Library classification

Library classification

Library classification forms part of the field of library and information science. It is a form of bibliographic classification (library classifications are used in library catalogs, while "bibliographic classification" also covers classification used in other kinds of bibliographic databases). It goes hand in hand with library (descriptive) cataloging under the rubric of "cataloging and classification", sometimes grouped together as "technical services". The library professional who engages in the process of cataloging and classifying library materials is called a "cataloger" or "catalog librarian". Library classificationn systems are one of the two tools used to facilitate subject access. The other consists of alphabetical indexing languages such as Thesauri and Subject Headings systems.

A library classification is a system of coding and organizing library materials (books, serials, audiovisual materials, computer files, maps, manuscripts, realia) according to their subject and allocating a call number to that information resource. Similar to classification systems used in biology, bibliographic classification systems group entities that are similar together typically arranged in a hierarchical tree structure. A different kind of classification, called a 'faceted' system, is also widely used. This synthesises a class mark from various aspects of the subject.

Classification of a piece of work consists of two steps. Firstly the 'aboutness' of the material is ascertained. Next, a call number,(essentially a book's address), based on the classification system will be assigned to the work using the notation of the system.

It is important to note that unlike subject heading or Thesauri where multiple terms can be assigned to the same work, in classification systems, each work can only be placed in one class. This is due to shelving purposes: A book can have only one physical place. However in classified catalogs one may have main entries as well as added entries. Most classification systems like DDC and Library of Congress classification, also add a cutter number to each work which adds a code for the author of the work.

Classification systems in libraries generally play two roles. Firstly they facilitate subject access by allowing the user to find out what works or documents the library has on a certain subject. Secondly, they provide a known location for the information source to be located (e.g where it is shelved).

Until the 19th century, most libraries had closed stacks, so the library classification only served to organize the subject catalog. In the 20th century, libraries opened their stacks to the public and started to shelve the library material itself according to some library classification to simplify subject browsing.

Some classification systems are more suitable for aiding subject access, rather than for shelf location. For example, UDC which uses a complicated notation including plus, colons are more difficult to use for the purpose of shelf arrangement but are more expressive compared to DDC in terms of showing relationships between subjects. Similarly faceted classification schemes are more difficult to use for shelf arrangement, unless the user has knowledge of the citation order.

Depending on the size of the library collection, some libraries might use classification systems solely for one purpose or the other. In extreme cases a public library with a small collection might just use a classification system for location of resources but might not use a complicated subject classification system. Instead all resources might just be put into a couple of wide classes (Travel, Crime, Magazines etc). This is known as a "mark and park" classification method, more formally called reader interest classification [ "Dewey? At This Library With a Very Different Outlook, They Don't" "New York Times", July 14, 2007. [] ]


There are many standard system of library classification in use, and many more have been proposed over the years. However in general, Classification systems can be divided into three types depending on how they are used.

* Universal schemes covering all subjects. Examples include Dewey Decimal Classification, Universal Decimal Classification and Library of Congress Classification

* Specific classification schemes. Examples include Iconclass, British classification of Music, and Dickinson classification.

* National schemes specially created for certain countries. An example is the Swedish library classification system, SAB (Sveriges Allmänna Biblioteksförening).

In terms of functionality, classification systems are often described as

*enumerative: produce an alphabetical list of subject headings, assign numbers to each heading in alphabetical order
*hierarchical: divides subjects hierarchically, from most general to most specific
*faceted or analytico-synthetic: divides subjects into mutually exclusive orthogonal facets

There are few completely enumerative systems or faceted systems, most systems are a blend but favouring one type or the other. The most common classification systems, LCC and DDC, are essentially enumerative, though with some hierarchical and faceted elements (more so for DDC), especially at the broadest and most general level. The first true faceted system was the Colon classification of S. R. Ranganathan.

Universal classification systems used in English-speaking world

* Bliss bibliographic classification (BC)
* Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC)
* Library of Congress Classification (LCC)(The above systems are the most common in the English-speaking world.)

