Who Tells Your Story – Part 1



How does a

650 _ 0 Illegitimate children.

650 _ 0 Orphans.

650 _ 0 Children of prostitutes.

650 _ 0 Scots $x Children. (1)

I love the Hamilton musical — and I love overly specific LCSH. Presented for your approval, the marriage of those two things. I’m only making footnotes for when I’m using a subdivision under an unauthorized topic or without some required accompanying topic, because I want you to know that I know. If I’m using a subdivision in a ‘joke’ way, that is, in a way that it doesn’t actually  mean what the subdivision is supposed to mean, I do not make a note. Assume that I know.

Alexander Hamilton

600 1 0 Hamilton, Alexander, 1757-1804 $x Family.

600 1 0 Hamilton, Alexander, 1757-1804 $x Travel $z New York (State) $z New York. (2)

Aaron Burr, Sir

600 1 0 Hamilton, Alexander, 1757-1804 $x Name.

650 _ 0 Bursars $x Violence against.

600 1 0 Burr, Aaron, 1756-1836 $x Political and social views.

600 1 0 Laurens, John, 1754-1782 $x Alcohol use.

600 1 0 Mulligan, Hercules, 1740-1825 $x Relations with Mothers.

600 1 0 Mulligan, Hercules, 1740-1825 $x Relations with Daughters.

600 1 0 Mulligan, Hercules, 1740-1825 $x Relations with Horses. (3)

My Shot

600 1 0 Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier, marquis de, 1757-1834 $x Clothing.

600 1 0 Hamilton, Alexander, 1757-1804 $x Oratory.


The Schuyler Sisters

600 1 0 Schuyler, Philip John, 1733-1804 $x Finance, Personal.

600 1 0 Paine, Thomas, 1737-1809. $t Common sense $x Criticism and interpretation.

600 1 0 Church, Angelica Schuyler, 1756-1815 $x Quotations.

600 1 0 Schuyler, Margarita, -1801 $x Harmony.

Farmer Refuted

600 1 0 Seabury, Samuel, 1729-1796. $t Free thoughts, on the proceedings of the Continental Congress, held at Philadelphia Sept. 5, 1774 $x Criticism, Textual.

You’ll Be Back

600 0 0 George III, King of Great Britain, 1738-1820 $x Divorce.


Right Hand Man

600 1 0 Washington, George, 1732-1799 $x Friends and associates.

600 1 0 Montgomery, Richard, 1738-1775 $x Death.

651 _ 0 Kips Bay (New York, N.Y.) $x Desertions. (4)




(1) –Children is only valid under wars, so don’t use it like this, if you wanted this term you’d have to establish “Children, Scots”

(2) Remember that in real life, you should add “Place — Description and travel.” when dividing “Travel” by a place.

(3) –Relations with [specific class of persons or ethnic group]  obviously does not allow ‘Horses’.

(4) –Desertion is not actually valid under locations, only under individual wars.


Literary Warrant : first part of a joint critique in many parts

As mentioned in Netanel’s first post on the topic, literary warrant describes how the terminology used in subject headings is selected. Literary warrant is the justification behind the existence and phrasing of a subject heading or classification structure. Hulme described it as the principle by which one shows that “literature in book form has been shown to exist, and the test of the validity of a heading is the degree of accuracy with which it describes the area of subject matter.” (1911, p. 447)


In this series of blog posts, we will discuss the history, meaning, and limitations of literary warrant. We will also discuss alternative types of justification one could use to select certain terminology.


Below is a loose outline of what we plan to discuss. We are deliberately using the word discuss here, because the structure of these posts is intended to be presented as a discussion between us (Netanel and Jessica) as we work through these ideas. We hope that you will join us in this discussion, in the comments section or on twitter.


We hope to turn this series into a research article at the end of this project. We will not quote anyone participating via social media without asking permission first.



