Canadian Subject Headings

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) creates Canadian Subject Headings (CSH). CSH is a list of English terms using controlled vocabulary that provides access to and describes content about Canada and Canadian topics.

Relationship to Library of Congress Subject Headings

CSH is used along with Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) to enhance access to Canadian materials. CSH follows the same principles for heading structure and most of the same policies as LCSH.

While there are differences between CSH and LCSH, LAC diverges intentionally from LCSH only after an investigation and review of available options.

The CSH authority records may contain equivalent LCSH headings in a 7XX field with 2nd indicator "0."

Types of headings

Subject headings are mainly about culture, economics, history, geography, literature, law, politics and society. Headings in science or technology are found in LCSH as the terminology and concepts are rarely unique to Canada.

CSH includes three main types of headings:

  • topical headings
  • geographic headings
  • non-jurisdictional geographic headings related to Canada (such as regions, rivers, parks, lakes)

CSH provides headings for topics not adequately covered by LCSH in these areas:

  • headings with a language aspect
  • headings for ethnic groups
  • Indigenous peoples
  • chronological headings and subdivisions
  • other topics with Canadian terminology

Structure of headings

Subject headings in CSH take the form "[topic]—Canada" when appropriate. Headings can also be subdivided by province and territory, and further subdivided by place name or other geographic regions. If the heading is not structured as "[topic] —Canada," instructions about geographic subdivision are given in a note.

Headings are not appropriate in the form "[topic] —Canada" when the topic:

  • already implies something innately Canadian
  • is a named event
  • lacks specific geographic significance
  • is expressed in the form "Canadian [topic]" or "[topic], Canadian"

When there are topical subdivisions shown, for some subdivisions, the subdivision "—Canada" or other geographic subdivision immediately follows the first element or part of the heading and is then followed by the topical subdivision. With other subdivisions the order is reversed, the topical subdivision precedes the geographic subdivision. The order of the subdivisions is based on policies in LCSH.

Pattern headings

Both CSH and LCSH use pattern headings, which are subject headings that provide a template for creating new heading strings. A pattern heading consists of a main subject heading with subdivision(s). Pattern headings provided by CSH give permission for the CSH user to construct other headings based on that pattern. The subdivisions shown under these headings can be used with other appropriate headings. A note in the authority record signals this for the user.


The list of subdivisions in CSH is not intended to be comprehensive. Users should refer to LCSH or the Library of Congress' Subject Headings Manual for other applicable subdivisions.

Scope notes and instructions

The many scope notes and instructions follow the same principles as in LCSH, with these goals:

  • to explain the use or meaning of headings
  • to compare one heading to one or more headings, or to specific instances of a general topic in fields such as literature and art
  • to set headings in a Canadian context
  • to explain a geographic subdivision
  • to signal the types of subdivisions that may be added
  • to give instructions on topical vs. form headings
  • to explain how to form other headings of the same type


References show the relationship between headings.

CSH may add a BT (Broader Term), SA (See Also, Related Term), UF (See) reference, unless the heading is a subdivision or extension of another heading.

Spelling, capitalization, punctuation, abbreviations

Topical headings in CSH use LCSH spelling if the heading is borrowed from or based on LCSH. Capitalization, punctuation and abbreviations follow the Library of Congress Subject Headings Manual.

Scope notes, instructions, and references use Canadian English spelling. This may result in variant forms of the same word (such as "catalogs" and "catalogues," "theaters" and "theatres"). LAC consults bibliographic works and reference sources to aid in spelling decisions for other headings found only in CSH.

Geographic headings

CSH geographical headings are mostly non-jurisdictional. Headings for non-jurisdictional geographic entities include headings for physical features such as rivers, lakes, and mountains, regions and areas, parks and historic sites, roads, some historical geographic entities, and other entities not considered capable of authorship. Scope notes may outline details on using these headings.

In general, CSH follows practices outlined in the Library of Congress Subject Headings Manual to create headings for non-jurisdictional geographic names, for geographic qualifiers and geographic subdivisions, and concerning the use of earlier names.

Most geographic headings may be used as subdivisions, unless otherwise noted. An instruction is usually given if the geographic subdivision is handled in a unique way.

Decisions on spelling and the choice among variant forms of name are based on forms of names approved by the Geographical Names Board of Canada in the Canadian Geographical Names Database and the Commission de toponymie du Québec. Other authoritative reference sources may also be considered if the name is not found in those databases. This may result in different headings in CSH and LSCH for Canadian geographic entities and for features that cross the Canada-U.S border.


CSH includes jurisdictional geographical name headings for provinces and territories, municipalities, cities, towns and other communities to show applicable subdivisions only, and to set the context for using these names as subject access points. Otherwise, authority records for Canadian jurisdictions are found in the LC/NACO Authority File or the Canadiana Name Authorities in French.

French language equivalents

CSH has French language equivalents in Répertoire de vedettes-matière (RVM) (French only), published by the Bibliothèque de l'Université Laval.

Equivalent RVM headings are contained in a 7XX field with 2nd indicator “6.”

French language subdivisions

LAC provides English-French subdivisions and French-English subdivisions. An English or a French language subdivision may correspond to more than one subdivision in the other language, so select the one matching the work being catalogued. Sometimes, the equivalent in the other language may be a heading rather than a subdivision.

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