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Classifying Books in a Library

This paper studies the ongoing problem of classifying books within the library system that is evolving from a physical collection of volumes on a shelf to a computerized database with access to materials spread out over a wide geographical area. The system of Dewey Decimal Classification proposed an arrangement based on objective principles regarding how knowledge can be arranged, allowing systematization between libraries in a way that has become almost universal. However, this system was not universally accepted at first and continues to pose challenges to the modern librarian seeking to offer the widest possible access to available knowledge. Online catalogs promise dramatic new research possibilities but also demand substantial rethinking of the librarian in cataloging and classifying materials.

In 1876, Melvil Dewey published his first edition of the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system for grouping books in a library in a systematic way. His work was a response to the fact that, until that time, librarians had arranged books on the shelves according to the space limitations of each particular library, assigning a number which indicated the location of the book and which would change as the library grew and books were moved to different locations. John P. Comaromi (1975) points out that Dewey's system was based on "the three forms that literature can take upon a subject . . . the scientific, in which conscious system prevails; the artistic, in which unconscious system prevails; and the historical, in which system . . . results from a concatenation of time and place" (p. 21). These forms were then numbered, using a decimal assignment that standardized book classification throughout all libraries. Armed with a DDC number, a researcher can find books on the same subject matter in any library, regardless of where the shelves are located.

The essential brilliance of the DDC is in the underlying sense of the way it...

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Classifying Books in a Library. (2000, January 01). In Retrieved 12:56, January 20, 2017, from