Cataloging for legal materials

Cataloging of law materials in Europe

“For the most part, the basic materials in a law library may be found by means of publishers’ indexes and digests, Separate access to them through a catalog, therefore, is unnecessary. Many libraries find that statutes, administrative regulations and decisions, court reports with their auxiliary citators, digests, indexes, encyclopedias, and some periodicals can be ade- quately covered by short form cards. Topical loose-leaf services which integrate all types of basic materials fall in this group, also. However, treatises, casebooks, government documents, essays and similar col- lections, bar association reports and other miscellaneous items are not indexed, and must be controlled through cataloging with special emphasis upon subject headings.”

Assignment of subject headings in Law Libraries

The Library of Congress Tentative Headings and Cross References for a Subject Catalogue of American and English Law (1911) was the first generally used subject heading list.(1)
Because this list became out-of-date and was not revised, Columbia University published Subjed Headings in Anglo-American and International Law Used in the Dictionary Catalog of the Columbia University Law Library.(2) Another list was brought out in 1956 by McLaury as List of Subject Headings for Small to Medium-Sized Law Libraries (Mainly Anglo-American).(3)

The Library of Congress Subject Headings list is the one most frequently used today because of its scope and currency.(4) Few law libraries follow it entirely, however. Modifications are made to fit the type of library and clientele. Omission of such superfluous subjects as law, legal, and law and legislation, use of direct terms, and deletion of geographical subdivisions, or their use in reversed order as main headings, are common instances of adaptation.

Main source: “Law Cataloguing”, Carleton W. Kenyon

Moys Classification and Thesaurus

Elizabeth M. Moys (Betty) started work on her “Moys Classification for Legal Materials” as a project leading to her becoming a Fellow of the Library Association (Great Britain). After university graduation, library training, and experience as a law cataloguer in a leading London law library, Ms Moys worked in two African countries. The second of these was as Librarian of the then new University of Lagos in Nigeria, where she had the opportunity of classifying the law collection, while simultaneously building up the schedules of her scheme. She returned to England and, after many years in academic libraries, retired and become a well established legal indexer. She published a journal for legal indexers under the title: Brief Entry.

At the time of her creation of the classification, there were no LCC schedules for law. Her scheme arranges common law jurisdictions by topic (as does the Canadian adaptation of LCC’s KF), and non common law jurisdictions by jurisdiction (as does LCC). It has dual notation: Class K, as in Library of Congress and 340 as in DDC, so may be substituted for either K or 34X, as some libraries substitute NLM’s W for LCC’s R.

The demand for a legal classification in Commonwealth countries lead to its being published by Butterworths. The 4th edition, published by Bowker-Saur, is in print.

Moys differs from Canadian KF in that it uses all of K (or 34X), and so numbers are shorter, two letters and three numbers plus decimals at most.

K Journals and reference books
KA Jurisprudence
KB General and comparative law
KC International law
KD Religious legal systems
KE Ancient and medieval law
KF-KN Common law
KM Public law
KN Private law
KR Africa
KS Latin America
KT Asia and Pacific
KV Europe

When building a number using a table, be careful to add one less than the number in the table, if the table is showing the breakdown of a series of number.

It was used in the University of British Columbia Law Library, is used at the British Columbia Court House Library, and some other libraries in western Canada. (Eastern Canada tends to use a Canadian adaptation of KF for common law.) Moys is also used in Australia, England, Nigeria, and
other commonwealth countries.

Moys considers fewer countries to be common law than Canadian KF. For Moys it’s England and Wales, Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United States, and West Indies. Canadian KF adds India, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Africa, and former British colonies of Africa.

The common law countries have their own numbers for primary materials. There is a jurisdiction and a topic index, which can also be used as a list of subject headings. As you see above, there is a sequence for the EC/EU as well as Europe as a whole and European countries.

Main Source:


1. Library of Congress. Tentative Headings and Cross-References for a Subject Catalogue of American and English Law. Washington, D.C., US. Government Printing Office, 1911.

