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Spanish Subject Headings in ILLINET Online

Robert L. Mowery

Did you know you can use Spanish subject headings when searching ILLINET Online by subject? A search by the subject heading COMPUTADORAS, for example, yields more than 40 hits, while a search by the heading INDIOS DE MEXICO yields more than 120 hits. Few Illinois librarians seem to be aware of this capability.

Although Spanish language Bilindex subject headings have been available for more than a decade, the library literature has virtually ignored their existence. I will provide a brief introduction to these headings, identify several Illinois libraries which currently assign these headings, present several examples of these headings, and survey various prospects and problems associated with these headings.

Bilindex Subject Headings

In 1984 the California Spanish Language Data Base published Bilindex: A Bilingual Spanish-English Subject Heading List: Spanish Equivalents to Library of Congress Subject Headings 1 This volume provides a 394-page Spanish-English subject heading list which contains thousands of Spanish subject headings and thousands of Spanish cross-references. This volume also provides a 106-page English-Spanish subject heading list. Besides these two main lists, this volume provides lists of Library of Congress (LC) subdivisions with Spanish equivalents, children's literature headings with Spanish equivalents, geographic names and Spanish personal names.

The goal of this volume is to provide "authorized" Spanish equivalents for English LC subject headings. The establishment of these Spanish equivalents was a major undertaking, for the task required five years of "collecting, analyzing, refining, and applying Spanish language subject terms."2 This task was complicated by the fact that California's Spanish-speaking population (like Illinois' Spanish-speaking population) is not a homogeneous population but a population possessing dialectical, cultural and regional differences. Whenever several Spanish terms seemed to be equally valid, the editors opted for a "hierarchy of choice."3 In addition to Roberto Cabello-Argandona, the Executive Director of the California Spanish Language Data Base, the 1984 Bilindex volume names more than thirty persons who contributed and evaluated these subject headings. Most of these persons were members of library staffs in northern and southern California.

The impetus for the creation of the California Spanish Language Data Base came from librarians in the Oakland area. The Bilindex volume updates and expands several earlier Spanish subject heading lists, especially the Lista de encabezamientos de materia para bibliotecas published by the Pan American Union4 and the Lista de encabezamientos de materia compiled by Gloria Escamilla Gonzalez at the Biblioteca Nacional de Mexico.5

The 1984 Bilindex list has been updated by two supplements, a 377-page supplement covering additions and changes approved during 1985-19866 and a 470-page supplement covering additions and changes made during 1987-1990.7 While the first supplement contains both Spanish-English and English-Spanish lists, the second supplement has only a Spanish-English list; this factor hampers its use by catalogers whose native language is English. Though a third supplement covering 1991-1992 was announced during 1992, it has not yet been published.

Libraries Which Assign Bilindex Headings

Since LC does not assign Bilindex subject headings, other libraries have assigned the Bilindex headings found in ILLINET Online cataloging records. While many of these libraries are in California, the Southwest and Florida, several are in Illinois. The Chicago Public Library has been assigning Bilindex headings to Spanish language acquisitions since


1987.8 One Bilindex heading is typically assigned for each LC subject heading in a cataloging record, with the Bilindex heading representing the Spanish equivalent of the LC heading. The Gail Borden Public Library District of Elgin and the Rockford Public Library are also assigning Bilindex headings to their Spanish acquisitions.

Examples of Bilindex Headings

While some of the Spanish subject headings in the ILLINET Online database consist simply of headings found in the Bilindex list (such as COM-PUTADORAS or NOVELA HISTORICA), others (such as EDUCACION—ESTADOS UNIDOS) contain not only the "basic" Bilindex heading (EDUCACION) but also one or more subdivisions which parallel subdivisions found in LC subject headings. Examples of both types of headings are listed below:

















All of these headings appear in one or more ILLINET Online cataloging records. These headings also appear in cataloging records in other databases, including OCLC and many of the library catalogs accessible via the Internet.

Though some of the Bilindex headings in the ILLINET Online database have been assigned by Illinois libraries, others have been assigned by other libraries such as the Miami-Dade Public Library System and Texas A&M University-Kingsville. The latter library not only assigns Bilindex headings to Spanish language acquisitions but also assigns them to selected English acquisitions, such as works on Spain, Latin America and Mexican Americans.

