Organising knowledge: The importance of library standards in a global society -part 3

By Vicki

If you use the subscription-based copy cataloguing service provided by SCIS (Schools Catalogue Information Service)  you may have noticed the additional Headings available in SCIS catalogue records. These are ScOT headings.

If you import your records directly using a Z39.50  connection you will see the ScOT Headings only if you have selected to receive a ScOT-enhanced record. This will import both the ScOT terms and the SCIS Subject Headings into your catalogue.  You will then have two controlled vocabularies.  This may cause conflict with the other headings and references your catalogue contains, however it will also add further subject keywords to assist your users with information retrieval.  If you haven’t noticed them, a quick search in SCISWeb OPAC will list any number of records which include ScOT terms.

What are ScOT terms?

ScOT terms are derived from  the Schools Online Thesaurus or ScOT . 

To address the increase in online content available the Schools Online Thesaurus or ScOT was first created and released in 2001.  It uses a controlled vocabulary of subject descriptors based on Australasian curriculum terms.  These terms are used to describe or Tag learning objects and digital resources provided by The Learning Federation  and Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI).

Why use SCoT when you have Subject Headings?

Subject Headings from Library of Congress or SCIS use controlled vocabulary which is standardised to ensure that resources with the same subject content can be ‘tagged’ with the same subject terms ensuring effective retrieval through searching on the catalogue.

The difference with ScOT terms and Subject Heading terms is the way they work in information retrieval systems -like Web search engines.

As seen in the record shown below, Subject Headings like ‘Insects – Poetry’ appear in strings separated by hyphens. ScOT terms appear separately for example ‘Poetry’ or ‘Insects’.  Separating the terms matches the way metadata is used on the web.  This means each term is searchable across any system. 

Integrated Library Systems or Library Management Systems are designed to integrate with other online systems including a school’s Student Management System (SMS) and Learning Management System (LMS) which is integral to the schools Managed Learning Environment .

With the ultra-fast broadband roll out and the development of the Ministry of Education’s Network for Learning  there will be increased opportunities for schools to access online resources via a variety of networks or gateways. 

The use of ScOT terms in library catalogue records is one way school libraries can improve the interoperability of their web-based catalogue.

User-generated content in Schools

Another way that ScOT terms can add value to the access of online resources is with user-generated content or UGC.  The creation of online content and resources continues to grow as schools adopt an online learning environment.  While UGC is still relatively small, it is a good idea to start thinking about how this information should or could be organised so that it is accessed.

Keeping library cataloguing practice in mind, the minimum information required to describe an online resource should include the ‘Name of Creator’, ‘Name of School’ and ‘Description Terms’ or Tags .

Without the use of a controlled vocabulary, Tag terms will vary from person to person and resource to resource.  By including an accessible online tool like the Schools Online Thesaurus (ScOT)  as part of the process, user-generated content can be effectively tagged with consistent, curriculum focused terms, helping to ensure the resource is accessible.


School libraries and school library staff supported by good ICT infrastructure  play an important role to help students and staff access relevant, quality-controlled resources in a variety of formats both now and in the future.

Further reading:

Kneebone, Les 2010, ‘Schools Online Thesaurus (ScOT)’, Connections 72 (

National Library Services to Schools 2012, ‘Optimising your integrated library system’ (

Salmond, Rachel 2006, 'New subject terms in SCIS OPAC', Connections 59, (

Salmon, Rachel 2007, ‘SCIS | ScOT in SCIS - more of the same ... or different?’, Connections 60 (

Related Posts:

Part 1. Subject Headings and Web searching - making the library count online (20 November 2012)

Part 2. Library of Congress and SCIS Subject Headings (21 November 2012)

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