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Jul 8, 2008, 3:25pm Top

Are there any subject enthusiasts who would like to declare their subject fundamental?

I think it actually benefits us to be somewhat specific in defining the first level of subjects, to help reduce the de facto "miscellaneous" sections at the beginning of each new subject area.

Jul 8, 2008, 4:05pm Top

A classical structure is to move from the abstract to the real—start with religion and philosophy and end with cane-tip manufacture.

I don't think the order matters much—top-level sections will be large enough and distinct enough that you won't be crossing their boundaries often. But I think it makes sense to put math near technology, religion near philosophy, anthropology near sociology, etc.

Jul 8, 2008, 4:28pm Top

how 'bout (v. broad)


general works (a.k.a.) encyclopedia


any separate classification (i.e. for non-books) optionally, put music/movies between fiction and general

I never saw the need to put fiction as basically a subset of literary analysis, which really belongs with the humanities (same goes for library science). This also follows an idea ("most looked-for first") suggested by sonyagreen.

Jul 8, 2008, 4:29pm Top

Perhaps it makes sense to make a collection of fundamental topics first, and decide order later?

I do think that categories should be able to encompass their applied version:
Physical sciences - chemistry - chemical engineering
" - zoology - animal husbandry

Belief systems - religion - Christianity
" - philosophy - nihilism

Jul 8, 2008, 5:21pm Top

(0) Knowledge systems
(1) Philosophy and religion
(2) Science and Technology
(3) Language and literature
(4) History and Geography
(5) People and social sciences

Jul 8, 2008, 5:50pm Top

>5 markbarnes:

Where are you putting the arts (painting, sculpture,etc.)?

Edited: Jul 8, 2008, 6:41pm Top

Probably in social sciences? (though a separate arts and crafts is arguably useful)

Jul 8, 2008, 10:00pm Top

If were were doing the book industry, we should probably do:

1. Guns
2. Nazis
3. The Civil War
4. Crafts
5. Self-help
6. Misc.

Jul 8, 2008, 11:48pm Top

8> Along those lines, and along the principle of anti-lumpiness, let's look at tags--the top 75 -{read, own, paperback, 2007, etc.} are:

fiction (2,010,547), fantasy (681,297), history (559,793), non-fiction (388,245), science fiction (372,223), mystery (364,549), nonfiction (325,124), poetry (259,947), biography (244,590), reference (221,117), novel (218,336), philosophy (188,952), literature (184,798), art (172,975), religion (164,844), romance (162,913), short stories (161,723), humor (158,162), sf (156,774), science (144,735), historical fiction (124,268), children's (118,863), travel (114,943), manga (113,924), series (113,898), horror (112,586), comics (105,751), classic (103,961), music (99,363), children (99,244), politics (96,516), anthology (92,176), classics (88,323), young adult (86,415), memoir (85,180), 20th century (83,881), theology (79,976), psychology (76,534), cooking (75,456), american (73,975), cookbook (73,950), essays (73,826), crime (73,728), graphic novel (72,084), england (69,582), christianity (67,722), drama (67,415), british (67,306), humour (66,598), picture book (65,015), language (64,012), ya (63,548), childrens (62,918), english (60,998), sci-fi (59,577), historical (59,456), writing (59,442), thriller (59,119), adventure (58,564), autobiography (55,073), magic (53,811), christian (52,319), photography (51,063), food (50,429), american history (50,002), spirituality (49,650)

Looking at this--and looking at actual public libraries--we should put more of an emphasis on fiction than just one section out of twelve. Stop mixing fantasy and mystery and poetry. Perhaps for ten:

general fiction
general non-fiction
science fiction

That's not entirely serious, but I think it's a good start on knocking us out of the 19th century mold.

Jul 8, 2008, 11:51pm Top

Incidentally, I don't think we should only look at LT data. We can get some library data too.

Jul 8, 2008, 11:56pm Top

what's wrong with the way bookstores are laid out? they're great for browsing, and I can usually find that i'm looking for as well. They just arrange alphabetically by authors last name within broader subject headings. You could subdivide geographically, and then by time period if you wanted depending on your collection

History ---> European-->Medieval--->Alpha by Author
Sports --> Tennis

I've been in huge multi-story bookstores - they just have big directories on the wall telling you what floors the subjects are on - why do libraries need bizarre combinations of numbers/letters to organize material. If I want a book BY Nabokov, I'll go to fiction. If I want a book ABOUT Nabokov, I'd go to Literary Criticism.

Jul 8, 2008, 11:57pm Top

sorry - my computer likes to erase words.

it should read: "I can usually find exact items that i'm looking for as well.