* Harvard-Yenching Classification - An English classification system for Chinese language materials.

Universal classification systems in other languages

* A System of Book Classification for Chinese Libraries (Liu's Classification)
** New Classification Scheme for Chinese Libraries
* Nippon Decimal Classification (NDC)
* Chinese Library Classification (CLC)
* Korean Decimal Classification (KDC)

Universal classification systems that rely on synthesis (faceted systems)

* Bliss bibliographic classification
* Colon classification
* Cutter Expansive Classification
* Universal Decimal Classification
* Brinkler classification

Newer classification systems tend to use the principle of synthesis (combining codes from different lists to represent the different attributes of a work) heavily, which is comparatively lacking in LC or DDC.

Comparing Classification Systems

As a result of differences in Notation, history, use of enumeration, hierarchy, facets, classification systems can differ in the following ways

* Type of Notation - Notation can be pure (consisting of only numerals for example) or mixed (consisting of letters, numerals, and other symbols).

* Expressiveness - This is the degree in which the notation can express relationship between concepts or structure.

* Whether they support mnemonics - For example the number 44 in DDC notation usually means it concerns some aspect of France. For example 598.0944 concerns "Birds in France". the 09 signifies country code, and 44 represents France.

* Hospitality - The degree in which the system is able to accommodates new subjects

* Brevity - Length of the notation to express the same concept

* Speed of updates and degree of support - The best classification systems are constantly being reviewed and improved.

* Consistency

* Simplicity

See also

* Categorization
* Knowledge organization


* Chan, Lois Mai. "Cataloging and Classification: An Introduction". New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994.

External links

* [ An annotated bibliography on Library Classification and Subject Approaches to Information] - by Salman Haider, Librarian (Cataloging), US Library of Congress, New Delhi Overseas Office
* [ A Preview of the New Cataloging Code]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • library classification — System of arrangement adopted by a library to enable patrons to locate its materials quickly and easily. Classifications may be natural (e.g., by subject), artificial (e.g., by alphabet, form, or numerical order), or accidental (e.g.,… …   Universalium

  • Library classification — Библиотечная классификация …   Краткий толковый словарь по полиграфии

  • Chinese Library Classification — The Chinese Library Classification (中国图书馆分类法 CLC), also known as Classification for Chinese Libraries (CCL), is effectively the national library classification scheme in China. It is used in almost all primary and secondary schools, universities …   Wikipedia

  • Library science — is an interdisciplinary science incorporating the humanities, law and applied science to study topics related to libraries, the collection, organization, and dissemination of information resources, and the political economy of information.… …   Wikipedia

  • Classification — may refer to: Library classification and classification in general Taxonomic classification (see Taxonomy) Biological classification of organisms Medical classification Scientific classification (disambiguation) Classification (literature)… …   Wikipedia

  • library — /luy brer ee, breuh ree, bree/, n., pl. libraries. 1. a place set apart to contain books, periodicals, and other material for reading, viewing, listening, study, or reference, as a room, set of rooms, or building where books may be read or… …   Universalium

  • Library of Congress Classification — The Library of Congress Classification (LCC) is a system of library classification developed by the Library of Congress. It is used by most research and academic libraries in the U.S. and several other countries; for example, Australia[1][2] and… …   Wikipedia

  • Library — Reading room redirects here. For other uses, see Reading room (disambiguation). For other uses, see Library (disambiguation). Reading room of the library at the University of Graz, in Austria …   Wikipedia

  • classification — classificatory /kleuh sif i keuh tawr ee, tohr ee, klas euh fi / or, esp. Brit., /klas euh fi kay teuh ree/, adj. clasificatorily, adv. classificational, adj. /klas euh fi kay sheuhn/, n. 1. the act of classifying. 2. the result of classifying or …   Universalium

  • library of congress classification — noun Usage: usually capitalized L & 1st C : a library classification using the letters of the alphabet plus numbers for its notation compare decimal classification, expansive classification * * * Library Science. a system for classifying books… …   Useful english dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”