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Organizing a vertical file
I'm working with a vertical file and need some advice and help.
I toyed with the idea of trying to use Dewey or LC or some other cataloging system, but the categories are a bit clumsy for what I need. I could use LC subject classification, but we have no money to purchase the volumes and it would be too extensive to use as a general skeleton for our files. Most of what we deal with is information and issues related to freshwater and any other subjects whenever those subjects cross over into water and environmental issues.
Anyone have any ideas?
When I started setting up the vertical file here I used a general thesaurus from GAO for basic headings. Then because we are so specialized, I just made up my own headings. The whole thing is in a DBTextworks database. You might find a thesaurus done by someone in your field. We have one done by the Transportation Division of SLA that is excellent.
The problem is to find an organized
system of subject headings. Why don't you try the National Library of
Medicine's (MeSH)? I have used this for an online patient education index
because it provides consistency. The trick with any subject heading system
is to have cross references. You could put a dummy file in to accommodate
X references. I have added X references to those already listed in MeSH.
Using the MeSH with appropriate subheadings should give you flexibility
for narrow and broad topics. While this is a subject heading system geared
for health professionals, consumers struggle through LC with the help
of subject headings and it depends on whether the library staff finds
things in the vertical file or the user goes directly to it.
I have the same situation with my vertical file. I have used the Library of Congress Subject Headings, but as I am sure you know, there are some rather inconvenient gaps in the LCSH when you are trying to "micro-divide" an entire collection within one subject area. The subject headings are too broad, or there is no subject heading that really fits the subject matter you have at hand.
When there is no LCSH that fits, I have chosen the thesaurus of terms from a national database on my subject area (in my cast the GEOREF Thesaurus from the American Geological Institute) to provide me with the more technical language used in my subject area. I keep a list of which terms I have used and often write a short scope note if there is anything ambiguous about the term.
In the rare event that I can't assign a term from either LCSH or the thesaurus, I use a nationally recognized authority - a glossary, dictionary etc. - within the subject area to choose a term. The users of the collection will probably already be familiar with the technical language of your subject, and will look for materials using those terms.
Remember, no matter how broad a scope your primary subject heading list has, you will always have to have some "local" subject headings that fit only your unique collection.
Created on November 8, 1999 l Updated on June 4, 2012