What are the Library of Congress Demographic Group Terms and How are they Used?

Question:  What are Library of Congress Demographic Group Terms and how are they used?

Submitted by: Shonn M. Haren, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Answer:  The Library of Congress Demographic Group Terms (LCDGT) are a controlled vocabulary created by LC to supplement LCSH by delineating the demographic group of the creator of a work, and/or the demographic group of the intended audience.  These terms are intended to assist users in specific searches for works by specific types of creators (e.g. African American Women, Writers) or for works directed toward specific audiences (Boys, Portuguese speaking)

LC defines a demographic group as “…a subset of the general population, and refers to the group’s age, gender, occupation, nationality, ethnic background, sexual orientation, etc.” (Library of Congress, 2017, p. 1).  While demographic group descriptors have been included in LCSH from their inception as subdivisions, the majority of these headings have been used simultaneously to describe the demographic background of the creator of a work, (Nurse’s writings) the demographic background of its intended audience (Emotions — Juvenile literature) but also to describe what those resources are about (Women Fascists).  This multi-purpose deployment of demographic group identifiers throughout the LCSH has led to considerable confusion (ibid.).

The primary impetus for the creation of LCDGT came with the development of the Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms for Library and Archival Materials (LCGFT).  These new headings would no longer assign demographic subdivisions to delineate the demographic identity of either the creators of a work, nor for it’s intended audience, as their sole purpose will be to describe what the work is about.  A new set of headings would be necessary to provide works with this level of description.  Therefore in 2013, LC began exploring the development of a controlled vocabulary designed for that explicit purpose, as of April 2017 there 1,090 approved terms in the LCDGT (ibid.).

In a MARC Record, the LCDGT are displayed in MARC fields 385 and 386.  The 385 field covers the demographic characteristics of the intended audience.  The 386 field is reserved for the demographic characteristics of the creator.

In a MARC Record the 386 field would appear as follows:

For Pride and Prejudice:

  • 386  Women |a English |2 lcdgt

For The Diary of Anne Frank:

  • 386 Girls |a Teenagers |a Jews |a Holocaust victims |a Dutch |2 lcdgt

The rules governing the use of LCDGT are covered in full in the Demographic Group Terms Manual, which should be consulted by anyone attempting to apply these terms in their cataloging.  However, there are few general rules for application that may be discussed briefly here.

  1. As in real life, individuals may belong to more than one demographic group (one may be both an American and a Mormon, or a Librarian as well as an author).
  2. LCDGT terms must be proposed and authorized by LC.  Authorized terms will always be plural (i.e.: Mississippians) and will always consist of a single demographic group.
  3. In certain circumstances, a parenthetical qualifier may be included with the authorized term, to delineate it from a homonym (for example:  Georgians (Republic of Georgia) vs. Georgians (State of Georgia)).
  4. Each authorized LCDGT term will be assigned at least one of the following categories as determined by LC (Library of Congress, 2016).
    • Age [age] : Use for the chronological age of group members
    • Educational level [edu]: used for the educational level of group members
    • Ethnic/cultural [eth]:  Use for the ethnic or cultural identification of group members.  For ethnic and cultural groups that are also demonyms associated with a region larger than a single nation, the Nation/regional category should be used instead.
      • (examples: Asian Americans, Maratha (Indic People), Muscogee (North American People)
    • Gender [gdr]: Use for the gender of group members
      • This category includes Transgender identities
    • Language [lng]: use for the language associated with group members
      • Example:  Arabic speakers
    • Medical, psychological, and disability [mpd] : Use for the medical, or psychological condition, or the physical or mental disability of the group member.
    • National/regional [nat]: Use for the demonym related to a supra-national region, a country, or a sub-national region or jurisdiction that is associated with group members.
      • (examples: Angolans, Bavarians, Easterners (United States)).
    • Occupation/field of activity [occ]: Use for the activity or avocation associated with the group members.
    • Religion [rel]: Use for the religion or denomination, sect, etc., of the group members.
    • Sexual orientation [sxo]: Use for the sexual orientation of the group members.
    • Social [soc]: Use for identifiable social groups that cannot be included in the other categories.
      • (Example: Children of divorced parents, Nursing Students, Socialists)
  5. As with other controlled vocabularies, LCDGT include hierarchical links between broader terms and narrower terms, and link associatively using related terms.

Resources for keeping up to date with LCDGT:

Works Cited:

  1. Library of Congress. (2017). Introduction to Library of Congress Group Terms. Accessed August 16, 2017 https://www.loc.gov/aba/publications/FreeLCDGT/2017%20LCDGT%20intro.pdf
  2. Library of Congress (2016).   Value Lists for Codes and Controlled Vocabularies, accessed August 16, 2017 http://www.loc.gov/standards/valuelist/lcdgt.html.
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