Subjective Access

“Subjective access may not guarantee that I’m right about the character of the state I’m conscious of myself as being in, but on this view it does ensure that I’m the one who’s in the state if anybody is.”

— David M. Rosenthal, from Consciousness and mind (oclc: 61200643, page 355)

In EAD, we file subjects under a tag known as <controlaccess>, which is short for “controlled access headings.” And, since we’re using these for access (just as they were so used in the card catalogs of old, and occasionally still current), they should certainly be hyperlinks, right?

So, in what state are the subjects of our finding aids actually in, and in what state should they be?

In our case, at ECU, we’re in the process of updating all of our old subjects into Library of Congress Subject Headings, like this:

Sinbad (dog) + more

Sinbad (dog) + more

This isn’t an easy process, but it does mean that, once done, all of our finding aids will “play” nicely with all of the objects in our Library Catalog as well as all of the objects in our Digital Repository. But, for the time being, everything that’s listed in our “controlled access headings” is listed as plain text (without even, at this time, the ability to restrict a keyword search to those fields).

After the update, however, not only will we feature more advanced search options on an advanced search page, but we’ll also turn all of our subjects into hyperlinks. But this begs the question:

to what should we link?

At first, this was “obvious” to me, but after now having looked around at other institutions, it seems that there are a few different solutions, which I’ll list below:

(1) Link nowhere (The option that’s most often employed, and the one that we’ll be moving away from)

(2) Link to the rest of the finding aid database (subject to subject)

(3) Link to the rest of the finding aid database (subject to keywords)

(4) Link to the library catalog, which would include the rest of the finding aid database (subject to subject)

Right now, I’m currently leaning toward a fifth option, at least for the time being (which is just a combination of options 2 and 4):

(5) Link to finding aid database (subject to subject), and then on the page of search results, also include a link that will extend that same subject search to our library catalog and also to our digital repository.

I’d love to hear other options and what other people think may be the best route (though, in my opinion, that may largely come down to the size of your collections and also to the extent that they’ve been cataloged in some normalized fashion).

My final thought about all of this is how to extend it beyond our own collections, into larger EAD databases like ArchiveGrid. Wouldn’t it be useful to a researcher if a subject in a local finding aid could be extended to repositories worldwide? In this case, though, it would definitely be easier to follow Columbia’s example so as to not get involved with messy crosswalks and the like.

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