  1. Background about Literary warrant
    1. History
    2. Definitions
    3. began with TJs personal library and grew from there collecting the western canon so they were starting from a very western biased position
    4. Making choices / Things are not always clear. How do we decide if something is a war, a conflict, battle, or a massacre? How do we decide if something is a language or a dialect?
  2. Specific sources for citation
    1. Academic sources only
    2. Books only?
    3. What about community leaders/subject experts? Example: Ojibwa language based on Ethnologue rather than on the Ojibwe People’s Dictionary
  3. SACO
    1. Who gets to play?
    2. How does the process work?
  4. Impact of publishing and distribution decisions/Supply chains
    1. What gets published?
    2. What gets imported?
    3. Who gets hired to write, produce, and perform? (Ex: Hollywood white-washing)
  5. Cataloger bias
  6. Alternatives to literary warrant
    1. User warrant “justification for the representation of a concept in a [thesaurus] or for the selection of a preferred term because of frequent requests for information on the concept.” (NISO 1994)
    2. Cultural and epistemological warrant (Beghtol 1986)


What are we missing?


Works (to be) Cited

Beghtol, C. (1986). Semantic validity: Concepts of warrant in bibliographic classification systems. Library Resources & Technical Services, 30(2), 109-125.

Hulme, E. W. (1911). Principles of Book Classification. Library Association Record, 444-449, Dec. 1911.
NISO (1994). National Information Standards Organisation (1994). ANSI/NISO Z39.19-1993 Guidelines for the construction, format and management of monolingual thesauri. Bethesda, MD: NISO Press.

Errors Reported to LC

This is mostly a place for me to keep track of what errors I’ve reported to LC — Here’s the form to report errors.


Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 7.35.52 PM.png

I reported these three resources today after talking with Karen Coyle about HIV and AIDS in LCSH.

The subdivision –Patients has a scope note which says:

Use as a topical subdivision under individual diseases and types of diseases.

Obviously, “HIV-positive persons” is neither an individual disease nor a type of disease.

Update 2016-08-30

They fixed it on May 6th, 2016!Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 7.37.00 PM.png

Not that anyone emailed me to say so or anything…


Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 1.26.13 PM.png

Scope note is: Here are entered works on Nightmare on Superman films discussed collectively. Works on individual Superman films are entered under the specific title.

I believe the phrase “Nightmare on” is not meant to be there and is a copy/paste error from Nightmare on Elm Street films


Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 1.40.22 PM.png

The 053 field is


It should be “PN6231.T567”


On Literary Warrant

Literary warrant.


Those two little words are incredibly powerful. They form the first principle underlying LCSH as given here in the Instructor’s Manual (session 2, slides 7-8), and as such need to be carefully examined and understood by every critical cataloger.

So what the heck does this principle mean? Well, from that manual —

Subject headings are created for use in cataloging and reflect the topics covered in a given collection

The terminology selected to formulate individual subject headings reflects the terminology used in current literature

Much smarter people than I have stated what this means.

The subject heading’s list was developed in especially close connection with the Library [of Congress]’s collection. It was not conceived at the outset as, nor has it ever been intended to be, a comprehensive system covering the universe of knowledge. (1)

When you find a gap in LCSH, as I did here:

The response (and I am not criticizing that response, it is absolutely true) is that terms are created as needed, in accordance with the LCSH principle of literary warrant.




What I want to shine some light onto is this: holding up literary warrant as a principle systematizes the biases inherent in our society as a whole. 

Here’s a little process

  1. The Library of Congress collects resources (a pervasive myth is that they hold every book ever published in the US, this is 100% not true)
  2. The catalogers catalog them
  3. According to LCSH principles, they create new headings as needed

But wait — what resources is the Library of Congress collecting? Well you can’t collect resources that aren’t there. As has been shown many times — publishing is overwhelmingly white, cis, and straight. The biases of publishing are codified into the resources they produce, which influences the collection development which affects what resources are being cataloged and in turn what terms can and will be created as new headings in LCSH.

This is not to point a finger at publishing of course — librarianship itself is a fairly exclusive club and catalogers are just as likely to be biased towards ourselves as anyone else despite our protestations of cataloging-neutrally.

