How to choose subject terms for zinesby anchorarchivist...
The hardest field to fill out when cataloguing a zine is the Subjects field. This field is for keywords that describe the content of the zine you're cataloguing. Later on, the subject terms will help other people find the zine through searching or browsing in the catalogue. Here are some tips for choosing good subject terms.
Suggested steps to follow:
Some general rules
How specific should I be?
Choose words that are balanced between general and specific. It's important to be general so that our list of subject terms does not become huge and unwieldy. Yet, you also want to make sure that people can find information about specific topics. It depends on the topic, though.
With some topics it's better to be specific. For example, we have a lot of zines in the zine library about feminism and women's issues, so only using a general terms like "feminism" or "women's issues" is often not helpful because that would describe a lot of different zines. Instead, you may want to use more specific terms like "women's health" or "body image."
With other topics that are not as common in zines, it's better to be more general. For example, there may be a zine about different types of marine animals. It's probably the only zine about sea cucumbers, so it would be better to use a general term like "animals" or "marine animals" or "sea creatures" rather than "sea cucumbers."
Sometimes you also need to be more general because people may never think of searching for a really specific term that a zine uses. For example, instead of "radical kids," you could use "children" and instead of "rope-making," you could use "rope."
Another time that it's better to be specific is when a word can mean different things in different contexts. For example, the word "organizing" can mean a lot of different things. Instead you can make it more specific by using a term like "political organizing" or "community organizing."
Think about how the word would look out of the context of the zine you're cataloguing. Imagine a user coming across the term in the catalogue, on its own. Does the term still mean what it means in the context of the zine? If not, you'll probably want to use a more specific term or leave the term out altogether.
How do I choose between different words that mean the same thing?
If there are different words you can use that mean the same thing, check the Zine Thesaurus or search in the catalogue to see if one word has already been chosen over another. It's important to consistently use the same word. For example, if some people use the word "bicycles" and other people use the word "bikes," someone who searches for "bicycles" is only going to find half of the zines in the library about bicycles.
Choose words that are most commonly used by the zine library's community. Sometimes this means choosing colloquial words over more formal expressions, as long as they're still descriptive enough. It can also mean using different words than what's used in the zine itself. For example, use “birth control” instead of “contraception.” Also try to use words that are culturally sensitive.
Do I need to include a subject term for every topic covered in the zine?
No! Some zines cover way too much to include a term for every topic, and some zines cover topics that people would never search for, like "Nazi love triangle" or "midwinter harvest."
It is okay to leave terms out and allow people to discover content serendipitously. If a zine covers a lot of subjects, try to choose general terms that describe a few specific subjects at once. Or if you know there are a lot of other zines in the library that cover alternative menstrual products or vegetarian cooking in depth and the zine you're cataloguing only has 1 page on the subject, leave out these subject terms and instead choose ones that are more unique to this zine or that the zine covers in more detail.
To have fewer subject terms overall in the catalogue, you can try combining terms to come up with something that describes the concept.
Resources for choosing subject terms
Salt Lake City Public Library Zine Catalogue