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Last Updated: May 23, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Library of Congress Subject Headings

The Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) provides an alphabetical listing of authorized or preferred terms established by the Library of Congress. These "official" terms make library catalog searching more productive and efficient.

Most names of places and people (i.e., proper nouns) are not listed in LCSH; however, they may be used as subject headings.

USE References

USE references are made FROM an unauthorized or non-preferred term TO an authorized or preferred term. They are made for synonyms and for older and variant forms of headings. For example,

  • Spinet: USE Harpsichord
  • National anthems: USE National songs

Components of LCSH Entries

The following kinds of information may be found in subject headings:

  • The authorized Subject heading is in boldface.
  • The CODE (May Subd Geog) or (Not Subd Geog) (in italics) indicates whether or not the heading can be subdivided geographically.
  • LC class numbers are often given when there is a close correspondence between the subject heading and the LC classification. Use this number to search the alphabetical Library of Congress call number index in the online catalog or browse the shelves for materials on your subject.
  • Scope notes give guidance in the meaning or application of the heading.
  • References express the relationship between terms:
UF Use For (Equivalency)
BT Broader Terms (Hierarchical)
NT Narrower Terms (Hierarchical)
RT Related Terms (Associative)
SA See Also (A general reference to an entire group of headings or subdivisions rather than to individual headings or subdivisions.)

Example LCSH entry

Jazz Subject heading
(May Subd Geog) Code
[M1366 (Music)] LC Class
[ML3505.8-ML3509 History and criticism] LC CLass

Here are entered jazz instrumental works for two or more performers. Songs performed in jazz style by a vocalist or vocal, with or without accompaniment, are entered under Jazz vocals.

UF Jazz -- United States
Jive (Music)
Saxophone and piano music (Jazz)
[Former heading]
Use For
BT African Americans -- Music Broader Terms
RT Washboard band music Related Term
SA Headings for solo instrumental music followed by the parenthetical qualifier "(Jazz)," e.g. Piano music (Jazz); also headings that include the term "jazz ensemble" as a medium for performance, e.g. Concertos (Flute with jazz ensemble); and headings for musical instruments with the subdivisions Methods (Jazz) or Studies and exercises (Jazz) See Also
NT Big band music
Boogie Woogie
Bop (Music)
Dixieland music
Instrumentation and orchestration (Dance Orchestra)
Jazz vocals
Latin jazz
Swing (Music)
Western swing (Music)
Narrower Terms

Jazz -- To 1921

  • 1921-1930
  • Interpretation (Phrasing, dynamics, etc.)
  • Lead sheets
  • Religious aspects


Subdivisions combine a number of different concepts into a single subject heading. Only a fraction of all possible heading and subdivision combinations are listed in LCSH.

There are four types of subdivisions:

  1. Topical: e.g., Musical theater--Production and direction
  2. Form: e.g., Music--Bibliography ; Sonatas (Violin and piano)--Scores and parts
  3. Chronological: Jazz--1921-1930
  4. Geographic: Folk music--Thailand

For details on what subdivisions are used for composers, go to the alphabetical list of subjects and look up the pattern heading "Wagner, Richard" for some of the possibilities; for musical instruments, look up "Piano"; for music compositions, look up "Operas".

See the "Table of Pattern Headings" for other terms used as patterns for possible subdivisions. (Found in introductory information for the LCSH in Vol. 1.)

Choice of Terms in LCSH

Frequently, LC subject headings are not the terms most commonly used. Examples of how different the terms follow:

Common terms LCSH
Piano duets Piano music (4 hands)
Flute and bassoon music Bassoon and flute music
Film music Motion picture music

When searching for chamber music for specific combinations of instruments, it often helps to search LCSH to find the proper order in which to enter the instruments.

Singular and Plural

Often LCSH uses the singular of words to denote the treatment of the word as a subject and the plural of the same word to denote individual examples of that subject. This means that, searching under the term Opera, you will find books and other materials dealing with the subject of opera. Under the term Operas, you will find individual operas (full scores, vocal scores, and audio and video recordings).

More help at the Library of Congress Authorities Website

The Library of Congress maintains a website where one can search its subject, name, title and name/title authority records. Use these to search for materials in the library catalog, in WorldCat, and in other library catalogs.


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