Every step of “how a term gets made” is laden with the biases of the Publishing Industry, Librarianship, and Academia — I draw in academia especially because when LC tried to open the subject creation process with PCC membership and SACO funnels, the majority of those members are big-academic institutions, with all the diversity that entails.


So what am I suggesting? We systematically create every heading possible? I’m not sure that’s possible (certainly not with the time/budget currently apportioned to the PSD!). I’m just asking that we interrogate the idea that ‘literary warrant’ is a good method by which to actually create a subject heading vocabulary.

I want this to be part of the larger conversation of ‘cataloging is not a neutral act’. The resources available to libraries are not neutrally created and not neutrally promoted. Those a given library has are not neutrally chosen. The people who are doing the cataloging are themselves not neutral. The headings generated by ‘warrant of the resources in hand and the words that the resources use to describe the term’ are therefore also not neutral.





(1) Chan, L.M. 1986. Library of Congress Subject Headings: Principles and Application. Littleton, Co.: Libraries Unlimited.

Inconsistencies in Motion Picture Genres

Close readers will no doubt know about my endless writing about film genres. But because I was using Netflix’s genres for Emflix — I hadn’t dived as deep into LCSH’s representation of film genres.

The other day though, I noticed something odd:

When looking at the hierarchy, i.e. BTs and NTs of various film genres you will probably end up landing at

Motion pictures

at some point. It has about a million NTs for every “X in motion pictures” under the sun.

Accents and accentuation in motion pictures
Accountants in motion pictures
Accounting in motion pictures
Acculturation in motion pictures

But it also has many genre-forms of motion pictures as NTs. This isn’t a problem, and this has nothing to do with 655 vs. 650 or about-ness vs. is-ness. I’m just pointing out an odd hierarchy thing.

So while ‘Motion pictures’ has NTs which include:

Action and adventure films
Animated films
Comedy films
Disaster films

I want to draw your attention to two in particular: ‘Fiction films’ and ‘Nonfiction films’

Nonfiction films has NTs of ‘Documentary films’ a major genre you would’ve missed if you only looked at the NTs of ‘Motion pictures’

But it’s fiction films that has the oddity — it has one and only one NT:

Haunted house films

While I give you that all haunted house films are fiction films, it’s certainly not the only one that has to be fiction! What about ‘Science fiction films’? It has fiction right in the name! What about Fantasy films? What about peplum films?

Why only Haunted house films?



As always — check out the full approved list

New LCSH is Children’s Literature tested, Adult Leisure approved


A couple notes before we begin:

  • Per the Policy and Standards division editorial meeting: Illegal aliens and its related headings are being changed — my take on that can be found here:
  • Secondly — Asexuality and Asexual people did not make it in this round, but never fear, a crack-team of catalogers worked to resubmit them and we hope they’ll be accepted next time they’re discussed.
  • Third — Superman has been removed from LCSH and moved to the Name Authority File where he belongs. Why do I highlight this?




Bioethics on television

Still from tv show "Farscape"
More people should be watching Farscape


Blacks in the theater

Still from the musical, "Hamilton"
Hamilton, Alexander, $d 1757-1804. $v Amazing drama

Garden gnomes

Garden gnomes with non-welcoming messages
Aw, these ones are jerks!

Indian rap musicians

Mummies in art

Picture of Eddie, the Iron Maiden mascot

Musicians on television

Still from Freaks and Geeks
For the record, Nick is playing The Spirit of Radio by RUSH
And Lindsay should really add more dry ice


Radicalism in motion pictures

Yes, that's Nicole Kidman as one of the BMX bandits! It's just as bad as you imagine.
Yes, that’s Nicole Kidman as one of the BMX bandits! It’s just as bad as you imagine.

Red Power movement

Red power salute on the Alcatraz docks
Maybe we can talk about that whole ‘Indian’ thing too LCSH?

Smog in literature

Cover of "Smog the City Dog"
Well that’s a really specific heading

Time banking

Still from "In Time"
Oh no! I’m running out of time on my time arm! I have to get more at the time bank or I’ll run out of time.