2. Subject Headings in Anglo-American and International Law Used in the Dictionary Catalog of the Columbia University Law Library. New York, Columbia University School of Library Service, 1939.

3. McLaury, Helen, comp. List of Subiect Headings for Small to Medium Sized Law Libraries (Mainly Anglo-American) . Chicago, Northwestern Uni-versity, Elbert H. Gary Library, 1956.

4. Library of Congress. Subject Headings Used in the Dictionary Catalogs of the Libray of Congress. 6th ed. Washington, D.C., Library of Congress, 1957.

See Also

  • Web-based Law Library Catalogs
  • Law Classification
  • List of Legal Databases and Indexes
  • How to search legal journal indexes?
  • Hein’s ScholarCheck
  • WorldCat
  • Thesaurus
  • Legal research: Law of Libraries and Archives

Further Reading

  • “Bibliographic Organization in Law Libraries: A Panel,” Law Library Journal, 51:338-355, Nov. 1958.
  • Merryman, John H. “A Primer on Bibliographic Organization,” Law Library Journal, 54:108-124, May 1961.
  • Kuhlman, Augustus F. “Problems in Library Cataloging and Classification AS Encountered by a Research Student,” Law Library Journal, 22:119, Oct. 1929.
  • Basset, Elsie L. A Cataloging Manual for Law Libraries. New York, H. W. Wilson Company, 1942.
  • Stern, William B. “History of Law Library Cataloging,” Law Library Journal, 43:272-276, Nov. 1950.
  • Roalfe, William R. The Libraries of the Legal Profession. St. Paul, West Publishing Company, 1953, p, 192.
  • Marke, Julius J, “The Divided Catalog As a Time Saver at New York University Law Library,” Law Library Journal, 43: 186-189, Nov. 1950.
  • Schwartz, Mortimer. “Dividing and Conquering the Card Catalog at Oklahoma,” Law Library Journal, 50: 129-135, May 1957.
  • Chicago Law Institute, Library. Subject Index, Jan. 1, 1902-Dec. 31, 1943. Chicago, The Law Institute, 1943.
  • Marke, Julius J., comp. and ed. A Catalogue of the Law Collection at New York University, with Selected Annotations. New York, Law Center of New York University, 1953.
  • Ellinger, Werner B. “Relation of Form Entries to Corporate Headings” Law Libraq Journal, 432279-289, Nov. 1950.
  • Ellinger, Werner B. “Non-author Headings,” Journal of Cataloging and Classification, 10:61-73, April 1954.
  • Lubetzky, Seymour, “Non-author Headings : A Negative Theory,” Journal of Cataloging and Classification, 10:147-154, July 1954.
  • Keller, Lena. “What Changes Shall Be Proposed to the ALA Com-mittee Pending Publication of the Catalog Rules in Final Form?” Law Libraru Journal, 35:165, May 1942.
  • “Report of the Cataloging Committee,” Law Library Journal, 35:267-269, Sept. 1942.
  • Stern, William B. “The New Cataloging Rules and Their Importance for Law Libraries,” Library Quarterly, 15:143-147, April 1945.
  • “Revision of the ALA Cataloging Rules of Entry for Legal Materials and Related Rules,” Law Library Journal, 48:3-39, Feb. 1955.
  • Dabagh, Thomas S. “The Law Library Catalog: Systematizing Entries Where Standard Headings Are Inadequate,” Law Library Journal, 23: 27-29, Jan. 1930.
  • Snook, Helen A. “Cooperative Effort in Cataloging,” Law Library Journal, 53:115-117, May 1960.
  • “Cooperative Effort in Cataloging,” Law Library Journal, 53:312-326, Nov. 1960.
  • Lindquist, Raymond C. “Saving Time in Recording Statutes and Session Laws,” Law Library JOUTTIU~,35:21-23, Jan. 1942.
  • Benyon, Elizabeth V. “Simplified Cataloging,” Law Library Jourd, 45:316-322, Nov. 1952.



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