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.

Why are the class numbers used in the Law Library so different? Cardiff and Moys

A colleague recently wondered why we use the decimal notation version of Moys, particularly when the law collection is housed in a building that otherwise classifies its books in LCC.

The Moys classification scheme was chosen in the early 1990s for the combined law collections of University College, Cardiff and the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology in their new location on the first floor of the Arts and Social Studies library.  By this time, the second edition of Moys had appeared with both LC-style and decimal notation, so a choice of numbering system was possible. CLICCopyright 003Perhaps the blue-printed UWIST bookplate on our first edition Moys suggests that the decision to use the scheme in the Institute’s law library in a notation that would not disrupt its Dewey sequences had already been made before the 1988 merger and this decision was simply extended to UCC’s collection.

Moys notation was originally conceived of as fitting in to a Library of Congress classification scheme, the scheme generally used in academic libraries throughout the Commonwealth.  The first edition of Moys (1968) was printed only with LC-style numbering.  Five years later Elizabeth Moys copyrighted a cyclostyled pamphlet offering her classification in decimal format.  Her introduction to the stapled sheets frankly acknowledges the format to be an “afterthought”. But from the second edition onwards the pages of the published volumes have presented its distinctive parallel notations as (almost) equal partners.

CLICCopyright 002

Why was a scheme that would fit in with the Library of Congress classification scheme necessary?

LCC was developed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with the notable exception of the law schedule, Class K.  Work was not begun on K until the mid-1960s. It is said that there was a certain amount of resistance from legal practitioners to subject classification in their libraries.  We have a copy of the ‘Preliminary edition’ published in 1969 for the law of the United States but work on foreign jurisdictions did not begin until 1970 and a final draft of the most recent K schedule, KI for the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas, was only completed in 2012. So, in the absence of a usable scheme for libraries of common law jurisdictions around the world, a classification scheme was developed by Elizabeth Moys in the 1960s. We are fortunate that the scheme is kept up to date by dedicated editors, the latest edition of Moys, Moys 5, being published earlier this year by Walter de Gruyter.

As to Cardiff’s choice of notation, there can only be speculation. But it certainly makes it simpler to sort ASSL returns and, more recently, it has facilitated the arrival of Optometry books (Dewey) on the first floor of ASSL.

What’s Dewey all about?

Dewey at Cardiff
The Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system is one of the main classification schemes used at Cardiff University.  Primarily used in the science based libraries you will see it for instance being used in the Health Library and the Biomedical Sciences library, it is also used in the Architecture and Aberconway libraries and perhaps slightly more surprisingly in Life Long Learning (Senghenydd).

Some history…
DEWEYThe system was originally created by an American librarian, Melvil Dewey (1851-1931) in 1876 when he was hired to classify the library at Amherst College.  He based his system on a ten class structure of knowledge – a sort of attempt to classify the world and all human knowledge as it was known in the 19th century.  Dewey was director of the New York State Library between 1888-1906, founded the Lake Placid Club in 1895, and was apparently a bit of a womaniser!

How does it work? (the basics)
The Dewey Decimal Classifaction system has ten classes, each with ten divisions, which each have ten sections.  We wont give you a full break down of these classes, but they include 300 (Social science), 500 (Science), 600 (Technology – which includes medicine), and 900 (History & geography).  So, if we take the number 616 we see that it comes from the 600 class (technology), then the 610 division (medicine), then the section 616 for disease.

After the 3 digit number we have a decimal point, and then further subdivisions.  Some of these come from the standard subdivisions contained in the tables in volume 1 of DDC, such as geographical locations = .9 (indicates history & geography), 429 (the number for Wales), so 610.9429 = Medicine in Wales.

Within the schedules the subdivisions for all the classes are given, for e.g.  616.39042 (Nutrition & metabolic diseases – inborn errors of metabolism), or 659.1342 (Outdoor advertising).  Occasionally these numbers have the potential for getting quite long, if you want to get really specific, for instance 362.19892000942393 (Paediatric care in Bristol).  However, as you can tell, when the numbers start getting really long they do get a bit confusing for people in the library – both for library staff shelving the books, and library users trying to find something they want (and it gets harder to fit the numbers on the spine labels!).  But remember, its not a case of cataloguers trying to be annoying – we are just trying to make the numbers specific; however don’t worry, you won’t see too many spine labels with 14 digits after the decimal point – we try not to be that cruel!

Until a few years ago the libraries in the Cathays Campus only used a majority of 5 numbers after the decimal point, but this meant that numbers were being cut short at inappropriate moments.  For instance many books on town planning at 711.4 all ended 0942 – which means England and Wales.  This meant that a lot of books had the same number, and made it harder to find specific items on the shelf.  By getting rid of this artificial cut off point, a book on town planning can now have a number specific to the actual town it is about, eg 711.40942987 (Cardiff).  Ideally this means that all books on town planning on Cardiff can be shelved together, instead of being lost amongst books about Birmingham, Manchester, London, Bristol, etc etc.

We don’t expect you to know all the numbers in DDC – even the cataloguers don’t know them all!  However, you may find as you gain familiarity with the books on your subject that you start recognising numbers; by also realising that the subdivisions often come from tables, and are standardised, you may find yourself noticing patterns, such as 09429 at the end of a number meaning Wales, or 076 indicating it is an exam question book.

Some facts and figures!
Blackbox 022We are currently on the 23rd edition, published in 2011, in a 4 volume format; DDC is also available in an online version that is updated monthly.
200,000 libraries in 138 countries use DDC, and it is translated into over 30 languages.
The ninth editor of DDC retired in Jan 2013, so they are now onto their 10th since 1876.

If you’ve enjoyed this whirlwird tour of Dewey, check out 025.431 The Dewey blog for futher information.