GLBT Controlled Vocabularies and Classification Schemes

Compiled by Matt Johnson, August 2007





   Introduction

The provision of unambiguous and non-pejorative physical and intellectual access to library materials on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people has been a goal of the GLBTRT since its inception. One of the first sponsored sessions of the Round Table (then the Task Force on Gay Liberation) was a panel discussion featuring Joan Marshall and Steven Wolf at the 1971 ALA annual meeting in Dallas. Marshall and Wolf tartly criticized the sexist and homophobic labeling which then prevailed in the Library of Congress Subject Headings and the Dewey Decimal Classification. Their remarks were later published in the seminal volume Revolting Librarians.

Members of the Task Force were not alone in voicing their criticisms. Sandy Berman's Prejudices and antipathies: A tract on the LC subject heads concerning people also appeared in 1971. Among Berman's many recommendations was the deletion of the cross-reference to "Sexual perversion" for both "Homosexuality" and "Lesbianism", enacted by the Library of Congress in 1972. At the Hennepin County Library, Berman and his associates developed innovative local subject headings pertaining to sexuality as well as other topics. Many of these were subsequently adopted by other libraries as well as incorporated into LCSH via the Subject Authority Cooperative Program (SACO).

Smaller, more specialized collections of GLBT materials (most of which had been compiled by queer people for a queer audience) could not depend on the blunt instrument that was LCSH to describe their holdings. Individual libraries and archives around the world began to develop their own controlled vocabularies, as well as prepare indexes for GLBT periodicals in their collections.

In 1986 the Task Force charged a committee with the mission of merging many of these vocabularies into a "superthesaurus", intended to alleviate the burden of future GLBT subject catalogers and indexers. The result, completed in 1988, was the International thesaurus of gay and lesbian index terms. This was eventually utilized as the thesaurus for the microfiche Gay and lesbian periodicals index (apparently commissioned by the Special Libraries Association), but did not otherwise enjoy widespread adoption.

In most instances, controlled vocabularies and classification schemes designed to provide subject access to GLBT materials have been victims of the successful campaign to introduce appropriate terminology into LCSH, as well as the increased use of networked bibliographic utilities in smaller libraries. Their usage does remain current in a handful of specialized research collections, however, and a proprietary thesaurus supports searching in the periodical database LGBT Life.

The bibliography which follows relies on Dee Michel's inventory (prepared for the Round Table in 1990) as well as on my own research. For unpublished titles, I give information about where a copy may be able to be obtained. No bibliography is comprehensive, of course; I welcome any additions and amendments which members of the Round Table have to offer.

Matt Johnson

   Controlled Vocabularies

Brooks, J., & Hofer, H. C. (Eds.). (1976). Sexual nomenclature: A thesaurus. Boston: G. K. Hall.

Developed by the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University to describe its own collections. Largely limited to medical and psychiatric terminology. Published.

Capek, M. E. S. (Ed.). (1987). A women's thesaurus: An index of language used to describe and locate information about women. New York: Harper & Row.

Originally commissioned in 1975 by the Business and Professional Women's Foundation. A superthesaurus combining 35 extant indexes of terminology pertaining to women, most developed by academic women's studies programs. Informed by Marshall (1977), but does not incorporate LCSH terms.

Colfax, L. (Ed.). (1974). Homosexual subject heading schemes. Bossier City, LA: Homosexual Information Center.

Presumably developed to describe HIC collection. Unclear if it is in use, as collections are currently closed to the public. Unpublished. Contact Tangent Group - Homosexual Information Center, P. O. Box 310, Bell, CA 90201, USA, tangentgroup.org.

DeSantis, J. (Ed.). [2000]. Library of Congress queer subject headings. Internet. Online at http://www.dartmouth.edu/~jcd/qsubj.html.

A list of approved LCSH headings pertaining to GLBT topics. Current as of June 2000. Visit http://www.authorities.loc.gov for the most recent updates.

Eldrod, J. M. (1977). Sexuality: Suggested subject headings. Hennepin County Library Cataloging Bulletin, 30, 28-30.

Gregg, J., & Ridinger, R. B. M. (Eds.). (1988). International thesaurus of gay and lesbian index terms. [Chicago]: Thesaurus Committee, Gay and Lesbian Task Force, American Library Association.

See introduction and Ridinger 1997 for details on its generation. Unpublished. Contact Rob Ridinger, 15E Founders Memorial Library, Northern Illinois University, De Kalb, IL 60115-2868, (815) 763-1367, rridinger@niu.edu

Hennepin County Library Authority File Entries [computer file]. Minnetonka, MN: Hennepin County Library.

