Using Library of Congress classification

LCC at Cardiff
One of the main classification schemes used at Cardiff University, (the other one being Dewey), Library of Congress Classification (LCC) is generally used in our humanities based libraries, particularly ASSL, but you will also see it in Bute, Trevithick and Senghennydd (for the Maths collection).


Herbert Putnam

The history bit…
The Library of Congress Classification system was (unsurprisingly!) developed for the Library of Congress, by Herbert Putnam (1861-1955) in 1897 just before he was appointed as the librarian.  He was the librarian for Congress for forty years, and when he retired from this role became Librarian Emeritus, and unable to give up the world of librarianship he continued to do work for the library for the next 15 years.  He originally trained at Columbia University Law School, and earlier in his career he practiced law inbetween stints of librarianship.  He was president of the American Library Association (as was Melvil Dewey a decade before him) in 1898, and 1903-1904.

How does it work? (the basics)
This classification scheme was devised to classify a particular library’s collection, rather

Classification schedules in the cataloguing office

Classification schedules in the cataloguing office

than to classify the knowledge of the world (like Dewey).  It is alphanumeric and uses all the letters of the alphabet for its main sections, excluding I, O, W, X and Y.  Although we haven’t always done so in the past, Cardiff University tries to use all the Letters (schemes) available in all our libraries that use LCC.  The one exception is K (Law) as we use Moys (another classification scheme previously blogged about) for our law books.

Subjects are divided into broad categories, see here for a full listing, but for instance D is General and old world history, and P is Language and literature.  Each class is further subdivided into subclasses, so while P as a single letter is the subject in general, PA covers Greek and Latin language and literature, PR is English literature and PZ is used for Children’s literature.

Following the letters come a set of numbers which further define the subject, so for example PR4581.A5.P7 is a biography of Charles Dickens by J. B. Priestley.


Charles Ammi Cutter

The last part of the classmark number is referred to as the ‘Cutter’ and represents the author, organisation or title, whichever is the main entry for the item on the catalogue (in an edited volume the main entry is the title not the editors).  Cutters were devised by Charles A. Cutter (1837-1903) using a table format, however we tend to use a much simpler version in Cardiff.

With 21 classes at its top level, in comparison to Dewey’s 10, LCC has proved itself better able to cope with the addition of new subjects; although DDC is more flexible in general.  It is however very US-centric, and of course is designed with one particular library in mind, which doesn’t necessarily match our own libraries.  There is often debate amongst librarians about which classification scheme is best suited for an academic library, and there are pros and cons for both sides.  In general people tend to assume that Dewey is better for science and LCC is better for humanities.  Hopefully you will have a better idea of how both now work within the libraries at Cardiff University, from this post and the previous post on Dewey.


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