Sunday, September 4, 2011

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Topic: Soccer and the Library of Congress Subject Headings.

Background Information    

During my previous Master’s (MA in Popular Culture at Brock University), I wrote a theoretical essay in which I applied Dick Hebdige’s subculture theory to soccer hooliganism; specifically, English clubs situated in working class areas. When I wrote the paper, I found that all of my searches on the topic yield search results that were too broad, or at other times, too useless. Not only was there a lack of knowledge and information about soccer in a North American based library catalogue (to be discussed in more detail later), but there is a general lack of resources on the topic as a whole. Even though I asked several different reference librarians (one in an academic library and the other in a public library branch), both came up short during their own searches. Instead, I was forced to use the private library of my thesis supervisor (note: this particular essay had nothing to do with my thesis) and the sources that were mentioned in his books, having relied on Google Books in order to access said material. Needless to say, topic is not well researched in Canada.  

While that particular essay is now finished, I recent submitted an abstract for it to the annual Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCA/ACA) Conference. Before the conference takes place in March 2010, I plan to revise my original paper, by omitting certain parts from it and expanding information in others. [ … ]  I decided to check the Library of Congress Subject Headings to see, if by using their terms, I could modify my search to result in better, more accurate sources. As it turns out, I discovered that the Library of Congress is also very limited in subject headings and subdivisions and as a result, was therefore unable to aid in my search strategy. However, there is a silver lining in this discovery: their lack of information now allows me to discuss and analyze the limitations of the Library of Congress Subject Headings, and explore further what could be added in order to yield more useful, accurate, and encompassing results on the topic of soccer hooliganism (Editor’s Note: OH BOY!).

Difficulties with my Topic
            In order to understand why I found my original searches so unhelpful it is crucial to understand exactly what I wanted for my research. It is important to recognize that there are several books written about soccer hooliganism; this includes specific acts—such as the 2006 Basel Hooligan Incident—to specific geographical regions—South America, Europe—that are affected by acts of hooliganism. However, there are very few books written about the actual soccer hooligan, as a person. The handful of books that are written about hooligans often portray them in a negative light; as unlawful or brutes or overzealous and fanatics, as opposed looking at the reasons for why they are committing certain acts or behaving in certain ways. It is the social, economic and political positions of the people who are recognized, and recognize themselves, as soccer hooligans that are the keys to my research, rather than so-called “prior bad acts.” In other words, it is not the specific events that I am interested in, but rather, what were the causes for those events in the first place.

Library of Congress Subject Headings Search

Since I am looking to research the persons behind the acts, and not the acts themselves, I began my search using the term “soccer hooligans” on the Library of Congress Subject Headings only to yield zero results. I then tried to use just the word “hooligans,” however the Library of Congress Subject Headings suggested that I use the replacement term of “hoodlums.” By doing so, the focus was then turned to such terms as “criminals” (BT) and “gangs” (RT). Since what I was looking for was obviously sport specific, and my essay focus is on social, economic and political influences on soccer hooligans, this use of the word “hooligans” would not apply to my research.

Unfortunately, this made me realized that I would have to change my focus to be more act specific, rather than person specific, like I originally wanted. I next tried searching the term “soccer hooliganism,” which proved to be more helpful, though only providing a single result:

Soccer hooliganism   (May Subd Geog)  [R S D]
[GV943.9.F35]  [B L S D]
 UF      Hooliganism, Soccer
BT       Disorderly conduct
Soccer--Social aspects

Though it does allow for “may subdivide geographically,” there is no other information present for soccer hooliganism. The Broader Terms, “disorderly conduct” (again, focusing on the act) and “social aspects” are actually very relevant to my research, however, I did not realize this until I search using “soccer—social aspects” in an OPAC. When first looking at this record, I would not necessarily associate “soccer—social aspects” with acts of hooliganism, because, in the opinion of my research, hooliganism focuses on the individual. My interpretation of “social aspects” (which may be wrong, but is still my initial opinion), is how soccer functions as a social game; for example, a group of friend watching a match at a pub. There will be a discussion later about how this interpretation is harmful, and dangerous, in using the Library of Congress Subject Heading. Due to preconceived notions, as mine were for “hooligans” as individual and “social aspects” as group, one may miss over a heading, or subdivision, by not even considering it.