Developed by former chief cataloger Sandy Berman and associates. Its use was discontinued at HCL following that library's admission to OCLC. Unpublished. Snapshot of authority file housed with Sanford Berman Papers, American Library Association Archives. Contact University of Illinois Archives, Room 19 Library, 1408 W. Gregory Drive, Urbana, IL 61801, USA, http://web.library.uiuc.edu/ahx/ala

Lesbian Herstory Archives subject headings for subject files [1997]. Internet. Online at http://www.lesbianherstoryarchives.org/collsubj.htm

List of subject headings for use in cataloging the sexual literature of libraries (rev. ed., 1974). Bossier City, LA: Homosexual Information Center.

Presumably developed to describe HIC collection. Unclear if it is still in use, as collections are currently closed to the public. Unpublished. Contact Tangent Group - Homosexual Information Center, P. O. Box 310, Bell, CA 90201, USA, tangentgroup.org.

Marshall, J. (1977). On equal terms: A thesaurus for nonsexist indexing and cataloging. New York: Neal-Schuman.

A reworking and complement' to then-exstant LC subject heads pertaining to women. Follows LCSH structure; notes significant deviations from LCSH. Produced with a grant from the Council on Library Resources, under the auspices and with the collaboration of the SRRT Task Force on Women's Committee on Sexism in Subject Headings (convened Spring 1974).

Michel, D. (Ed.). (1985). Gay studies thesaurus.

Developed while Michel was a graduate student at the University of Illinois, based on book and periodical sources. Unpublished. Contact Dee Michel, 95 Ridgewood Terrace, Northampton, MA 01060, (413) 303-0489, deeamichel@comcast.net

Parkinson, P. (Ed.). (1984). Thesaurus of subject headings. Wellington: Lesbian and Gay Rights Resource Centre.

Developed to describe Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand. Referenced in Parkinson 1998. Unpublished. Contact Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand (LAGANZ), Alexander Turnbull Library, 58-78 Molesworth Street, Wellington, NEW ZEALAND, laganz.org.nz

SIECUS thesaurus. New York: Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States.

A truncation and modification of Brooks & Hofer 1976 to describe the SIECUS collection. Unpublished. Contact SIECUS, 130 West 42nd Street, Suite 350, New York, NY 10036, siecus.org.

Van Staalduinen, K., Jansma, A., Brandhorst, H., & Bruin, A. (Eds.). (1997). A queer thesaurus: An international thesaurus of gay and lesbian index terms. [Amsterdam: Homodok; Leeuwarden: Anna Blaman Huis].

Bilingual (Dutch/English) thesaurus developed to describe the collections of the HOMODOK and the Anna Blaman Huis (now the Internationale Homo- en Lesbisch Informatiecentrum en Archief).

   Classification Schemes

Hoffmeier, K. [1979?]. Philadelphia Gay Library Classification Scheme.

Unpublished. Contact Library, William Way Community Center, 1315 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107, (215) 732-2220.

Michel, D., & Moore, D. (1990). Michel/Moore Classification Scheme for Books in Lesbian/Gay Collections (rev. ed.).

Michel: "This scheme is based on the International Gay and Lesbian Archives Classification System of David Moore [1985], but during its creation all the other schemes mentioned above were consulted ... It divides the gay/lesbian world into useful classes rather than modifying regular library classifications. It includes separate classes for fiction and biography, and offers LC cuttering for author numbers. While designed for use in a specific library, the Baker Library of ONE Institute ... it should be of use to other collections as well. Revisions were made in 1990 based on two years of use." Unpublished. Contact Dee Michel, 95 Ridgewood Terrace, Northampton, MA 01060, (413) 303-0489, deeamichel@comcast.net

Moore, D., with Williams, W., & Kepner, J. (Eds.). (1985). International Gay & Lesbian Archives Classification System (rev. ed.).

Michel: "Nine major classes, decimal notation. Includes Library of Congress author notation, location symbols, language codes and other devices." Developed to describe International Gay & Lesbian Archives, based on Jim Kepner's personal collection; the collection merged with ONE in 1994. See Kepner 1998. Unpublished. Contact Dee Michel, 95 Ridgewood Terrace, Northampton, MA 01060, (413) 303-0489, deeamichel@comcast.net

Parkinson, P. (Ed.). (1984). GDC: Gay Decimal Classification. Wellington: Lesbian and Gay Rights Resource Centre.

