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Home Library: can I use DDC to organise my books in orderly fashion

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Edited: Nov 23, 2007, 3:03am Top

I am not a librarian. If a person owned more than 1,000 books, do you think it is worthwhile to spend time and effort to classify the books in DDC order besides having LT tagging in the person's LT catalog?
By having DDC numbers , the person can arrange in the subject or topic arrangement on the shelves.

Is it true that General Fiction, ( imaginative
fiction ) the first 3 letters of the author's surname or family name is sufficient for classification e.g. George Orwell, use ORW.

It is not true that Fiction cannot be classified by DDC. The main DDC group, 800 covers the books on plays,poetry,literature,criticism.Can I say that William Shakespeare's plays cannot be classified as SHA but rather should be

For the nonfiction books, I use the relevant group number but modify the classification for easy reference because a home library is a "small" library for your own use, maybe friends and relatives.

Books with true life accounts but spiced up with imaginary dialogues and incidents are classified as general fiction.
The book , The Innocent Man by John Grisham is nonfiction and not to be considered as general fiction. Is this correct?The book is based on true incidents and persons.

Can anyone a LT member who is a qualified/certified librarian make some comments and recommendations. Thank you

Edited: Nov 23, 2007, 7:35am Top

The list of classes is on Wikipedia here:

It's a start anyway. Fiction can be classified under 813, 823, etc., but many public libraries classify them as "FIC," and then the second part is the first three letters of the author's last name, as you mentioned.

Dewey tried to use the same digits to represent certain qualities throughout his system - where he could, that is. Within the 800s, the second digit of "1" indicates American literature in English, and "2" is English (British) literature. The third digits of 1, 2, and 3 cover the biggest forms: "1" is poetry, "2" is drama, and "3" is fiction. Thus, American fiction can be 813, British is 823, and so on. 811 is American poetry, 812 is American drama.

I'm pretty sure that Shakespeare has his own number, at least for the plays - might be 822.33 - it's definitely under 822.

Regarding specific books, such as the Grisham one you mentioned, you may want to check the book details pages. In addition to the work information listed, the bottom of the page should have a link to See MARC records. The 082 or 092 field will have the Dewey number assigned by the library that created the record.

One thing about Dewey - if you want all works by an author to be together, it won't work for any author that writes in more than one form, such as books of poetry and novels, or even Shakespeare, whose sonnets will be in 821. I've developed my own system for classifying fiction, poetry, and drama, because neither LC nor Dewey works for me. And if you have lots of "imaginative literature," there's always the old stand-by, alphabetical by author's name. :-)

You could use Dewey for parts of your collection, and do something else for what's usually the 800s - it's up to you.

Edited to add:
Here's the Details page for that Grisham book, which LC did class in Dewey's "social sciences," not fiction:
You can see the main catalog information right there, including Dewey and LC classification, and LC subject headings. The link to view complete MARC records from LC and other libraries is at the bottom of the Details page.

Edited: Dec 3, 2007, 6:55pm Top

Dewey looks easy at first glance: 10 divisions, subdivided by 10, subdivided again. But when you get into Dewey it isn't simple at all--if done correctly. There's a beautiful symmetry to the system, but the use of sub-tables can be downright confusing.

One of my very first assignments as a professional librarian was to re-catalog the small library at the Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon, Georgia. The park rangers were trying to do a good job 'fixing up' the library. They cleaned out a storage room, put carpet on the floor, put bookshelves around the sides. Then they talked all the interpretative people into giving up the books they hoarded at their desks to be cataloged.

They had an 'abbreviated' Dewey intended for a school libray, but all their books were anthropology, archaelogy, or natural history. They had circled three numbers in the book, and then gave up. They couldn't cram their thousand books into the three numbers without having, well, just three numbers.

So they hired me. I took one look at the collection, saw what happened, and made an executive professional decision: Catalog by the author's last name. Create a Card Catalog with author, title, and subject. It was a functional system for a small library that avoided the frustration and complexity of a more 'refined' system.

