Searching for Subdivision Authority Records

Question: How do I search for subdivision authority records?

The "Staff Subject Subdivision Search" cannot be used to search for authority records in Orbis. The reason for this is simple: Orbis does not have any authority records for subdivisions. This may change in the future but, for now, subdivision authority records can only be found in LCDB, our LC resource file.

In NOTIS, searching the LC resource file for subdivision authority records was easy for two reasons. First, you could limit your searches to authority records. Second, you could distinguish among various types of authority records in the results list because the MARC tag was included in the index display. For example, this NOTIS index display told us that "Periodicals" was valid as a topical subdivision (180), a form subdivision (185), or a subject heading (150):


In Voyager, searching for subdivision authority records in LCDB can be frustrating. You would think it would be easier because the "Staff Subject Subdivision Search" is devoted solely to subdivisions. However, the index is not limited to authority records. It searches subdivisions in authority records and subdivisions in bibliographic records at the same time. If you think about how many bibliographic records contain a common subdivision like "Periodicals," you realize that your search may take a long long time.

Here is what happens when you search LCDB for an authority record for the subdivision "Periodicals." I don't recommend that you try this yourself, by the way! From the search box, you click on the "remote" button and select LCDB as your database. You choose the "Staff Subject Subdivision Search" and type in "Periodicals." Then you wait. And wait. And wait.

Eventually, you got the message "The search was truncated" and you are given 10,000 records to look through. Scrolling through these records, you find two that are labelled "Subdivision/Auth," meaning they correspond to subdivision authority records. However, these two records are not at the top of the list, they do not file together, and there is no way to distinguish between the authority record for the form subdivision and the authority record for the topical subdivision (unless you actually open them up).

Given these difficulties, you might want to limit your use of the "Staff Subject Subdivision Search" to the less commonly used subdivisions (e.g. "Coronation" or "Bonsai collections" or "African American troops"). These types of searches go fairly quickly. Try one for yourself! But, if you need authoritative information about a more commonly used subdivision (e.g. "Bibliography" or "Encyclopedia" or "History"), it might be easier to consult the Subject Cataloging Manual in Cataloger's Desktop or the national authority file in OCLC. In OCLC, you can search using the index called "Subdivision Headings (sb:)". Subdivision authority records are NOT available via LC Web Authorities at this time.

Finally, it is possible to limit your searches in LCDB using filters. This is helpful if you know you want a particular type of subdivision (e.g. a form subdivision). However, searches for commonly used subdivisions will still tend to be slow.