Sometimes, I amuse myself by searching the library catalogs subject headings. The minutia of these fascinate me. I first discovered their delight when reserving a season of the television show the Office, Season Two. Are you aware that one of the subject headings for the show is “Clerks–Pennsylvania–Scranton–Drama”? Another is “Office Politics–Pennsylvania–Scranton–Drama” But here’s where the electronic catalog is much more fun than the card catalog. By a single click, I can find out how many other titles have the same detailed subject matter. In the case of the above subject matters, there are five other titles–all seasons of the Office.
But let us follow a trail of subject headings and see where they lead us. I’ve just put on reserve Eleanor Roosevelt’s 1960 book You Learn by Living, which has the intriguing subject of “Conduct of life.” There are 797 other titles following in the subject heading from Las 3 preguntes: Quien soy? Adonde voy? Con quien? to Zig Zigler’s Life Lifters: Moments of Inspiration for Living Life Better. But going back to the subject heading, I see there are some other intriguing subjects nearby. First off, the catalog helpfully tells me there are 37 related subjects from “Benevolence” through “Folly” “Self-Interest” and “Reliability.” But there are also a host of different categories of “Conduct of Life” from 15 separate categories for African Americans (boys, children, teenagers, men, Mississippi, women, quotations, etc.) to “Conduct of Life, Celebrities United States” which is at the bottom of the page. Clicking to the next page would undoubtedly open up a whole world of “Conduct of Life” but we’ll continue our journey with “Conduct of Life Anecdotes” with 19 entries.
The entries in this contain a few Chicken Soup for the Soul books and two different titles about how John O’Hurley has learned about life from dogs. But we will click on the title: Artistic License: Three Centuries of Good Writing and Bad Behavior. This gives us three other subject headings, we’ll go with “Authors–American, Anecdotes.” This gives us three other titles, two of which have to do with animals: dogs and horses. Apparently a lot of American Authors write about animals. By clicking on Cold Noses, Warm Hearts: Beloved Dog Stories by Great Authors we will then find ourselves with new subject headings. I’m going to take a more general one, to try and get us out of this dog trail and so I will choose “Authors–Anecdotes” which gives me three more books.
This time I’ll follow the trail of It Takes a Certain Type to be a Writer which only gives me one new heading, which I must follow: “Authorship–Miscellenea” which sends me only one new book, Lucky Break: How I Became a Writer. From there I can follow “Creation (Literary, artistic, etc.)” which seems to be a broader category and it is, with 137 entries.
From there I can scroll and click until I find a book that interests me enough to put it on hold. The Multnomah County Library system has many small branches and one big library. Growing up, I usually found books to read at the Boise Public Library by wandering the stacks and grabbing what looked good to me. Now that the stacks at my local branch are much smaller and our library’s hold system is so awesome, I tend to take recommendations from friends, newspapers and magazine and put them on hold. Scrolling through the subject headings is a new way for me to wander the stacks, at least virtually.