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HIST 150: The French Revolution (Fall 2022)

Discussion: Library of Congress Subjects, the good & the bad

All subject headings are assigned by the Library of Congress. This standardization is key to their success because every library and database use the same language.  But what is the downside?

How many books about the French Revolution do you think W&M Library owns?

How many books about the French Revolution are there in the English language?

How Librarians Think

Library Science, as a field, is about the organization of information so it can be preserved, rediscovered & reused, and ultimately expanded. We don't use obvious subject tags like "French Revolution" because there have been a lot of French Revolutions (ex. 1848). We also avoid common subject names because "obvious" terms change over time.

Part of your challenge while searching is to identify important keywords while also paying attention to librarians' subject headings. It can be tricky to figure out the official library subject, but once you do, you can find almost every book on your topic!