Religious Materials Toolbox for Archivists: Solutions to Problems Facing the Profession

Submitted by Andy Carter, ATLA Digital Projects Manager

I presented at the annual Society of American Archivists convention in Atlanta, Georgia this August. I was part of a panel presentation titled Religious Materials Toolbox for Archivists: Solutions to Problems Facing the Profession. I was accompanied on the panel by Malachy McCarthy, Ingrid Hsieh-Yee, and Mark Duffy.

Our presentations covered a range of topics facing archivists of religious materials. Mark, Director of the Archives of the Episcopal Church, was our moderator. Ingrid, a library and information science professor at The Catholic University of America, talked about how user generated search terms related to Library of Congress (LOC) subject headings in metadata records from the Catholic Portal. Malachy, Province Archivist for the Claretian Missionaries Archives, discussed the development of an in-house web site for archival processing policies. You can access copies of our presentations online here.

My own presentation covered ATLA’s efforts to improve the cataloging authorities used to describe religious materials. ATLA has been a partner in two recent projects: Genre/Forms for Religious Terms and the Thesaurus of Religious Occupational Terms. I will provide a brief description of each.

The Genre/Forms for Religious Terms project began in 2010 and grew out of a Library of Congress initiative to refine genre/form designations for six pre-selected subjects. ATLA was joined in this work by Association of Jewish Libraries, the Catholic Library Association, and the Council on East Asian Libraries.  In 2015, forty-five new terms were approved by the Policy and Standards Division of the LOC. These terms refine the relationships between descriptive headings for religious materials. An example (UF = “use for”; BT = “broader term”):

155 Breviaries
455 UF Divine Office (Breviaries)
455 UF Hours, Liturgy of the
455 UF Liturgy of the Hours
555 BT Liturgical books

In 2014, ATLA joined with the Catholic Library Association and the Association of Christian Librarians to begin work on the Thesaurus of Religious Occupational Terms (TROT). The impetus for this came from an ATLA taskforce – Best Practices in the Field of Religion – that was asked to create a standard for occupational terms that could be used in the occupations field (374) of name authority records. TROT was approved for use as a standard by the LOC beginning in September of 2016. An example:

Biblical scholars [LCSH]


Scholars, Biblical


New Testament scholars
Old Testament scholars

You can find more information about these new authorities, as well as an ATLA document on best practices for authority records in the field of religion at:

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