Subject Access to Materials in Online Library Catalogues
The online library catalogue is one way that academic libraries provide convenient and consistent access to materials for researchers. Through an author or title search, the library catalogue is easily able to direct researchers in North African studies to a known item that is part of the library collection. The library catalogue, however, does not work as well as a discovery tool, and it is difficult for researchers to know when they have carried out an exhaustive search if they do not already have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the topic, as when they venture out of their discipline. Subject headings created by the Library of Congress indicate a work's aboutness and can enhance findability in the online library environment. They are the (rough) basis for French-language subject headings in both Canada and France. Grammatical structures used in Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) terms are not intuitive, and inconsistencies can render subject headings difficult to browse if one is unfamiliar with a discipline. Works of fiction are not usually assigned subject headings or genre headings in research libraries in the United States, making an unknown work of fiction largely invisible to a searcher unfamiliar with the author or title of the work. For these reasons, North African studies scholars may encounter issues when doing library research of discovery and searches outside of their usual disciplines. This paper briefly explores a research question relating to the use of terms in the LCSH list and the French subject heading list, the Répertoire d'autorité-matière encyclopédique et alphabétique unifié (RAMEAU). It also briefly addresses the question of online library catalogue access. Two studies of subject headings relating to Moroccan literary criticism are presented and implications are discussed. Conclusions indicate that researchers attempting an exhaustive library search should not only rely on the online library catalogue, but should seek assistance from librarians and peers and should physically browse the shelves when exploring library resources in an unfamiliar discipline.