Developed to describe Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand. Referenced in Parkinson 1998. "Ten major classes, Dewey-like notation" (Michel). Unpublished. Contact Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand (LAGANZ), Alexander Turnbull Library, 58-78 Molesworth Street, Wellington, NEW ZEALAND, laganz.org.nz

Sipe, L. (Ed.). (1980). National Gay Archives Library Classification System. Library Committee, National Gay Archives.

Michel: "Nine major classes, with geographic, religious and form subdivisions." Developed to describe International Gay & Lesbian Archives, based on Jim Kepner's personal collection; the collection merged with ONE in 1994. See Kepner 1998. Unpublished. Contact Dee Michel, 95 Ridgewood Terrace, Northampton, MA 01060, (413) 303-0489, deeamichel@comcast.net

White, D. A. (1977). Homosexuality and Gay Liberation: An Expansion of the Library of Congress Classification Schedule. Hennepin County Library Cataloging Bulletin, 28, 35-38.

"While designed as an elaboration of the HQ 76 area of the Library of Congress Classification, the system could be used to stand on its own, by simply using the numbers Moore [1985] has created after the decimal point" (Michel).

   Periodical Indexes

Garber, L. (Ed.). (1993). Lesbian sources: A bibliography of periodical articles, 1970- 1990. New York: Garland.

LGBT Life [subscription-based electronic resource]. EBSCO Information Services.

Potter, C. (Ed.). (1986). The lesbian periodicals index. Tallahassee, FL: Naiad Press.

Ridinger, R. B. M. (Ed.) (1987). An index to The advocate: The national gay newsmagazine, 1967-1982. Los Angeles: Liberation Publications.

   Encyclopedias

Dynes, W. R., et al (1990). Encyclopedia of homosexuality. New York: Garland.

glbtq: An encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer culture. Internet. Online at http://www.glbtq.com.

Haggerty, G. (2000). Gay histories and cultures: An encyclopedia. New York: Garland. Stein, M. (2004). Encyclopedia of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history in America. New York: Scribner's.

Zimmerman, B. (2000). Lesbian histories and cultures: An encyclopedia. New York: Garland.

   Secondary Literature

Berman, S. (1971). Prejudices and antipathies: a tract on the LC subject heads concerning people. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.

Cornog, M. (1991). Providing access to materials on sexuality. In M. Cornog (Ed.), Libraries, erotica, pornography (pp. 166-87). Phoenix: Oryx Press.

Eichenlaub, N. (2003). Silencing Sandy: The censoring of libraries' foremost activist. In Roberto, K., & West, J. (Eds.), Revolting Librarians redux: Radical librarians speak out (pp. 120-128). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Gittings, B. (1998). Gays in Library Land: The Gay and Lesbian Task Force of the American Library Association: The first fifteen years. In J. V. Carmichael (Ed.), Daring to find our names: The search for lesbigay library history (pp. 81-93). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Gough, C. (1998). The Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Task Force of the American Library Association: A chronology of activities, 1970-1995. In J. V. Carmichael (Ed.), Daring to find our names: The search for lesbigay library history (pp. 121-132). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Johnson, M. (2007). Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender subject access: history and current practice. MLS thesis, Queens College. Online at http://www.lib.washington.edu/msd/norestriction/b58062361.pdf.

Johnson, M. [2008]. A hidden history of queer subject access. In Roberto, K. R. (Ed.), Radical cataloging. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland, forthcoming.

Kepner, J. (1998). An accidental institution: How and why a gay and lesbian archives? In J. V. Carmichael (Ed.), Daring to find our names: The search for lesbigay library history (pp. 175-182). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Marshall, J. K. (1972). LC labeling: An indictment. In C. West and E. Katz (Eds.), Revolting librarians. San Francisco: Booklegger Press.

Parkinson, P., & Parkin, C. (1998). Safe harbour: The origin and growth of the Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand. In J. V. Carmichael (Ed.), Daring to find our names: The search for lesbigay library history (pp. 176-201). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Ridinger, R. B. M. (1997). Playing in the attic: Indexing and preserving the gay press. In Kester, N. G. (Ed.), Liberating minds: The stories and professional lives of gay, lesbian, and bisexual librarians and their advocates. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Wolf, S. (1972). Sex and the single cataloger: New thoughts on some unthinkable subjects. In C. West and E. Katz (Eds.), Revolting librarians. San Francisco: Booklegger Press.