Jul 9, 2008, 12:00am Top

10> LT data is a start somewhere. Most public libraries I've been in split out fiction, and often mysteries, science fiction and westerns, maybe romance, from the main 800 section. In LibraryThing, in personal libraries, and in public libraries, there's quite a number of cookbooks that all get stuffed away in 641.

If you can get good library data, I'd like to see the unevenness of existing libraries over DDC.

Jul 9, 2008, 12:08am Top

>11 mcswain27:

Speaking of bookstores. They seem to get by alphabetizing within subjects by author without Cutter-izing the author into the call number.

Does this suggest that Cutter-izing isn't really necessary, particularly now that the barcode gives you the uniqueness formerly provided by a long call number?

Jul 9, 2008, 4:29am Top

Looking at the above, it looks as though starting with a "classical" set of categories would work well for academic libraries, since that's still basically the way we divide up academic disciplines, but it doesn't reflect the distribution of books in public libraries or LT users' collections at all. If you start with a "bookshop" set of categories, you risk building something that doesn't work for the sort of books that are important in libraries (especially academic ones) but don't get sold to private users much.

It's probably better to have one or two top-level categories that will be empty in some libraries than to have a situation where an entire academic library ends up in "general non-fiction", so we probably need a compromise of some sort.

My experience (with patents, not books) is that it doesn't greatly matter if the assignment of subjects to top-level categories is a little bit illogical - if there are only eight or nine of them, users soon know what goes where, and don't worry about the underlying philosophy.

How about something like this:

- imaginative writing
- arts & humanities
- social sciences
- economics, law & commerce
- maths, physical sciences & technology
- biological sciences & technology

I think that gives a better match to the way academic disciplines are grouped in practice than the 19th century model. There's room there for another couple of top-level headings, so you could think about bringing some other big areas up to the top level - history and biography, for instance, or separating technology from science.

Jul 9, 2008, 4:50am Top

From a science perspective (it being what I do), I wouldn't like to see a first level split between physical sciences and biological sciences. It creates ambiguity at the first level. Assuming that you would class 'physical sciences' as including physics and chemistry and 'biological sciences' as those related to biology, there is already a conflict as chemistry is further and further overlapping with biology, as is physics.

To give you an example or two, how would you catalogue a book that deals with some of the cutting edge chemistry that is being done nowadays on DNA (chemistry with biological implications) or the physics of muscle movement. In the university where I work, we are more and more being faced with an overlap between these disciplines and this will become more pronounced in the future.

I would prefer 'Science' to remain undivided at first level.

Jul 9, 2008, 5:14am Top

I agree with klarsu on the science split - even though it only defers the hard decisions. I like the suggestions of economics, law & commerce section and imaginative writing.

Jul 9, 2008, 5:34am Top

>16 klarusu:,17
Yes, I think you're right - on reflection, it doesn't really make sense to separate chemistry from biology at the top level if you want the system to be future-proof (pharmacology would be another area where the division breaks down), and physics should go together with chemistry.

What about the division between science and technology? I'd still be inclined to keep them together, but if you split them it might make it easier to have entries for big subjects like medicine and computer science at the second level rather than the third.

Jul 9, 2008, 5:50am Top

Personally, I like the 'Science and Technology' category at first level, with the further levels used to separate into more specific categories ... certainly shelving ('scuse the unintentional pun) the hard decisions but as #18 suggested, it might make it easier to make some large subject divisions at second level. There is going to be overlap between technology and science and this would allow for categories that go some way towards acknowledging that.

On the fiction side, I personally would like to see 'Fiction' as a first level category with the ability to subdivide further down into areas like 'Sci-Fi' and 'Literature'. To me, 'Fiction' encompasses all ficticious literature but 'Literature' doesn't encompass all fiction, there being a 'quality' judgement behind the word 'literature' in modern usage. Maybe that's just me hanging on semantics that have no place in a catalogue, but if the usage of a word in the vernacular has changed since the times of Dewey, maybe a new classification should acknowledge that.

Jul 9, 2008, 6:01am Top

>19 klarusu:
That was why I suggested "imaginative writing", which would be a place for novels, poems, short stories, plays, graphic novels, and whatever media people come up with in future for imaginative works, while postponing fruitless arguments about terms like "literature" or "fiction" that tend to involve value judgments. Maybe "imaginative works" would be better?

Jul 9, 2008, 6:05am Top

I like the term 'Imaginative Works', that would encompass plays and poetry etc. which 'Fiction' doesn't.

