QUESTION: Alternative subject thesauri

question / pregunta: 

I'm not sure if this is an appropriate "Radical Reference" question but I'll give it a try. I'm currently cataloguing a zine collection for the Anchor Archive Zine Library in Halifax. Each zine record has a broad category plus multiple subject terms/keywords describing the content. Assigning subject terms to each zine is challenging, and I think it would be a lot easier if I had a thesaurus of subject terms to refer to, such as Library of Congress Subject Headings but for collections of alternative media. I've tried looking up online catalogues for other zine libraries and alternative bookstores for lists of subject headings, but I haven't found anything yet. Most don't seem to index their content by subject, which is probably smart considering how time consuming it is. I've also posted a message on the Zine Librarians Yahoo Group listserv but I didn't get many responses. Do you have any other suggestions of where I could find alternative thesauri, for alternative media in general or in specific subject areas, such as feminism and anarchism? I would really appreciate any help you can give me. Thanks!


Hey Amanda, Your message to the Zine Librarians list is in my inbox. I've been meaning to respond!

This is something we've struggled with in Radical Reference, too. Right now we're just free tagging, but I think some of us feel that as librarians, we should be using a thesaurus.

We considered using the Sandy Berman & friends' thesaurus from the Hennepin County Public Library in Minnesota, but it stopped in 2002, so there's a lot of ground to make up. Plus it's not necessarily in a form that is yet easy to handle.

Another thesaurus we've discussed is that of the Alternative Press Index. They continue to update it and a couple of years ago agreed to sell us access to it, for a very reasonable price. The main thing that stopped us was not having the local energy or expertise to turn whatever they would export (I think from InDesign?) into something we could use.

Finally, and I know it's a stretch sometimes, I've been using LCSH at Barnard and keeping track of the subject headings I apply on a published spreadsheet. I would be glad to make that a shared document if you wanted to collaborate. I could also imagine this being the basis for a blend of LCSH and your own zine-onomy. When no heading seems appropriate or the one that exists doesn't really serve, you could note that on the sheet, cross-reference it, and make a new heading that does work for you. Does that make sense?

And one more thing--there's a library school project zine thesaurus on the Zine Librarians group file page. I assume Courtney would be happy for you to use it. I have another one by a different library school student in my files. I will email it to you separately and to anyone else who asks.

If I didn't interpret your question correctly, or if you have follow up, please don't hesitate to post again!