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New Library Directors Handbook
Classification and Cataloging
Page last modified date: 6/7/2011
Did you realize how many different formats a library offers? Keeping track of everything can be difficult. We've just talked about how to organize the actual materials; we now need to discuss classification and cataloging. Like reference, more knowledgeable people than us have written plenty of books on the topic. Two common resources are Dewey Decimal Classification and Sears List of Subject Headings. This is just going to be a brief discussion of what cataloging is.
Fiction books are shelved in alphabetical order by the author's last name. That's straightforward enough, now on to nonfiction. Most public libraries use the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system for nonfiction items. Dewey is a classification system that uses numbers to indicate where a book should be shelved. Items with the same subject are shelved together. It's probably easiest to give you an example.
374.28 is the Dewey decimal number for adult education centers. All books about this topic will be assigned this number. So how do you distinguish one book about adult education centers from another? Cutters. What is that? Cutters vary depending upon the library, but most either use all letters or a combination of letters and numbers. Most libraries use the first three or four letters from the author's last name. It would take pages and pages of information to describe classification to you. It can get really complicated. The good news is that there are continuing education opportunities and books that talk about classification and cataloging.
Here is a list of what Dewey calls the ten classes of knowledge. It's where all nonfiction call numbers start.
Applied science (Technology)
General Geography and history
There you have it: the ten major classes of knowledge. To understand how DDC works, think of it as going from general to specific. Dewey does this by using decimals. 300 is social sciences; 370 is education; 374 is Adult Education; 374.28 is community centers for adult education. Do you see how this works? Each time you add a number, you get more specific.
Still confused? Well the good news is that libraries don't have to classify and catalog all of their items. Companies, such as Baker & Taylor, offer cataloging services. The company catalogs the item and sends the library a catalog card or an electronic record that can be downloaded into an automation system. The problem is that these companies don't have the best cataloging skills. So what other option do you have?
OCLC, the Online Computer Library Center, maintains a WorldCat database of over sixty- million bibliographic records and offers two products to assist librarians with cataloging needs: Connexion and CatExpress. Libraries can subscribe to these products and receive electronic records to download into their automated library systems.
Connexion is primarily used by libraries with larger collections or those with lots of relatively unique items requiring cataloging. This type of work involves what is called "original cataloging" and can be done via a Web-based interface or by using a program downloaded directly to a library computer.
For libraries with smaller collections or those that possess more common items in the main, the cataloging tool of choice from OCLC is CatExpress. This Web-based program supports a simpler cataloging process called "copy cataloging." Library staff looks for the best records in the OCLC WorldCat database and downloads those records into an automation system. This saves time and increases cataloging accuracy. If you're not the best person at determining what an item is about and how it should be classified, you can benefit from the experience of people who specialize in cataloging.
Currently, Montana State Library offers libraries a chance to be part of a statewide contract and purchase a subscription to Connexion and/or CatExpress for a much lower price than they could receive on their own.
What if you would like to do your own cataloging? Keep in mind that original cataloging is time consuming. Here are the things you need to identify when cataloging an item:
Publisher, place of publication, data
Physical description (number of pages, height in centimeters, illustrations, maps, etc.)
Identifying numbers (ISBN, ISSN) and other information specific to an item (series, edition, etc.)
Content of the book - this is used to determine what the book is about and what subject headings are needed.
What does good cataloging provide?
A description of the item. Who is the author, illustrator, creator? Is the item part of a series? Is it illustrated? Does it have a map? Does it come with audio recordings or CD-ROMs? How many pages does it have? Is it part of a multi-volume set? What other characteristics make the book unique?
Entries. These are access points or how the patron finds the book. Traditional entries are:
Main entry (usually the first author listed)
Subject entry (what is the book about)
Title entry (title of the book)
Added entry (additional titles for the book, illustrator, second author, series, etc.)
Shelf list (the inventory record for the library, not available to the public)
Can you see why most libraries use copy cataloging? Classifying and cataloging items is an art that's best left to people who have learned how to do it and specialize in it. For the rest of us, there are products such as CatExpress.
Earlier we mentioned the Montana Shared Catalog. If your library is in a shared catalog, one of the advantages is that you can attach your library's copy of an item to an existing record in the catalog. Here's how this would work. Let's say you've just received John Grisham's The Summons. Before looking at CatExpress, you should check the shared catalog to see if a record for The Summons is already in there. If it is, you add your holding (a holding is the way you let people know that you own the item). Voila! You're finished and can move on to the next item. Some shared catalogs will transfer your records to the OCLC WorldCat database used by Connexion and CatExpress. Adding your holdings to WorldCat lets the world know that you have a particular item. This is very helpful in facilitating interlibrary loans of library materials.
Dewey Decimal Classification System
020 Library and Information Sciences
030 General Encyclopedic Works
040 Not assigned
050 General Serial Publications
060 General Organizations & Museology
070 News Media, Journalism, Publishing
080 General Collections
090 Manuscripts & Rare Books
120 Epistemology, causation, humankind
130 Paranormal Phenomena
140 Specific Philosophical Schools
170 Ethics (Moral Philosophy)
180 Ancient, Medieval, Oriental Phil.
190 Modern Western Philosophy
210 Philosophy & Theory of Religion
230 Christian Theology
240 Christian Moral & Devotional Theol.
250 Christian Orders & Local Church
260 Social & Ecclesiastical Theology
270 Hist. of Christianity & Chr. Church
280 Christian Denominations & Sects
290 Comp. Religion & Other Religion
300 SOCIAL SCIENCES
310 Collections of General Statistics
320 Political Science
350 Public Administration & Military Science
360 Social Problems & Services
380 Commerce, Communications, Transport
390 Customs, Etiquette, Folklore
420 English & Old English
430 Germanic Languages German
440 Romance Languages French
450 Italian, Romanian, Rhaeto-Romanic
460 Spanish & Portuguese Languages
470 Italic Languages Latin
480 Hellenic Languages Classical Greek
490 Other Languages
500 NATURAL SCIENCES & MATHEMATICS
520 Astronomy & Allied Sciences
540 Chemistry & Allied Sciences
550 Earth Sciences
560 Paleontology, Paleozoology
570 Life Sciences, Biology
600 TECHNOLOGY (Applied Sciences)
610 Medical Sciences, Medicine
620 Engineering & Allied Operations
630 Agriculture & Related Technology
640 Home Economics & Family Living
650 Management & Auxiliary Services
660 Chemical Engineering
680 Manufacture for Specific Uses
700 THE ARTS (Fine and Decorative)
710 Civic & Landscape Art
730 Plastic Arts, Sculpture
740 Drawing & Decorative Arts
750 Painting and Paintings
760 Graphic Arts, Printmaking
770 Photography & Photographs
790 Recreational & Performing Arts
800 LITERATURE & RHETORIC
810 American Literature in English
820 English & Old English Literatures
830 Literatures of Germanic Languages
840 Literatures of Romance Languages
850 Italian, Romanian, Phaeto-Romanic
860 Spanish & Portuguese Literatures
870 Italic Literatures Latin
880 Hellenic Literature, Classical Greek
890 Literatures of Other Languages
900 GEOGRAPHY & HISTORY
910 Geography & Travel
920 Biography, Genealogy, Insignia
930 History of Ancient World to ca. 499
940 General History of Europe
950 General History of Asia
960 General History of Africa
970 General History of North America
980 General History of South America
990 General History of Other Areas