Jul 9, 2008, 6:09am Top

Possibly a category "Imaginative Works and Language"? I may be mad but it is an intuitive grouping for me which would enable further divisions which encompasses foreign language works of fiction .....

Jul 9, 2008, 6:17am Top


Yep I would keep technology with science (and probably lump engineering in there too as it fits better than any of the other categories).

I also notice you don't have an odds & sods section (Generalities and miscellaneous stuff).

Jul 9, 2008, 6:23am Top


I don't like "Imaginative Works And Language" because it implies to me that books on language and linguistics may belong there. They really belong as part of the humanities section.

Edited: Jul 9, 2008, 7:08am Top

1. General Works
2. Philosophy and Belief Systems (I prefer 'Belief Systems' to 'Religion' as it encompasses things like Buddhism which is rather a BS than a Religion in the strictest sense ...)
3. Maths, Science and Technology
4. Imaginative Works ('works' would mean that this could be used to encompass artistic works like painting and sculpture as well)
5. Languages
6. Social Sciences (which would encompass 'Linguistics')
7. Humanities
8. Economics, Law and Commerce

Jul 9, 2008, 8:15am Top

I don't see a real need for "languages" at the top level, unless you make it into an all-embracing category bringing together linguistics, cognitive science, semiotics, and all the other language-related disciplines. I suspect that would get messy.

If you just want to distinguish between works in different languages, that should happen much lower down the tree (French works on statistical physics should be next to English and Russian ones, not next to Balzac).

I'd put philosophy under "humanities", or even "general works" - "pure" philosophy is not likely to be a huge subject in most libraries, and I don't think it links to religion any more closely than it does to other areas of knowledge. The only reason for putting it at the top level would be to impose some sort of Aristotelian idea about the structure of knowledge. And I think that would go against Tim's ideas of a modern, humble classification scheme.

Religion, or rather BS(!!), has the pragmatic justification that some libraries have a lot of it, and it's a subject that users are likely to be looking for, so it might well deserve to be at the top level.

I'll shut up in a minute, because I suspect we're in danger of ending up with a design for a disc-shaped load transporting object here... :-)

Jul 9, 2008, 9:47am Top

>14 timspalding::
"Speaking of bookstores. They seem to get by alphabetizing within subjects by author without Cutter-izing the author into the call number.

Does this suggest that Cutter-izing isn't really necessary, particularly now that the barcode gives you the uniqueness formerly provided by a long call number?"

The thing with bookstore auhtor alphabetization (and I did my hard time in retail bookstores before moving into libraries) is that without a shelf label, people will interpret the book information inconsistently. If you simply look at the author's name on the spine, say "MacLeod," some will shelve under "M" and some people will shelve it under "L." (Don't ask me why, but I swear it's true.) Also, what if there are two authors on the spine: without something telling you which name to shelve it under, where would one put it? And what about books about biogrpahical subjects that should be shelved together rather than by author (example, books in our library on Chanel are Cuttered "C362" rather than shleved under "fashion designers" according to individual author names).

A Cutter number allows you to designate exactly where that book should go, every single time, no matter who is reading the label. Some libraries don't use Cutter numbers, but rather just print the author's name, 4 four letters of name, etc., but it's still printed on the label to ensure that material is in the exact same place on the shelf every time. But often that's a lot to type (try fitting "Weinbereger" on a spine label) and what do you do when you have 16 books by the same author in the same subject section? The Cutter number allows you a way to give each of those materials an exact location: C362, C3621, C3621a, etc.

Jul 9, 2008, 9:47am Top

For some, their philosophy IS their belief system.

Also, to me, engineering is the bridge between science and technology. Thus physicians are in a sense human biology engineers. (Just to put my comments in context, my own academic background is in physics, math, and astronomy and the other half of hailelib has a PhD in chemical engineering. We have both read a great deal of history and philosophy of science.)

The edges of categories will bleed into other categories no matter what divisions you make but I rather like the ones in message 25.

Jul 9, 2008, 9:57am Top

#26 thorold, I was a linguistics student before science and that part of me still hankers to keep it as a separate top-level classification. I like the idea of 'Languages and xxxxx' that does encompass things like linguistics and semiotics - I've never really liked the tendency to group linguistics as a social science and I think there's mileage in keeping it as a high level classification of its own. That's probably personal bias!

Jul 9, 2008, 10:01am Top

-Physical sciences
-Theoretical sciences
-Belief systems
-Imaginative works
-Social sciences

I imagine this top tier being useful in constructing the classification system, but a map of the shelves being constructed from the better-defined second or third tier of concepts. Tiers become progressively more applied, so that "Pet care" appears nested in the broad "Physical sciences" section.

