Order of Headings in Search Results

Question: How are headings organized in search results?

Voyager does not always do a very good job of organizing and displaying search results. It certainly does not follow the LC Filing Rules! The system simply files headings character by character according to some very basic rules: Nothing comes before something. Numbers come before letters. Letters are arranged in alphabetical order. MARC subfield codes are ignored.

This means that the heading you are trying to find might not be where you expect. Here are a couple of examples, one showing a typical Staff Name Heading Search and the other showing a typical Staff Subject Heading Search, but keep in mind that other search results will be organized in the same way.

Example 1: Staff Name Heading Search

A search on the heading "Smith John" might retrieve:

Smith, John
Smith, John, 1927-
Smith, John Albert
Smith, John, ca. 1735-1824
Smith, John Charles
Smith, John, d. 1684
Smith, John Day, 1845-1933
Smith, John F.
Smith, John, fl. 1794.
Smith, John Francis.

You might expect to find all the names in the form "Smith, John, [date]" to be filed together in one sequence, followed by all the names in the form "Smith, John [middle name]." But this does not always happen. Date fields in personal name headings sometimes include letters (b.=born, ca.=circa, d.=died, and fl.=flourished) and these letters file as if they were middle names or middle initials.

Example 2 : Staff Subject Heading Search

Subject headings are also arranged in a strictly alphabetical way, but they can be even more confusing because dashes between subdivisions do not display. For example, a search on the topic "Paper" might retrieve:

Paper airplanes
Paper Analysis
Paper bags
Paper Bibliography
Paper clips
Paper England History

If the dashes actually displayed the list would look like this:

Paper airplanes
Paper bags
Paper clips

But even if you manage to visualize the headings this way, the display is still not very intuitive. All of the subdivided forms of the topical heading "Paper" should file together at the beginning. Instead, they are interspersed with other headings that just happen to begin with the word "Paper".

Remember to keep the Voyager filing rules in mind when scanning your search results. The heading you want might be further down the list than you would expect. Sometimes you'll have to scroll!

[Jan. 2007 update: Starting with Voyager 6.1, dashes are now displayed before subdivisions in the "Staff Subject Heading" and "Staff Subject Subdivision" indexes but not in these indexes: "Special Collections Subject"; "Subject: Genre"; "Subjects"; and "Names".]

Last modified: 
Thursday, October 15, 2015 - 1:39pm