Use or LC Subject Headings for web search in the Encyclopedia of Law

Among the reasons for retaining LCSH are: (1) LCSH is a rich vocabulary covering all subject areas, easily the largest general indexing vocabulary in the English language; (2) there is synonym and homograph control; (3) it contains rich links (cross references indicating relationships) among terms; (4) it is a pre-coordinate system that ensures precision in retrieval; (5) it facilitates browsing of multiple-concept or multi-faceted subjects; and, (6) having been translated or adapted as a model for developing subject headings systems by many countries around the world, LCSH is a de facto universal controlled vocabulary. In addition, there is another major advantage. Retaining LCSH as subject data in metadata records would ensure semantic interoperability between the enormous store of MARC records and metadata records prepared according to various other standards.

While the vocabulary, or semantics, of LCSH has much to contribute to the management and retrieval of networked resources, the way it is currently applied has certain limitations: (1) because of its complex syntax and application rules, assigning LC subject headings according to current Library of Congress policies requires trained personnel; (2) subject heading strings in bibliographic or metadata records are costly to maintain; (3) LCSH, in its present form and application, is not compatible in syntax with most other controlled vocabularies; and, (4) it is not amenable to search engines outside of the OPAC environment, particularly current Web search engines.

These limitations mean that applying LCSH properly in compliance with current policy and procedures entails the following requirements:

trained catalogers and indexers
systems with index browsing capability
systems with online thesaurus display
sophisticated users

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