Search Process

Due to my initial opinions about my search using “soccer hooliganism,” I decided to look at a much broader topic of “soccer” and what results that would yield. However, there was a problem in this as well. As mentioned previously in the first part of my analysis, the North American bias plays heavily into the Library of Congress Subject Headings, which would recognize the American word “soccer” for the sport, rather than the world-wide used term of “football.” Originally, in my previous searches, I attempted to look up “football hooligans” and “football hooliganism” only to receive no results.  When I did try just “football” most of the results were related to American football, expect in other wise specified cases (for example, “Australian Rules Football,” “Rugby Football”). However, I noticed that “soccer” is a found term on the “Football” search, so I decided to continue my own search for this assignment by just using the term “soccer” as a subject heading and for the analysis of the subdivisions available. Since “Soccer” yielded 61 search results (in comparison to “Football’s” 73, and “Soccer hooliganism’s” 1), it provided helpful in my evaluation of the usefulness of providing access to my topic. 

Search Results

            While the very broad topic of “soccer” offered more results, it actually proved more useless, and frustrating, for my own particular research. The three most popular results associated with the “soccer” topic search included:

1.      Geographically specific soccer stories.
Example: Soccer stories, Spanish   (May Subd Geog)  [R S D]
UF       Spanish soccer stories
BT       Spanish fiction

2.      Advice on playing/positions/equipment for game.
       Example: Soccer team captains   (May Subd Geog)  [R S D]
            UF       Soccer--Team captains [Former Heading]
                                    Team captains, Soccer
            BT       Soccer players

3.       Different types of soccer.
Example: Beach soccer   (May Subd Geog)  [R S D]
[GV943.9.B43]  [B L S D]
UF       Sand soccer
BT       Soccer

In other words, most of the subdivisions dealt with relating soccer to being a sport, rather than soccer relating to its participants. The times that soccer for participants were mention were for specific players, often recognized as “minorities” in soccer, such as, “soccer for children,” “soccer for women,” “soccer players,” “women soccer players” (which is interesting from being distinct from “soccer for women”), “soccer players' spouses” and “prison soccer teams.” 

Besides the original entry for soccer hooliganism, the subject headings and subdivisions that did provide the most useful (in comparison to the rest) were:

1.      Soccer attendance   (May Subd Geog)  [R S D]
UF             Attendance, Soccer
                        Soccer--Attendance [Former Heading]
2.      Soccer fans   (May Subd Geog)  [R S D]
UF             Soccer--Fans [Former Heading]
            Soccer spectators
      BT             Sports spectators

3.      Soccer--Corrupt practices   (May Subd Geog)  [R S D]
      UF             Soccer scandals

4.      Soccer stories, English   (May Subd Geog)  [R S D]
      UF             English soccer stories
      BT             English fiction

All four of these could have a subdivision further divulging into what makes a soccer hooligan a hooligan. The first, “soccer attendance” would prove useful as one usually attends matches to perform acts of hooliganism. Therefore, while the subdivision is attendance, another one could be added for “attendees;” who are the people who attend soccer matches?  This concept could also be demonstrated in the second useful entry that I found, “soccer fans,” focusing more specifically on “soccer spectators” (as “spectators” implies specifically that a person is watching the match, rather than just being a fan). Once could break this down even further to find what type of spectators are watching matching and how they differs from each other. The third example, “corrupt practices” may seem to beginning to veer away from my original topic, however could still be used to relate. Like the Hillsborough Disaster, specific events could fit under this heading, especially under the UF “soccer scandals.” Finally, the last example of, “soccer stories, English” could also have another subdivision involving hooligans, especially because that is the specific geographic location that my research is situated in. Or, the subject heading could be changed to English Soccer (which is different than Soccer—England; which implies country soccer, rather than club soccer), and continue to subdivide into English soccer matters (for example, the English Premiership League).

