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Subject cataloging process of Slovenian and American catalogers

Alenka Šauperl (Department of Information and Library Science and Book Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 1 December 2005




An empirical study has shown that the real process of subject cataloging does not correspond entirely to theoretical descriptions in textbooks and international standards. The purpose of this is paper is to address the issue of whether it be possible for catalogers who have not received formal training to perform subject cataloging in a different way to their trained colleagues.


A qualitative study was conducted in 2001 among five Slovenian public library catalogers. The resulting model is compared to previous findings.


First, all catalogers attempted to determine what the book was about. While the American catalogers tried to understand the topic and the author's intent, the Slovenian catalogers appeared to focus on the topic only. Slovenian and American academic library catalogers did not demonstrate any anticipation of possible uses that users might have of the book, while this was important for American public library catalogers. All catalogers used existing records to build new ones and/or to search for subject headings. The verification of subject representation with the indexing language was the last step in the subject cataloging process of American catalogers, often skipped by Slovenian catalogers.

Research limitations/implications

The small and convenient sample limits the findings.

Practical implications

Comparison of subject cataloging processes of Slovenian and American catalogers, two different groups, is important because they both contribute to OCLC's WorldCat database. If the cataloging community is building a universal catalog and approaches to subject description are different, then the resulting subject representations might also be different.


This is one of the very few empirical studies of subject cataloging and indexing.



Šauperl, A. (2005), "Subject cataloging process of Slovenian and American catalogers", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 61 No. 6, pp. 713-734.



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