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61st IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 20-25, 1995

Subject Indexing Practices in Turkey

Dr. Gülbün Baydur, Associate Professor, Department of Library Science, Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey


Criticisms of the use of foreign classification systems or subject heading lists in the systematic and alphabetical catalogues in Turkish libraries are discussed. In the issuing of bibliographic information, problems that Turkish subject entries in indices create are emphasized. Indexing practices of the Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK) are presented as examples.


Indexing practices are the foundations of library catalogues and bibliographic databases. Subject access, either by a catalogue card, OPAC or printed catalogue is based, to a great extent, on verbal subject headings. In the preparation of alphabetical subject catalogues, the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) is used in most instances. In university and research libraries, LCSH is translated into Turkish and assigned after the necessary adaptations and expansions have been made. In the libraries of some universities, which employ English as their instructional medium, the original list is used after making some adjustments to the subject headings for Turkey. In both cases, libraries prepare their own authority files. The translation of the LCSH into Turkish began at Hacettepe University at the end of the 1960s. Each new entry that is prepared for the library catalogue is first translated into Turkish and then the necessary cross-references made. The general library catalogue and the English-Turkish, Turkish-English authority files are provided separately. These files, which have been in existence for years, are reproduced and distributed to the appropriate libraries.

Like LCSH, the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH), after translation into Turkish, is also used for indexing in medical libraries in Turkey.

The use of foreign subject heading lists or classification systems in Turkish libraries is criticized from several points of view:

  1. Criticisms regarding terminology
    The incompleteness of subjects with respect to Turkish culture can be observed in the terms in the original list. When the headings are translated into Turkish, popular and scientific words are used as well.
  2. Structural criticisms
    As in subject headings, classification schemes also lack main and sub-topics about Turkey, e.g., the non-existence of a Turkish law scheme or deficiencies in the tables about Turkish geography, etc. On the other hand, when LCSH is strictly applied, the structure of main and sub-headings create complex strings for user access. Detailed headings also cause difficulty for librarians in filing arrangements.
  3. Criticisms concerning translation of headings
    During indexing, translation requires intensive effort, manpower and considerable time. As with LCSH, repetition of translation processes in different libraries is criticized.

Private libraries do not consider general subject heading lists sufficient for their users. Some of them create new controlled lists within the scope of their own subjects. Special subject arrangements in free language are also produced, e.g., the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce Library. On the other hand, some libraries use established and internationally applied lists for their subjects.

A systematic catalogue, along with a functional index, is possible for Turkish libraries that do not yet have printed subject heading lists. In the production of such a subject catalogue, terminology can be rapidly revised by correcting the index. Consequently, the general catalogues of some libraries in Turkey, like the National Library, have been arranged on a systematic basis. Subject entries in library catalogues are organized mostly according to the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) and, to a lesser extent, the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC) (1). Criticisms are: the failure of systematic subject catalogues to reflect previous subject entries in new editions, obsolescence of terminology used in indices and the restriction of indices in comparison with the headings used.

In local practices, particularly in online catalogues, keyword searching has also been structured. In automating libraries, computer programmers have especially preferred to form index entries from titles of works instead of using controlled lists, like LCSH. This issue is often argued between librarians and computer programmers. Keyword practices exist for other purposes than just the general library catalogue, e.g., the selective dissemination of information. In this type of service, keywords have also been used as abstract information. In this case, important words selected from the work have been regarded as keyword entries.

Indexers who create bibliographic databases provide multi- dimensional subject access for articles, papers. etc., in very specialized fields. But, with general lists, such as LCSH, an average of only two entries may be assigned for each work. This number is insufficient for subject access in indexing and abstracting services. In such cases, thesauri of special subjects are used instead of subject heading lists. Indexing services, in the selection of indexed languages, do not disregard international access systems for issuing bibliographic information. In general, problems that may be encountered in practice both by local and international users and library communities are being discussed. For instance, international communication problems that result in subject entries in the Turkish language.

To exemplify issues in indexing, the activities of the Scientific and Technical Research Council (TÜBITAK) should be mentioned. Since 1992, the Information Service Directorate of the Council (TÜBITAK/EHM) has provided indexing services by creating different bibliographic databases (2). Among these, the National Scientific and Technical Database (OZGN) has been organized to provide international service for the fields of applied sciences, agriculture and forestry, veterinary and animal husbandry, and management. The database contains bibliographic data for articles, conference/meeting papers, scientific and technical reports in Turkish and other languages. Indexing in OZGN through English and Turkish terms taken from the Japan Information Center of Science and Technology (JICST) Thesaurus. Controlled indexing is done by means of the above list. In TÜMITAK/EHM's database, free indexing for each publication is also in Turkish and English terms. Consistency in free index terms is continuously controlled by an expert group in the Council. These efforts are aimed at the formation of the TÜBITAK Thesaurus of the future.

In conclusion, subject indexing in Turkey is presently in a transition period because, in the process of automation, the necessary infrastructure required for subject access has to be constructed. The use of Turkish entries in library catalogues must be appropriate for national services. The language problem that may occur in international exchange is being discussed. To ensure functionality of systematic catalogues in Turkish libraries, classification systems and indices must be kept current. Adaptations for Turkey in the Turkish translation of DDC, 20th edition, should be considered, one by one, by LC and other foreign classification systems widely used in libraries. In particular, a Turkish law scheme should be developed.

The most significant criticism is the lack of user input into the creation of subject access for Turkish sources.

It is essential that a national unit be legalized that will recognize local and international exchange and coordination and permit resource sharing in the country. This will be vital for the information society in Turkey, as it advances towards the twenty-first century.


  1. Türkiye Kütüphaneleri ve Di°er Bilgi Merkezleri (Libraries and Other Information Centers in Turkey). Ankara: Kültür Bakanlì°ì, 1989.
  2. Türkiye Bilgi Merkezleri Rehberi (Guide to Turkish Information Centers). Ankara: TÜBITAK, 1994.