Function in an Online Environment and OPAC

            My searches in the Western OPAC made me both reconsider my negative thoughts towards the Library of Congress Subject Headings, and reaffirm them. When I searched for other terms on the Western library catalogue, I found that my initial interpretations of the Library of Congress Subject Headings did not function well. When I tried using their controlled vocabulary, or what I understood of their controlled vocabulary, I did not received my desired results. For example when using “disorderly conduct” instead of “hooliganism,” I was overwhelmed with irrelevant results. If I was not overwhelmed, I was underwhelmed. A search of “soccer scandals,” for example, resulted in one record:

Author             Osborn, Kevin, 1959-
Title     The complete idiot's guide to fatherhood [electronic resource] / by Kevin Osborn.
Publisher         Indianapolis, IN : Alpha Books, c2000.

This book had nothing to do with soccer, however mentioned the words “scandals” and “soccer” in two different chapter headings: Point-Shaving Scandals and Soccer Dads.

However, when I did my own search—using my original search of “soccer hooligan”—allowed for more insight to subject headings that the Library of Congress Subject Headings that, as mention, I did not consider before. For example, the first result that I obtained after I searched “soccer hooliganism” was a record for:

Understanding soccer hooliganism / John H. Kerr.
Buckingham ; Philadelphia : Open University Press, 1994.
Kerr, J. H.

With the accompanying subjects of:

Soccer fans -- England.
Spectator control -- England.
Soccer -- Social aspects -- England.
Violence in sports -- England.  (CASE I)

 “Soccer -- Social aspects -- England” may seem like an obvious choice for a subject heading, however if one is looking into social aspects of the fan, they may not think to look at social aspects of soccer (the game) at first. In other words, the Library of Congress Subject Headings may make sense once you know what you are looking for and after you find it. However, they are far too vague if you do not know the specific aspects of your topic, or you cannot guess what, or how, someone else would label it as. While reading, “Soccer -- Social aspects – England” now makes sense to me, it would have never occurred me to link “social aspects” and “hooligans” originally. This does make using Library of Congress Subject Headings in an OPAC is useful, because once you a book that you are looking for, it is easier to then use the subject headings to connect you to others. However, it does also make it more difficult as the original interpretation of the subject heading or subdivisions may not have been as clear. Thus, as stated earlier, making me both reconsider my negative thoughts towards the Library of Congress Subject Headings, and reaffirm them.

Final Thought about a Personal Inquiry

Before I state my final opinions on the Library of Congress Subject Headings, I would like to make mention to one that surprised me. I was surprised that there are no specific subject headings for specific teams, or at least none that I could easily find. Perhaps this is due to my frustration of the rationale behind the Library of Congress Subject Headings, but in searching, I could not find specific subdivisions for specific clubs. While there is a subject heading for “soccer teams:”

Soccer teams   (May Subd Geog)  [R S D]
[GV943.6]  [B L S D]
UF       Soccer--Clubs [Former Heading]
            Soccer clubs [Former Heading]
BT       Sports teams

There are not subdivisions for specific teams; had there been, it may have been easier to research specific hooligans for specific clubs. Traditionally, the support of a soccer club is based on the locality of the team, and that locality usually can demonstrate a fan’s social, economic and political position. For example, traditionally, Manchester United was considered more of a working class team due to its location of being in Manchester (class plays a significant role in the hooligan), if teams were mentioned as subdivisions, finding information on hooliganism may prove easier.

Conclusion(s) on Library of Congress Subject Headings

            My original opinion when using the Library of Congress Subject Headings was that the topics are far too broad. While there are opportunities to become more specific, they are not presented clearly, until you find them by another means, in which they then seem obvious (refer to Case I). However, when working with just the Library of Congress Subject Headings, there is a lot of ambiguity, which can lead to frustration. For example the subject heading for “soccer hooliganism” could be further broken up beyond just their conduct; rather than just looking at hooliganism, there should be a subject heading on the hooligan as a person. However, most people do not divorce the act of hooliganism from the hooligan as a person, and therefore would not consider these two mutually separate subject headings. If they were divorced, the hooligan could then be further be broken down into the social, economical and political subdivisions as rationale that plays into the role of the hooligan. 

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