Library congress

The issues with Subject Headings

I would like to take a moment to reflect on the difficulties of LCSH.

Please accept, as my example, the poor, dearly departed, Magnificent Entertainments: Fancy Dress Balls of Canada’s Governor General, 1876-1898 by Cynthia Cooper.

Image I love this book. This book has fantastic and incredibly beautiful photographs of interesting costumes from Victorian fancy dress balls in Upper Canada. Technically, there is also a bunch of text about these specific parties. I tend to ignore that part and go straight for the amazing photos.


AMICUS’s record for this item lists the primary subject as Balls (Parties)– Canada– History– 19th century and therefore it is given a Dewey number under dancing- 793.3.


Consequently, this book is beside ‘How to Rhumba’ and ‘Capoeira 101’. This is what we call a lost book: It is in the right spot, but no one is going to find it. However, the third subject listed is costumes and this is the subject that I am most interested in and, that I think users are going to be more interested in. Therefore, in my opinion, it should be Dewey categorized under the 3rd subject heading:


The dewey number for this would be 391. 000971. In this section, Magnificent Entertainments would be found by delighted costume enthusiasts and anyone looking for Canadian clothing history.

Now my opinion is biased because I love costumes. However, the second subject listed is Canada– Social life and customs– 19th century. If I wanted to be more objective I would say that this is the most accurate term (minus the fact that this is social life and customs of the upper class specifically in the 19th century).

Cause of Death: Subject Heading Overaccuracy, Accidental.