Monthly Archives: October 2013

Classification and Categorization: Observations

Our readings this week focused on classification and categorization, ways to organize (and describe) items based on their subject. As we’ve discussed in previous weeks, one of the primary purposes for classification is to collocate items on a shelf. That is, to ensure that similar items are shelved together. As we’ve also discussed, the utility of physical or shelf classification is questioned by some in this age of search engines and OPACs, while others point out the continued utility of physical or electronic browsing, which is enabled by classification. Examples of classification schemes are Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) or Library of Congress Classification (LCC).

A few of the readings also mentioned subject categorization by the assignment of subject headings. Subject headings are designed to indicate an item’s aboutness, what a document is about, its topic or subject. One of the most popular subject heading lists is the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH)—not to be confused with the LCC mentioned above. (Yet another example of confusing library-world acronyms!)

Although they both describe what an item is about, subject headings differ from classification schemes in a few ways:

  1. Subject headings are presented in words or phrases similar to natural language. Classification schemes use some form of notation to indicate a subject. (See example below.)
  2. Each item is assigned only one classification code (it can have only one physical shelf location). However, an item is often assigned multiple subject headings. (See example below.)

Example subject headings (LCSH) and classification code (LCC) for a book:

  • LCSH:
    • Information organization.
    • Information organization > Technological innovations.
    • Library science > Information technology.
  • LCC:
    • Z666.5 .N49 2013g

Finally, here are a few questions to prompt your thinking as you post to the blog. Feel free to answer any of these, or instead to post your own comment or question(s).

  • What do you think of enumerative classification systems, as opposed to faceted or analytico-synthetic? What are some pros and cons of these systems?
  • What do you think of Hjorland’s assessment of classification’s continued purpose in the age of search engines like Google?
  • Rowley offered an in-depth look at subject heading systems. Like Hjorland, she concluded that these systems are still relevant for machine searching. Do you agree or disagree?
  • Libraries still hold large collections of physical books, though many are housing increasing parts of these collections in off-site storage facilities. Is shelf classification still useful for a library’s physical collection, or are new methods of shelving by book size (retrieving by barcode, often assisted by robotics) sufficient?

A Blog Future Librarians Might Like

Since I missed class on Monday, I was going to write a post about the reading on Authority Control. However, I feel like we’ve already discussed that topic (Some are for, some against). In lieu of that, I wanted to share a blog that a family friend of mine (who is a librarian) sent me a few weeks ago:

A lot of the posts are interesting, but I particularly like the “How we killed the Public Library” Post.

Here’s a little excerpt:

“I read articles where some idiot laments the difficulty with using library resources, catalogs, databases. They want everything to be easier. But tools are not easy to use; you cut your finger on a kitchen knife or smash your thumb with a hammer, but no one stops cutting or hammering. We learn. If tools were easy, we would all fix our own cars. But no, professional mechanics fix your car. Some librarians want to dumb down the profession of librarianship! To what end? Why the fuck would you want to do that? So what if the catalog is difficult to use: teach people to use it. The people who learn will be smart and the other assholes will remain assholes; it’s that simple.”

I guess I should mention the blogger uses quite a bit of profanity, but I think that’s to be expected from someone who goes by the.effing.librarian. I’m curious to see what other people think. 

Oh, and this is pretty accurate:


The end of technical services or a new beginning?

In one of the recommended readings for our October 21st session on Metadata Standards & Applications, Eden (2013) makes some excellent points in asking whether there is an end to technical services. Given that users bypass library catalogs for search engines, librarians would do well to shift efforts from cataloging to more user-centric technical services that would fulfill demands for full text articles online, a unified search engine that can help manage and navigate thousands of search results, and better metadata to help determine whether a particular result is useful or not.

Eden, B. L. (2013). The new user environment: The end of technical services? Information Technology and Libraries.

Updated reading for October 7th!

Since the government shutdown is currently making Library of Congress information inaccessible, let’s replace the Tillett reading (What is FRBR? A conceptual model for the bibliographic universe) with this one (which I’ve uploaded to the LMS):

Carlyle, Allyson. (2006). Understanding FRBR As a Conceptual Model: FRBR and the Bibliographic Universe. Library Resources & Technical Services, 50(4). 

Quick FYI: I will be out of the country starting this afternoon and will not be back until Monday morning.

Finally, don’t forget to turn in your completed Final Project Proposal Form, giving your abstract of your individual essay topic, by next Monday!  Have a great week!