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Subject Access in the Digital Age. Presented by Carol Bradsher. “Our users expect simplicity and immediate reward and Amazon, Google, and Itunes are the standards against which we are judged.” -- from the UC Libraries Bibliographic Services Task Force Report. Subject access issues.

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subject access in the digital age

Subject Access in the Digital Age

Presented by

Carol Bradsher


“Our users expect simplicity and immediate reward and Amazon, Google, and Itunes are the standards against which we are judged.”

--from the UC Libraries Bibliographic Services Task Force Report

subject access issues
Subject access issues
  • Ease of use
  • Cost
  • Time
controlled vocabulary problems
Controlled vocabulary problems
  • Complexity, which impacts ability of catalogers to assign and general public to use
  • No guidance on determining “aboutness”
  • Inconsistency of heading assignment, influenced by subjectivity, cultural biases, differing perspectives of catalogers
evaluating subject catalogs
Evaluating subject catalogs
  • Recall
  • Relevance
  • Precision
  • Exhaustivity
  • Ease of use
  • Cost
advantages of keyword
Advantages of keyword
  • Greater recall
  • Requires less knowledge to search
  • Can access entire bibliographic record, table of contents, summary
keyword assumptions
Keyword assumptions
  • Authors writing about the same concepts will use the same words in their writings;
  • Searchers will be able to guess what words those authors used for the concepts
language the biggest obstacle for searching
Language—the biggest obstacle for searching
  • Synonyms
  • Homographs
  • Determining the meaning of words
  • Changes in meaning
  • Usage changes
  • Words can have the same meaning, or not, e.g.
    • Attire, dress, clothing
    • Technical Services
  • Singular vs. plural form doesn’t always have the same meaning
    • Apple (fruit and/or tree)
    • Apples (fruit only)
    • Art (visual art)
    • Arts (various subdisciplines including visual, literature, performing)
what about synonym lists
What about synonym lists?
  • not large or general enough
  • Implemented in small and specialized domains
  • No knowledge of adjectives and nouns and which kind of words could be used together to make a phrase
  • Aircraft = planes
  • Big = large
  • Big aircraft = large planes
  • Words that look the same but have different meanings:
    • Mercury: liquid metal, planet, car, Roman God or Freddie
    • Bridge: structure, dental device, card game, musical conveyance
determining meaning
Determining meaning
  • Gay
  • Sober
  • Virginia Woolf
  • discount
changes in meaning
Changes in meaning
  • Medal
  • Goggles
  • gay
changes in usage
Changes in usage
  • Third world countries
  • Creme rinse
unforgiving keyword searches
Unforgiving keyword searches
  • One word vs. two word forms, hyphenated words
  • Singular vs. plural
advantages of controlled vocabulary
Advantages of controlled vocabulary
  • Can handle variations in language and terminology
    • Synonyms
    • Homographs
  • Can combine terms into phrases, relate phrases to one another
  • Cross reference structure to direct users to valid terms
keyword s biggest weakness
Keyword’s biggest weakness
  • “Subject analysis so far has defied automatic techniques such as word counting; only a human can attach words to a concept that is the subject of a document but is never explicitly named in that document.” -- Arlene Taylor