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Re: thesaurus interchange language

From: Stella Dextre Clarke <stella@lukehouse.org>
Date: Sat, 02 Aug 2008 12:29:22 +0100
Message-ID: <48944512.7020707@lukehouse.org>
To: Stephen Bounds <km@bounds.net.au>
CC: SKOS <public-esw-thes@w3.org>

Stephen Bounds wrote:
> Hi Stella,
> Thanks for the info.  I know this is getting off the track, but can
> you explain the problems with LCSH?
LCSH was created long before any information retrieval thesauri were
developed, and long before the conventions for thesauri had been 
established. It was designed as a set of subject headings for use in 
finding books on the shelves of the Library of Congress. So that it 
could work via the medium of catalogue cards, it had to incorporate 
rules for combining simple headings into precoordinated strings. Today 
it still provides for these precoordinated strings, whereas a thesaurus 
is primarily designed for postcoordinate indexing. The two are quite 
easy to distinguish on this basis. (See BS8723-3 for much more detail.)

More recently, LCSH has evolved, borrowing heavily from the style of 
display used in thesauri, and may even claim to incorporate a thesaurus. 
But as Simon Spero has pointed out, it does not apply the rules for 
hierarchical relationships that the thesaurus standards decree. (It is 
very hard to shake off a long cultural heritage.) LCSH continues to 
describe itself as a subject headings list, and that is fundamentally 
what it is.


Stella Dextre Clarke
Information Consultant
Luke House, West Hendred, Wantage, OX12 8RR, UK
Tel: 01235-833-298
Fax: 01235-863-298
Received on Saturday, 2 August 2008 11:29:59 UTC

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