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Making Pacific Language Materials Discoverable: Examples

So many books

There are over 10,000 items in/about a Pacific language in this Collection. This includes:

Bibles, word lists, cookbooks, brochures, annual reports, government documents, children’s books, novels, conference papers, poetry, dictionaries, curriculum, and on, and on...

Below are examples of particular types of material that were particularly difficult and/or benefited especially from this project.


During a budget crisis in the early 1990’s, UHM library added a large backlog of uncataloged Pacific Collection materials to the collection’s (closed) stacks with accession numbers and very brief (and often incorrect) MARC records that generally do not have language codes or subject headings.

No previous language data

We extracted from our Voyager database a list of approximately 18,000 titles that were known or thought to contain text in one or more Pacific languages. Many on this list did not include a MARC language code or an LCSH language descriptor, but because of the subject matter (for example, anthropology or education) we thought it may contain examples of Pacific languages.


66% of the approximately 1,400 Pacific languages listed in Ethnologue have no direct equivalent in LCSH.

Alternative spellings and dialects

In both the library and linguistic standards, 80% of Pacific languages have an alternate or dialect names. This is to emphasize the importance of the 3-letter ISO 639-3 code and to a lesser extent authority headings for precise language description.

Imported languages changed by the Pacific

There are a few examples of languages in the Pacific, such as New Caledonian Javanese or Fiji Hindi, that come from other parts of the world but have become distinct as they exist in the Pacific.

Collective Code

MARC language codes (ISO 639-2) for the Pacific Islands region (Oceania) are usually not available for specific languages. Instead collective codes such as “map” (Austronesian—Other) and “paa” (Papuan—Other) are assigned to most Pacific language materials

Ethnologue lists more than 800 distinctive languages (each with its own ISO 639-3 code) that linguists consider Papuan. In traditional MARC cataloging, they would all get the collective paa code.

Little documentation

Non-Pacific + Non-English

In several cases, the primary language of a text was neither in a Pacific language nor in English. We had to seek help from various language experts to determine if there was Pacific language text and if so, which language.

Creoles and Pidgins

The UHM Hawaiian and Pacific Collections also house and manage the Creole Collection. The collection includes examples of all the creoles of the worlds, but for the purposes of this project we focused on those originating from the Pacific region.