Locating the Best Subject Heading, Page 3
Subdivisions can also be used to help indicate a higher level of specificity with any broader subject heading. If a library has a large collection on a particular topic, subdivisions will help the patron determine the focus of the items within that collection. Many times the same subject heading will be repeated with different subdivisions, to indicate the various treatments of that topic in a single work. For example, a work about the treatment of cancer may require the following: CANCER—CHEMOTHERAPY; CANCER—HOMEOPATHIC TREATMENT; CANCER—LASER SURGERY; CANCER—PHYSICAL THERAPY; CANCER—SURGERY. Because the work deals with just one basic topic, cancer treatment, it is possible to use subdivisions of the one subject heading to cover the various aspects of treatment that are covered. It is also possible to cover these topics by the use of the broader headings such as PHYSICAL THERAPY or SURGERY in addition to the more specific cancer approaches if the cataloger feels that library patrons might also try to take a broader approach to the topic.
For libraries with smaller collections, they may find that subdivisions are not used as often with subject headings in their cataloging. In the example above, if the library only owns 8 or 10 items dealing with the topic of cancer, having the various subdivisions listed above might be less helpful for the patrons. In such a small collection, the patrons would probably prefer to see a listing of all the items on cancer in one place, rather than having one or two items listed under each subdivision within the heading for cancer. The cataloger’s familiarity with the collection and the patrons needs plays an important part in the decisions made in using subject headings.
The general rule for assigning subject headings is to be as specific as possible, without getting bogged down in too much detail. As a general rule, this works well, but each library must adapt this rule to the content of their collection and the abilities and needs of their patrons. Too few headings will mean information will not be found that has been placed in the library collection. Too many headings will mean that patrons will be frustrated trying to sift through lists of information for the items they need.
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