Posted tagged ‘ddc’

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.

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.

Q & A

November 24, 2008

For something a little different, a user question from Daniel:

Why do libraries group graphic novels/comics in trade paperback all in one category, rather than have them delineated into categories similar to – if not within – those of the rest of the library. What I mean is, why not put something non-fiction, say a memoir like Blankets, or Fun Home, in the non-fiction/memoir section, instead of simply alongside other comics. Is it simply something to do with ISBNs, or along those lines? I ask because I have always wondered this, and think that such a categorization of comics would be beneficial in the long run to their growth in libraries and academia. Not all, but much of what is in a library seems to be organized by content, not form; besides that, it just seems silly to have to wade through a bunch of superhero junk to find the great, literary-quality graphic novels (and I say that as a huge reader and weekly purchaser of said-superhero-junk). Anyway, thanks for your time!

First of all Daniel, thank you for asking, this is actually a huge pet peeve of mine.  I actually wrote a paper back in my cataloging class arguing that no one has figured out how to handle comic correctly.  That was 4 years ago and not much has changed in that time.  Basically the problem is that cataloging practices change at a pace that could perhaps best be described as glacial, especially in regards to call numbers and subject headings.  And comics are a form that are relatively new and annoyingly unfamiliar to many in the profession so problems happen.

On to the long answer.  I work with Dewey at my library and I’m most familiar with it, so I’ll use that as the example.  The Dewey Decimal system was not designed with much room for future expansion and all newer subjects had to be shoehorned into it somewhere, and not all of these have been done well.  The books on computers are particularly awful, getting forced into the early 000’s, pretty much just because there was unused space there.  

Comics are another of these, but in this case they’re also done a disservice by the library of congress subject headings.  All comics get labeled as “comic books, strips, etc…”, and if that’s assigned to a book then it’s bound to be assigned the respective call number while undergoing its CIP (cataloging in publication) entry by the library of congress.  Libraries are not bound to use this information at all, but pretty much everyone takes it under advisement, and many have their books automatically labeled by the distributors they use, who all use CIP data.

So that’s the call number side of things, but still leaves the arguement about the best way to group these items.  My own take is actually to continue keeping all comics/graphic novels in a single location, because a lot of patrons do single them out and because they lend themselves to slightly different cataloging practices (i.e. shelve spider-man by titles instead of author), but to treat that collection as one which can be subdivided into fiction and the various non-fiction numbers (i.e. comics/920/Thompson for Blankets).  But I have thus far failed to convince anyone at my own library that that’s the way to go so make of it what you will.

So there, a long answer and not a terribly good one, but I hope it helps to show how libraries can occasionally fail to work.  But at least it’s a problem we’re aware of and which many are fighting to resolve.

Early Thoughts on cataloging for patrons

November 22, 2008

Goals for workshop:

Give patrons undertstanding of differing quality levels of records in our database and why this is a necessary evil.

Train patrons accordingly so they may place holds on items with higher accuracy (i.e. avoid records showing characteristics of large and regular print editions, which will be weeded out).

Identify for patrons some local policies (i.e. dividing line between memoirs and biographies) that may aid them in browsing the collection.

Explain basic cataloging principals (show how MARC records influence OPAC display) to open up library procedures.

For Possible Inclusion:

Future directions for cataloging (FRBR, tagging, etc…)

Discuss heirarchical model for organizing information vs. Everything is Miscellaneous model

Cataloger’s Discretion

Copy cataloging vs. Original cataloging

Local catalog vs. shared catalog

To be avoided?:

Based on one conversation, avoid giving patrons enough knowledge that they can second guess the library’s decissions (i.e. call number assignments).


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.

Reasons to Hate the DDC 314159

October 16, 2008

Here’s a puzzle.  Today we started weeding our books on weddings, and were annoyed by how fractured the collection had gotten.  The majority fall under 395.22, wedding etiquite.  Then there are a few under 392.5, wedding customs.  And finally there’s a bunch in 306.81, marriage.  

I think I can discount the 306 number as that should be for books about the relationship and not the ceremony, but the other two locations are more problematic, and we don’t really want to use both.  I’m inclined to the customs number, but the CIP data from most of the books go the way, along with our other full time cataloger.

I know this is where cataloger’s discretion comes into play, but there’s something wrong when the system in play is this ambiguous.

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.

More Reasons to Hate the DDC

June 18, 2008

Over on the LIbrarians Who LibraryThing forum, the sites creator Tim Spalding has posted a wonderfully well argued tirade against Dewey.  He handles some of the usual complaints (19th century religious biases) and also addresses some of the sacred falacies for librarians (patrons understand the system).  For that matter, a lot of librarians don’t actually know the system.

I’m a catalogger and with only a few exceptions I don’t have anything memorized past the tens.  When you work with the pac in front of you and the DDC manuals besides you memorization is not necessary and I find that I do a much better job of classification when I’m not working by rote.  Assuming that our patrons have a full understanding of the system because we’ve put up a few posters listing the one hundreds is absolutely ludicrous, and it’s nice to see someone else say that.

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.