Re: a question of searching...

Karen Gorss Benko (
Wed, 12 Jun 2002 11:16:24 -0700 (PDT)

Hello everyone. I'll introduce myself first since I have not posted to this
list before. I am a catalog librarian at Williams College in Williamstown,
Massachusetts. I joined this list because I am responsible for cataloging all
of our videos and I wanted some contact with others who are involved with
these little monsters! (I say that with affection.)

I want to warn people about setting a system to ignore initial articles. "A"
is a non-article word in every language I have ever studied (Russian, French,
and Czech). "An" is, I believe, a preposition in German. "The" (with an
accent) is a noun in French. Ignoring these words in a system (we have III)
which does not pay attention to the language of the item or ask what language
is used in the search (that sounds amazing!) leads to difficulty searching
(for example) for Proust's _A la recherche du temps perdu_, any number of
German works that begin with "an die" and a French work that I know we have
but I can't find in our catalog because the only word I can remember from the
title is the first word, which is "the"!

Also I want to add (since I haven't seen this from anyone else) that the
situation, as first described, is unrelated to III. The catalogers are
following correct cataloging practice. I heartily agree with Tim Markus that
the answer lies in user education. I realize that not everyone was as
fortunate as I was to learn in elementary school to ignore initial articles,
but this is a basic rule of indexing, and computer programs (at least, the
ILS's I have worked with) are not smart enough to make it unnecessary for
people to know that rule.

Just to make things more complicated, in thinking about this I have come
across a few Spanish article+noun phrases that have essentially become English
words. I don't know if they are exceptions to the article-drop rule but maybe
they should be: El Salvador, El Dorado, El Nino. I notice that the subject
heading for the former retains the article.


"Markus, Tim" wrote:

> [snip] Innovative also
> alows systems to be set to ignore searches using initial articles by
> patrons. This can include the typical English A, An and The as well as
> foreign language articles. We have ours set only for the English articles
> but we have had folks lobby for including the foreign articles as well. In
> my opinion this only causes more problems and makes certain searches
> impossible.
> There probably is no perfect solution for this. I feel that educating the
> public is the lesser of a range of evils here.
> Tim Markus
> Head of Cataloging
> The Evergreen State Collgege
> Olympia, WA 98505
> > From: Rhonda Rosen <>
> > we use the Innovative online catalog. recently, when
> > searching our catalog for "El Norte" i found that the
> > system will not access the title by "El" Norte --only
> > when you search by "Norte". Same for "La Boheme", "La
> > Strada", "El Cid", etc.

Karen Gorss Benko
Catalog Librarian and Russian liaison
Williams College
Williamstown, Massachusetts