Profession/occupation terms in field 374

Adam Schiff (University of Washington) has started an interesting discussion on PCCLIST on the use in field 374 of LCSH terms that include elements other than occupation profession.  Among the examples he cites:

374    Women physicians ǂa Surgeons ǂ2 lcsh

374    African American political activists ǂ2 lcsh

374    Women translators ǂa Women missionaries ǂ2 lcsh

374    African American women singers ǂ2 lcsh

374    Mexican American musicians ǂ2 lcsh

374    Authors, Canadian ǂ2 lcsh

374    Hockey players ǂa Athletes ǂa Authors ǂa Jewish authors ǂ2 lcsh

374    Gay journalists ǂ2 lcsh

Adam continues:

If you haven’t figured out my peeve yet, it’s the inclusion of gender, religion, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. in profession/occupation terms recorded in this field.    One does not go to school to study to be a woman physician or an African American poet or a gay journalist or Canadian author.  Including qualifying terms serves to segregate people of the same occupation, and I don’t think this is a good thing in authority records.  Why should women composers be labeled differently from men composers?   Shouldn’t all poets be grouped together under a single term?

Gender already has a separate field (375) that can be recorded in authority records.  If catalogers feel that religion, nationality, ethnicity or other characteristics are important to record there IS a place for it in the MARC format:

MARC field 368 (Other Attributes of Person or Corporate Body), subfield $c (Other designation).   While RDA doesn’t include provisions for recording religion, national, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or other characteristics not included elsewhere in RDA instructions, 368 $c can be used for this, and has already been by some catalogers …

Besides being a reminder of good practice in constructing authority records, Adam’s post and the many thoughtful replies invite reflection on the varied uses of LCSH, including uses that no one could have conceived of when LC began compiling its subject headings in the 1890s.

The point has also been raised in the PCCLIST discussion that LCSH is not the only controlled vocabulary that can be used for 374 terms.  Library of Congress Demographic Group Terms (LCDGT) is mentioned as a possible alternative.  (For information about the LCDGT project, see LC’s Library of Congress Demographic Group Terms: Introduction and Guiding Principles for the Pilot.  Finding a copy of the terms themselves has been more of a challenge, but you might find this PDF helpful.

In practice, I expect most of us who create and edit authority records, especially most of us in general libraries in the NACO program, will continue to use LCSH terms in field 374 for the foreseeable future.  We should just remember when we do so that we are applying the terminology for a different purpose than when we assign subject headings to a bibliographic record, and that we need to use terms conveying only the facet of profession/occupation.

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Author: R.A. Stewart

Librarian, poet, sometime musician, father, grandfather, codger; as of November 9, 2016, second-class citizen of a banana republic.

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