It should be added that MILO, the menu-style ILLINET Online user interface, defaults to words in titles when a requested subject heading does not yield any hits. Even though the ILLINET Online database does not have any cataloging records with the subject heading NICARAGUA—POLITICA, for example, a MILO search by this heading retrieves titles which contain these two words.

Prospects and Problems

The publication of the original volume of Bilindex headings was supported by the U.S. Department of Education under the provisions of the Library Services and Construction Act (LSCA) administered in California by the State Librarian. Though the publication of the first supplement was also supported by LSCA funds, the publication of the second supplement was not supported by public funds. The unavailability of these funds has cast a cloud over the future of the Bilindex project. The California Spanish Language Data Base also published Lector, a review journal for Spanish and bilingual materials. This journal has ceased publication.

Lacking a well-funded central authority to establish and publish Bilindex additions and changes, the libraries which assign Bilindex headings have had to maintain their own files of local additions and changes. The Chicago Public Library, for example, maintains a local file containing over 2,200 entries.9

Aside from a few reviews of the original Bilindex volume,10 the library literature has virtually ignored the existence of Bilindex headings. This factor has surely contributed to librarians' lack of awareness concerning the existence of these headings. Yet these headings provide a potentially important means by which Spanish-speaking patrons can find the library materials they are seeking. This service should not be minimized; Marielena Fina has recently documented the obstacles that English language subject headings pose for Spanish-speaking library patrons.11 Bilindex headings can also assist bilingual patrons who are more comfortable using Spanish headings than English headings.

The libraries which are assigning Bilindex subject headings are to be applauded for their sensitivity to their patrons' needs. Libraries which do not assign Bilindex headings can take advantage of the existence of these headings if they can give patrons easy access to databases whose cataloging records contain these headings.

End Notes

1. Bilindex: A Bilingual Spanish-English Subject Heading List: Spanish Equivalents to Library of Congress Subject Headings-Una lista bilingu'e en espan'ol e ingle's de encabezamientos de materia: equioalentes en espan'ol de los encabezamientos de la Biblioteca del Congreso de Estados Unidos de Norteame'rica (Oakland, CA: California


Spanish Language Data Base, 1984). This volume has appeared in two editions, one with the supplementary lists at the front and the other with the same lists at the back.

2. Ibid., iii.

3. Ibid.

4. Ed. Carmen Rovira and Jorge Aguayo (3 vol; Washington: Union Panamericana, 1967).

5. (2nd ed.; Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Institute de Investigaciones Bibliograficas, 1978).

6. Bilindex: Supplement I, 1985-1986 (Berkeley, CA: Floricanto Press, an Affiliate of Hispanex, Inc., 1986).

7. Bilindex: Supplement II, 1987-1990 (Encino, CA: Floricanto Press, 1992).

8. Readers who use Chicago Public's Harold Washington Library Center may be mystified by this claim, for the Center's OPACs do not currently support searches by Bilindex headings. It is anticipated that this problem will be corrected in the near future.

9. The author wishes to thank Richard Stewart, Assistant Head of the Catalog Division, and Kenneth Javonovich, Head of the Romance Languages Unit, for explaining the use of Bilindex headings at the Chicago Public Library.

10. A review written by Emilio Zamora appeared in Lector 2, May June 1984, 33; a review by Catherine M. Pilley in Catholic Library World 56, March 1985, 343; and a review by J'Ann Peacock Alvarado in Public Library Quarterly 6, Summer 1985, 83.

11. Marielena Fina, "The Role of Subject Headings in Access to Information: The Experience of One Spanish-Speaking Patron," Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 17 (1/2) 1993, 267-274; idem, "The Role of Subject Headings in Access to Information: The Experience of One Spanish-Speaking Patron," in Languages of the World: Cataloging Issues and Problems, ed. Martin D. Joachim (New York: Haworth, 1993) 267-274.

*Robert L. Mowery is the Archivist and Special Collections Librarian at Sheean Library, Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, Illinois.


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