Of course, I had to explain the difference between word-by-word alphabetization and letter-by-letter alphabetization, but that's a different story....

Nov 28, 2007, 12:21am Top

my previous boss made a similar decision. All of the books in our small dental specality library were shelved by author's last name. The newer yet same age and equally schooled librarian constantly mocks her because of this. So not professional but that's another rant. It's good to see someone else had to decided to do that as well.

5CTSSmithre First Message
Nov 28, 2007, 6:43am Top

The easiest way is to depend upon the classification of others. I typically go to the Library of Congress, University of Michigan or another large university for the basic information. Unfortunately, most records are not capturing Dewey numbers, and sometimes not even LC numbers. To get these, I open another tab or window in my browser, and go to www.worldcat.org. Once the book is on the screen, I look at the list of libraries there. If one is a public library, I select the library name to go to the library's own catalog and copy the Dewey number there.

To sort these is pretty easy. You customize the view you use to display your books by adding a Dewey No. field. Then, when you select the title of the column, it sorts by Dew No. (I've forgotten how to customize the field, but I'm sure someone else knows).

I hope that helps!

Bob Smith

Nov 28, 2007, 7:31am Top

I've read that Laura Bush has her home library organized by the DDC!

Nov 28, 2007, 11:29am Top

>6 skf: Somehow. I doubt that she did the work.

Nov 28, 2007, 11:59am Top

>7 jlane:
Well, she is a librarian, isn't she?

Nov 28, 2007, 1:02pm Top

Yes, at one time she was a public school librarian. Considering the demands on her time now, it seems unlikely to me she'd pull Dewey and LCSH books from the shelves and figure her own call numbers. Much less typing the labels, removing the paper backing, applying that to each book, adding a property stamp, and finally covering the jacket with mylar. That's not to mention that data entry for the title or the shelving.

Would someone who has a fully staffed library attached to a White House home be likely to do that?

Nov 28, 2007, 2:11pm Top

Anything's possible. My home library is cataloged with Library of Congress numbers (heavily modified from the CIP information because I disagree with some of it). Sure I didn't process my books using mylar book covers, but each book has a sticker with a call number on the inside book cover. I'd believe that someone who's spent a good deal of her life as a librarian has, at some point, sat down and cataloged her books. The big outlay of time is just when you get started. Then you just add a few books at a time.

Dec 3, 2007, 6:54pm Top

Hmm. Can you do an LC or Dewey sort here? That would be ideal. Just add your collection, sort, and you'd have an automatic shelf-list to guide your filing sequence.

Dec 3, 2007, 10:56pm Top

mschuyler: This is a brilliant idea. I wonder.....

Dec 11, 2007, 5:36pm Top

You can do an LC sort - switch to Display Style "E" and then click one the LC Classification column to sort.

Mar 6, 2008, 10:19pm Top

I understand the appeal of DDC and LC class systems for larger collections, but for personal collections of fewer than 5,000 volumes, I don't think it would be worth while to use either of these. If you really want a shelf list, I think it would be worth your while to create your own system. Nothing elaborate, just something simple to track whatever axes (presumably subject, main entry, and publication date, but maybe not) you want. This way you don't have to screw around with the dreary bits that, for a smaller collection, pointlessly increase the complexity of assigning a class number without conferring any real benefit.

Mar 28, 2008, 7:17pm Top

I've been finding this very interesting, as I am wondering about the best way to organise my own books.

At the moment most of books, with a few notable exceptions, are merged in with my fathers library. His system separates out fiction and non fic, with fiction in one room, and non fic spread out.

The disadvantage of the DDC, say, is that one is likely to have a lot of books on certain topics, and fewer on others. And the individuality of a library means that one should really try and tailor one's system.

A complicating factor is the function of a book, it is one thing having all the history in one place, but for me it would make sense for me to distinguish between books about history, and books that I may need for my course. There is a world of difference between Great Tales From English History and The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England likewise I don't need all my reference books by my desk, so I seperate out My OED and my Fowler from more rarely used reference books such as my editions of Pear's.

Or is this kind of utility separation anathema to serious cataloguers?

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