Imaginative works


Social sciences

Of course, it's up to the library how far they want to drill down. I'm in favor of specificity, and I think that it can be achieved without ridiculously long call numbers (see numerals/letters thread).

Jul 9, 2008, 10:12am Top

Message 30

How do you see theoretical sciences being different from physical sciences? For instance, there is theoretical physics, experimental physics, and applied physics and many physicists practice all three and, more importantly, will expect the books for all three to be shelved close together in a 'physics' section.

Jul 9, 2008, 10:17am Top

>31 hailelib:

I mean things like math and cs - any suggestions for a better term? Intangible science?

Jul 9, 2008, 11:08am Top

>32 sastolfi:

Well, there's the obvious term of non-physical sciences, but I think maybe mathematical sciences might work better. Math, statistics, programming, etc. would all fall under it.

Jul 9, 2008, 11:21am Top

As most universities have a school of science and mathematics there is obviously some kind of affinity between them. Enough to consider them together at the top-level? There are many knowledgeable people who do not consider Maths (or Computer Science for that matter) a science. Historically, there have been strong links between mathematics and philosophy; and some still hold that view today.

Jul 9, 2008, 11:44am Top

Maybe using the term "sciences" confuses the issue? But my alternative vocabulary gets pretty metaphysical...


Jul 9, 2008, 12:19pm Top

Also, to further confuse the issue, mathematics is considered (by many scientists) to be the language of the physical sciences.

Jul 9, 2008, 12:26pm Top

I wasn't serious about "General Non-fiction", but I am entirely serious about the fact that fiction is a huge section in most personal and public libraries and that leaving it as one section out of ten, or one section out of 26, is entirely unhelpful. I think splitting something as ill-defined as "literature" out is a bad idea, but I can see splitting drama and poetry out as a section. Genre fiction as a concept and title would annoy a lot of people, but also is a strong top level split that's used in real life.

Linguistics doesn't work as top-level section; in how many DDC libraries in the world is the 400s not one of the smallest sections, if not the smallest?

I wouldn't object to putting math under sciences; just don't call it mathematical sciences.

Jul 9, 2008, 12:26pm Top

I wonder about the difference between social sciences and humanities?

I guess the reason is that my interest is in architectural history and I am not sure in which of any of the categories that you suggest this would fall. I am back to the idea that "art and architecture" (including crafts) would be its own top tier category.

Also do not get rid of "science" as a word. It encompasses a thought process that is not covered by tangible. After all much of science is not tangible, it is theoretical but not necessarily imaginative or intangible.

Jul 9, 2008, 12:43pm Top

It sounds like it is important to acknowledge that while many subjects are informed by another subject, they are not necessarily a subset. So, physics is informed by mathematics which is informed by philosophy, but they are actually distinct disciplines. In other words, I would say that structural engineering is applied physics, but not applied philosophy.

Maybe it would help to clarify some of the broad subjects if we attempt to imagine what their second tier would be?

How about:
Imaginative works

Jul 9, 2008, 1:04pm Top


Really - where is genre fiction split out in real life?

Firstly, different genres may be split out but I have seen nowhere that has a genre/non-genre split.

Secondly, quite a number of people (those involved with genre studies for example) consider literary fiction to be a genre just as much as westerns or romance.

On your second level of imaginative works - do we need something for multimedia works? Olfactory art (apparently there are some olfactory art installations)?

Jul 9, 2008, 1:08pm Top

First, why don't we talk about what works for top level Dewey and what doesn't work. For my expertise, I've taken cataloging, but we actually spent very little time on assigning call numbers.

000 Generalities
100 Philosophy and Psychology
200 Religion
300 Social Sciences
400 Language
500 Natural Sciences and Mathematics
600 Technology
700 The Arts
800 Literature and Rhetoric
900 Geography and History

Second, think of that in terms of an average public library. What do they have a lot of? (And this is just my experience as a user). Fiction, Hobbies and Crafts, biographies, self-help (I can't think of a better term for this, but both of my local libraries have an awful lot of--nutrition, parenting, how-to finance, health, etc.) I've always thought that in a public library setting, it was a little ridiculous to drill down from technology to "home economics and family living" to cookery! I guess what am I am asking is--would it be absolutely ridiculous to have a top level category that could encompass things like I mentioned? Should gardening really go under natural sciences--botanical sciences--etc. etc. I'm just throwing this idea out. I claim no real expertise! Dewey seems designed for more academic pursuits.

