Home > Authority, evergreen, MeSH > Evergreen, Authorities and MeSH

Evergreen, Authorities and MeSH

Dan Scott at Coffee Code posted on AutoCat this week about his work in Evergreen on Authorities. He put out a call for help, information, input, etc.  He said this past summer he had posted a longer, more detailed posting about his work which I totally missed (a girl can only read so much a day).

I wrote back to Dan and volunteered my services.  I am happy to discuss authority and even more happy if I can contribute anything to help improve the state of authority.  I have posted about authority as well as ILS (and lots of other miscellany).  Dan kindly replied he’d soon post on his blog details of his authority adventures. I look forward to reading it (and attempting to understand, I am way behind the curve on programming but if he starts talking about the drinking kind of java I’m so there).

Ivy over at From the catalogs of babes replied to my authority post with shocking (to me) information. She said:

I just this very evening learned why this never happened. Lynn M. El-Hoshy, 2001, “Relationships in Library of Congress Subject Headings” explains that basically, LC never recorded narrower terms for tracing in authority records, “because of the extra work that would be involved.”

Why was this shocking? Because tracing narrower terms is so very basic to the idea of authority control.  Back in the olden days when I was a medical librarian I had to learn about “trees”.  No, not foliage but the way in which Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) are developed. It is BRILLIANT (as are many things in the medical librarianship world). 

Basically MeSH takes medical terminology and categorizes it in a hierarchical structure.  From broader terms to narrower terms to related terms, they are all there. Plus MeSH includes ‘scope notes’ to explain what exactly that term means to MeSH.  Oh! Oh! And MeSH dates the terminology (no, not dinner and a movie).  Like terminology in every profession (cataloger to metadata specialist) medical terminology changes over time so MeSH tracks the changes.

BTW, did I mention MeSH is free?  Ohh those medical librarians!

Databases such as PubMed or Ovid’s Medline (or EBSCO’s Medline or any other company’s Medline) takes the MeSH and uses it in the searches. One of the best uses I’ve seen is Ovid’s Medline (or so it was when I last gazed upon it). Older versions of Ovid’s Medline forced the searcher to use their terms – this ensured a focused search.  You had to search using the MeSH terms. There was a definite learning curve to using Ovid’s Medline (not only in knowing the terminology but also how the terminology functioned in Ovid’s Medline searching) but it was very worth it since the search results almost always included exactly what you wanted/needed.

Point being, if you want to improve your authority look to what has happened traditionally in medical databases. They already use the structured language in ways we dream our catalogs of today would.  This is not to say there is no room for improvement. There is! There is! But please, look at how journal databases use structured vocabularies (remember ERIC? I do. I remember having to figure out their thesaurus in order to find the right microfilm…opps, I mean, I read about it in history books, er, blogs).

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