the work deals with information about the animal kingdom, including reptiles, amphibians, birds, mammals, etc., then the subject headings should be these even broader categories of animals.
Many times subject headings are assigned from several different viewpoints of a topic. For example, a work about looking at the night sky can have several angles to cover. The heading ASTRONOMY covers looking at the stars. The heading TELESCOPES covers the use of the equipment needed. The heading STARSóCHARTS, DIAGRAMS, ETC. covers the information needed to locate particular constellations in the sky. The heading CONSTELLATIONS covers information about these groups of stars. All of these headings would be appropriate to use for this one work, because patrons may approach the search for this information from any of these angles.
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