Category Archives: Library

Subject Headings in the Library Catalog

We are trying to make our subject headings more consistent, both within our catalog and with the broader library community.  For the library nerds among you, we are basing our headings on the OCLC/Library of Congress FAST system (Faceted Application of Subject Terminology,) which is a simplified version of the Library of Congress subject heading system.

Most of the time, FAST subject headings look a lot like you’d expect – Kansas, is, not surprisingly, listed as Kansas.  But the unpleasantness in Europe from 1914 to 1918 is not called World War I; to the Library of Congress and FAST, it is World War (1914 – 1918).  Our librarian made an executive decision to call this World War I (1914 – 1918) in our catalog.

We have adopted one convention to reflect our library’s focus on genealogists.  Instead of having subject headings for biographies and genealogies and profiles, we use the single heading Families.  So, a book that falls under the topic Families might be a full family history, or it might include biographies or profiles.  The subject heading Genealogy, on the other hand, is used for books and periodicals containing miscellaneous genealogy data; we use it mostly for genealogy society periodicals.

Our master list of subject headings is always evolving, but you can find a link to the most current list on the main page of the catalog.

Online Resources in the Library Catalog

When you are looking at a record for an item, be sure to look at the upper left side of the page, just below the subject headings.  There may be a section for Online Resources, which may include a link to a full digitized copy, an online index, or other web resource.  Some of these will link to the MHGS website (such as the Wichita Eagle & Beacon obituary indexes) and some will link elsewhere.  There are a lot of old books that have digitized, and periodicals that are only available digitally, and we are adding links to them in the catalog as we find them.

You may also notice that some of the items in a record are called online resources.  These refer to digital items, not things in our library (notice that they don’t mention a shelving location or have call numbers.)  In the notes section, you will see “Read the book” — click this link to open a new browser tab showing the digital book or journal.  Some of these digital items may duplicate physical ones in our library, and some will be new.

If you find a digital resource we should add, please email us the link!

More Library Catalog Search Tips

When we converted the catalog from the old software to this new one, we found a lot of consistency issues in abbreviations (MHGS vs Midwest Historical & Genealogical Society), author names (Smith, Albert vs Smith, A.) and subject headings (marriages vs marriage records.)  This makes some of the cool features of our new system less effective.  We’re working to clean things up, but with more than 10,000 records, it’s going to take some time.  In the meantime, what you can do with the catalog depends a little on what you’re searching for.

If you do a search for something Kansas-related, such as Kansas Sedgwick County, you’ll see several ways to refine your search in the left column of the search result page – you’ll see Authors, Item Types, Locations (where in the library), Places (where in the world), and Topics.  These are called facets and work pretty much like similar columns on amazon.com or other big websites with search functions.  If you click on Land Records under Topics, you’ll just see books that have been cataloged with Land Records in the subject headings.  That doesn’t mean, of course, that these are the only Sedgwick County books that mention land records; these are just the books that a) have land records as a significant topic and b) have been entered that way in the catalog.

If a set of records, say the results of a search for Ohio, haven’t yet been cleaned up, you will only see Authors, Item Types and Locations in the left column.  The search will still look at subject headings for these books, but they don’t show up in the facets yet.  If you want to see if there are any books that focus on Ohio land records, you will need to do a search for Ohio land records.

You can tell a book’s records have been cleaned up if the subject headings are in upper and lower case – our old system had a thing for subject headings in ALL CAPS!

New Online Library Catalog

MHGS has switched to a new library catalog that offers online access for everyone. To search the catalog, select the Library option in the left side menu, and follow the link to Search our library catalog.

When you arrive at the catalog (which in the library world is called an OPAC, for Online Public Access Catalog), you will see a search box at the top and a set of login boxes at the right. We haven’t set up membership logins yet, so ignore that part. You don’t need to log in to search the catalog.

The search box at the top of the main page, and most other pages, is a keyword search, which means that the catalog will look for your search words in the title, author and subject headings of each entry. Most of the time, that’s really all you need. There are a few times when you might need more control, in which case the Advanced Search menu gives you a lot more precision. You might use this if you’re looking for Smith County and don’t want to wade through all the books authored by Smiths; you could use the Advanced Search menu to look for Smith in titles and subjects but not authors. You don’t need to worry about capitalization.

Remember to run searches for your surnames of interest as well as geographic locations, but not all in one search. To see if we might have relevant items for your Jacksons in Reno County, KS, you should run one search for Jackson, which would find books about the Jackson family, some of which might mention Reno County, and another search for Kansas Reno County which would find books about marriage records or cemeteries in Reno County that might mention Jacksons. If you search for Jackson Kansas Reno County, you’re asking to see just the books in which the Jacksons and Reno County are both featured prominently enough to be in the title or subject headings – and while we do have some books like that, they’re in the minority.