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LCSH: Fallery–Sky

   October 1st, 2009

cookery signThis announcement was making the rounds yesterday on Twitter, and it seems to qualify as the-sky-is-falling type news:

The Library of Congress is revising their "Cookery" subject heading [pdf], saying:

The use of the term “cookery” will be discontinued in these categories of headings. The term “cooking” will be used instead in most cases.

The "Cookery" example was always the go-to citation for demonstrating how traditional library institutions were out of date, and how Web 2.0 tagging filled a need by linking together books and information based on the way people actually think and speak.

LibraryThing.com has led the way in much of this innovation and development, showing the old timers better ways to serve library patrons. This Cookery change shows that the powers that be are paying attention. So does Ebsco's release of NoveList Select, which mimics LibraryThing for Libraries' functionality by putting NoveList data right into the library catalog (where our patrons already are), instead of making them go somewhere else for it.

People often refer to these traditional library vendors and institutions as dinosaurs, but they seem to be learning from and closing the gap with the inflatable rhino.

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7 Responses to “LCSH: Fallery–Sky”

  1. Shannon Says:

    “The “Cookery” example was always the go-to citation for demonstrating how traditional library institutions were out of date…”

    Perhaps not so much out of date as out of touch with their users. I agree that Cooking is a better subject heading for users here in the US, and I’m happy that LC has seen the light, but it does irk me slightly when Cookery is ridiculed as old-fashioned. The word is still in common use in other English dialects – don’t forget the Brits!

  2. Sarah Says:

    This is great news! I know we had many discussions about “cookery” in class. Thanks for posting, and I think I’ll pass the news on.

  3. Winnie Says:

    I echo Shannon’s comment. Cookery isn’t out-of-date, it’s just not used in the US and rarely in Canada. However, in England it’s the norm.

  4. Lynn Says:

    I’ll also echo Shannon’s comment about cookery not being out-of-date.

    I’d also like to add that the efforts to “modernize” (for the lack of a better term) LCSH began eons ago with Sanford Berman – a cataloguer at Hennepin County Library System. Tim Spalding and LibraryThing had little to nothing to do with it.

  5. Brian Herzog Says:

    I am amazed I made it through library school and this far into being a librarian without hearing of Sanford Berman. After reading about him, it is certainly my loss (thank you for pointing him out Lynn).

    I didn’t mean to imply that LibraryThing is single-handedly changing the library world – I wanted to cite them as one (recent) source of innovation. LibraryThing didn’t invent tagging, but the way they are using it fills holes in LCSH. Perhaps by letting people use words like chicklit and cyberpunk, LT has helped identify the gaps between the LCSH vocabulary and the needs of today’s patrons, which I certainly think is a valuable role.

    As for cookery: I don’t mean to be all ethnocentric, because I know LCSH are used internationally, but I have no problem with the Library of Congress favoring words used by Americans. In fact, something I really like about LCSH is that it allows libraries a great deal of ethnocentricity, in that libraries can pick and choose the subject headings that are most meaningful to their local communities. Dewey allows this to some degree too, since libraries can use longer or shorter Dewey numbers depending on what is most appropriate for their collection and patrons.

    This flexibility in Dewey and LCSH allows local libraries to build catalog records customized for their local patrons. However, Dewey can still end up putting similar books far apart, and libraries can’t choose common words as subject headings until they are added as LCSH. So while these large institutions update their systems, smaller and more flexible search tools (and individuals [with no size or flexibility stipulations]) can address emerging directions.

    ps: I am truly sorry for writing a comment that was longer than the original post.

    pps: I am not a cataloger, so forgive me if LCSH actually does address this, but is there such a thing as regional subject headings? For instance, the four below could be synonyms, but really only meaningful to different parts of the United States:

    • Beverages — Soda (most of the country)
    • Beverages — Pop (the Midwest)
    • Beverages — Tonic (parts of New England)
    • Beverages — Coke (parts of the South)

    This sort of thing would really let local libraries be ethnocentric to their region.

  6. The loss of “Cookery” and wacky subject headings « BCLA Library Technicians & Assistants Interest Group Says:

    […] This post brought to you in part by: The Swiss Army Librarian: http://www.swissarmylibrarian.net/2009/10/01/lcsh-fallery-sky […]

  7. Cari Says:

    Thanks for the post! Good to know this. I’m way behind in reading my library news. I like your comment that’s longer than the original post. Makes a lot of sense.