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Since its first appearance in 1923, the Sears List of Subject Headings has sought to provide small and medium-sized libraries with an affordable list of subject headings of suitable size and scope. As one of two major subject headings systems in use in the United States, it has been looked to as a resource by librarians who have sought to translate or adapt an existing list of subject headings in order to create systems of Spanish-language subject headings.
Of the handful of lists of subject headings developed in Latin America in the first half of the 20th century, two have a connection to the Sears List. The first used the second edition of Sears as a source for potential headings, the other was a translation and adaptation of the fifth edition. In addition, two contemporary Spanish versions of the Sears List, one published by H.W. Wilson in 1984 and another in 2008, aim to play a role similar to that of the English Sears List for both small libraries in Latin America and small U.S. libraries with Spanish-speaking patrons.
Viewed as a progression, the four lists of subject headings to be discussed provide an illustration of the historical trajectory of subject cataloging in Spanish. Manrique de Lara's 1934 list and the 1949 list produced under Penna's direction were pioneering efforts to institute subject authority control, in the context of the modernization and consolidation of library science taking place in Latin America in the first half of the 20th century. The two contemporary lists, Rovira's 1984 version and Calimano's 2008, indicate that despite the development and widespread use of several Spanish subject headings systems, cost and limited technical infrastructure remain obstacles for smaller libraries in Latin America and in the U.S. The Sears List has played a role in the development of Spanish-language subject headings from the inception of such efforts, and continues to contribute to their evolution by introducing a new list of headings designed to address the needs of libraries not met by other lists.
Sears: Lista de Encabezamientos de Materia, edited by Iván E. Calimano. New York: H.W. Wilson, 2008.
"Los encabezamientos de materia en español y la Lista Sears: Una historia interamericana." In Sears: Lista de Encabezamientos de Materia, edited by Iván E. Calimano, xiii-xviii. New York: H.W. Wilson, 2008.