Posted tagged ‘classification’

Orgainizing By Subject

May 1, 2009

As reported by the Swiss Army Librarian, the Chelmsford Public Library has started a rather ambitious reclassification project.  They’re aiming to gradually migrate over to a system that maintains some of the structure of Dewey while becoming more akin to BISAC.  

I wish them the best of luck, and they’re in great hands with Brian Herzog, but honestly the system seems a bit of a mess to me.  The designers clearly want to move to something a bit more user friendly, a very admirable goal certainly, but they’re still essentially sticking with Dewey’s organization.  For example why keep a subject begging to be broken out into it’s own grouping like computers within the general information section it resides in with DDC?

I’ll definitely be keeping up with Brian’s post to see how this project progresses.  Again, good luck.

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LH PASSL 929.39411 Whyte

April 14, 2009

I haven’t done a proper cataloging post in a while, so I think I ought to make up for some lost time.  Let’s look at the making (OK inventing) of a call number.

The Book: A dictionary of Scottish emigrants to the U.S.A. compiled by Donald Whyte

The Problem: How to shelve our books of passenger lists together as a special collection and subdivide it geographically in a meaningful way.

LH: All items in are local history receive this prefix to designate the department.

PASSL: We have quite a few special collections within our local history department that receive an extra prefix to denote their location (PER for periodicals, VITAL for our vital records, OWH for our Oliver Wendel Holmes collection).  To be honest I don’t like many of them and don’t understand the need for a few of them, but the staff their insist these are useful distinctions for researchers and I don’t really have the expertise to argue the point.  From the examples I listed many of these help to define the items using them in ways that call #’s don’t quite capture.  But in this instance it’s purely to allow us to break the natural shelf order to call attention to these items.  Now they exist in a prominent physical space and not stuffed amongst our rather vast collection of genealogy items.

929.3:  This number in Dewey is for specific sources of genealogical information.

9411: If we were constructing this number properly the next part of the number would designate this as being a passenger list.  However, we can ignore that as we’re using the prefix instead for that and skip straight to the geographic portion. 

There are two ways in which we could solve the geographic division problem.  The first is to put in the name of the place after the number, making this LH PASSL 929.3 SCOTLAND.  But there are two problems with this that made us decide against it.  First of all there’s a limited amount of space available on our spine labels, names take up much more space than extending the call number.  

Second and more important is the alphabetical shelving of these items.  For example, the shelf could read England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Scotland…dividing the books on the UK that would make more sense shelved together.  This problem is compounded by those items that don’t focus on a single nationality, and which would thus be shelved by the author’s name.  This sort of confusion would essentially make the whole purpose of sorting this portion of the collection meaningless.

So extending the call number is the way to go.  Normally to subdivide something geographically you add on 0[number for the history of the location in question].  We chose to cut the 0 out of the number as we do not have anything in 929.39 and it cuts down on the length slightly.

Whyte: So now we have all the Scottish passenger lists together in a useful location (wedged between the English and Irish ones) but we still need a way to distinguish the books on that rather narrow subject from one another.  The author is usually sufficient for this purpose, and when it isn’t it at least narrows the collection down to so few items that finding an exact title is only a mild inconvenience at this point.  Some libraries will include the publication year to make each call number fully unique, but my library isn’t quite at the scale where that’s necessary, plus our spine labels can only fit 5 lines of text, which we’ve now reached.

Impermanence

November 3, 2008

Time for one of the dirty little secrets of cataloging.  Call numbers are not permanent, never have been, never will be.  This is not something that’s widely known, even amongst many librarians it seems.  

Right now I’m working on a large recataloging project and I’m hamstrung by some finding aids that were created ages ago in which the call numbers play a vital part.  The problem being that it’s something that’s proven too useful to abandon, and which is hell to update, leaving us stuck more often than not with the way things are because it’s easier than fixing the problems.

And this is a mistake we’re still making, it drives me nuts every time we have another book rebound and get the call number printed on the spine.  Look, mistakes happen, classification schemes change (we’re up to Dewey volume 22 after all and it still doesn’t work very well for computers), and collections get moved.  It’s all part of the job, but it’s a part we keep forgeting to plan for.

Formats and special collections

July 16, 2008

One of my main goals as a contributor to the open shelves classification project seems to be succeeding.  I like the idea of having a classification system that ignores format completely, making it possible for individual libraries to treat their collections however they wish (ex. put dvd in front of the call #) and creating a system that will not have problems with future formats.  At most I think the project should come up with some best practices incorporating various item types, but nothing should be mandated.

I also think the borderline formats (graphic novels, musical scores) should be treated this way.  Right now in my own library we have a system (that predates me), which I absolutely hate.  For scores we use an entirely different classification system that only one person in the building understands (we have a music turned reference librarian).  For graphic novels we put them all into the single call # for comics, irregardless of content, effectively creating a special collection.  But I always get annoyed when a non-fiction comic gets thrown into the middle of the superhero books.

How do others handle these sorts of things?  And what would you do differently if given a free hand?

Open Shelves Classification

July 10, 2008

I just have to point out the discussion that has begun over in the librarything forums.  Head honcho Tim Spalding has proposed the creation of a new ground up designed classification system to be created by the users of librarything.  The forum was just created two days ago and there are already 145 members.

I have high hopes that something good will come from the effort that is already being invested in this project.  But even if it doesn’t ultimately work out, the discussion it has already generated is a worth while endevour of its own.  But I really hope this works.  Best of luck to everyone involved.

Are Genres Past their Prime?

May 19, 2008

This is something I’ve been pondering a lot lately.  Actually for most of my life based on my own reading habits, which tend to defy easy classification (China Mieville, Joe R. Lansdale, Chuck Palahniuk, etc…).  Mieville is a particularly good example, in that he pretty much represents the New Weird movement.  The New Weird is one of three fairly recent movements within the f&sf community that seek to combine the tropes of multiple genres for various effects (the others being Slipstream and Interstitial).   Mieville’s stories (particularly his Bas Lag novels) have an incredible willingness to incorporate any and all literary devices as long as they can effectively tell the story.

This sort of genre merging isn’t anything terribly new, Star Trek was pitched as being about “a wagon train to the stars”, but it is gaining a new sort of prominence with every new vampire/romance series to hit the shelves.  With that in mind, I’m really wondering if it’s still useful to break out genre books into special collections.  At my library we catalog s.f., mystery, romance, and westerns separately, and any time we receive something that crosses a boundary we either place it wherever the previous book by that author went, or just give up and toss it in general fiction.

Obviously I hate this approach, but I’ve been unable to come up with something that will both appease our patrons who seek out those collections and my own sense of accuracy.  So if anyone out there on the interwebs has any suggestions please let me know, because frankly I’m at a bit of a loss.

Reason to hate DDC #628

April 18, 2008

Books about occupations (331.7) are placed 318.44 numbers away from books on how to obtain those occupations (650.14).  Today I had to defend why this is the case to a coworker and I can’t bring myself to do it.