Edited: Jul 9, 2008, 1:13pm Top

If you want to look at Dewey and ponder what you would do different, here is a good webpage:


It has a link to look at each top level separately.

Jul 9, 2008, 2:24pm Top

Katissima, you brought up something that I was going to say as well. If we're thinking about the average public library collection and user, things like gardening or personal finance are probably more important than things like linguistics or philosophy.

Based on that criteria, a top-level list would probably look more like:

Fiction and Literature (including poetry, essays, etc.), subdivided by genre
Home and Garden (including cooking)
Art and Craft (both fine arts and things like knitting)
Sports and hobbies
Science and Technology
Mind and Body (self-help, diet books, health, psychology)
Religion and philosophy
History and social sciences
Travel and geography
Business, finance and economics

Jul 9, 2008, 2:31pm Top

But where would works ABOUT "Imaginative Works" go - maybe its my academic/LC Classification/Music specialty perspective, but I don't like the thoughts of scores themselves being under "Imaginative Works" while the books about them would have to be somewhere else... (Please note - I know we're trying to replace Dewey here - and I never worked in a public library long enough to figure out what was going on with Music under DDC)

Just a thought to ponder... but I do like the idea that "Imaginative Works" would cover such a wide range...

Edited: Jul 9, 2008, 2:49pm Top

In Tricoteuse's scheme, literary analysis is clearly in "History and social sciences", but I'm not sure where books for assistance with writing would go. What about general medicine? does it go in "Science and Technology"?

Jul 9, 2008, 3:11pm Top

I actually would've put literary analysis under the fiction/literature heading in my own scheme, because it's much more closely related to that than to anything else. The top level category doesn't necessarily have to be descriptive of everything in it, nor can it be.

Medicine could be argued to go in Science/Technology or in Mind/Body - that would be a decision that would have to be made (among many others) about where things fall. There might even be a argument in favor of making a distinction between medical textbooks as science/tech and "10 Ways to Treat your Diabetes at Home" as mind/body

Jul 9, 2008, 5:04pm Top

"The thing with bookstore author alphabetization (and I did my hard time in retail bookstores before moving into libraries) is that without a shelf label, people will interpret the book information inconsistently."

In college, I worked at a Borders, where instead of having spine labels, they have back-of-the-book labels. There was enough room for the barcode, as well as the title, author, section where you can find it ... and other stuff that I never looked at.

I'm trying to think about why this wouldn't be a great idea. You can flip the book over to see who the first author is, and we wouldn't need Cutter numbers, and in fact, you could have a separate area to write out in plain English where the book should go (Art - criticism), rather than a set of numbers that will inevitably make the book mis-shelved by the high school volunteer.

Considering that we'd want this to be scalable - that the Boston Public Library could use this as well as me with my two bookcases - perhaps using a set of words for describing the location would be handy. For BPL, they could use very specific strings (History - Boston - 1900s - mafia), where for my personal library of 250 books, I can use the (Arts - crafts - knitting - stitch dictionary), but also use (History) since I have all of 4 history books.

This would also make it easier for special collections, or libraries who just have a lot about one subject, to keep it organized by subject when it gets down to the 313.343634523 nitty gritty.

(Incidentally, the University of Illinois uses Dewey, and the Library Science grad program had a shirt last year that said "Our Dewey Goes Up To Eleven" (digits) - a nod to Spinal Tap.

Jul 9, 2008, 5:31pm Top

I'm not into putting science and techology together. Next to each other would be fine, but technology is slowly "lifing away" from science. It strikes me like including movies in the technology section. After all, movies are such a technological marvel!

I'm worried that a top-level system with only ten or twelve categories will necessarily involve us in the "cooking" problem. Why not be generous and use many more numbers—A to Z or even AA to ZZ? I can't think of a term to embrace math, science and technology, for example, that isn't empty and abstract--exactly what you don't want when designing a system to be used by real people. Why not separate categories for each of them?

Jul 9, 2008, 7:20pm Top

Tim, so you would do something more like Library of Congress than Dewey?

To break my own system down further in the way that I think you mean (skipping I and O because they look too much like 1 and 0)...

A. Novels
B. Other fiction and Literature (including poetry, essays, etc.)
C. Biography
D. Home and Garden (including cooking)
E. Art
F. Crafts
G. Sports
H. Hobbies
J. Science
K. Technology
L. Mind
M. Body
N. Religion
P. Philosophy
Q. History
R. Social sciences
S. Travel and geography
T. Business, finance and economics

Jul 9, 2008, 8:24pm Top

Why not something like this?

1. Information about information (librarianship? Computer science?)
2. Communication (writing systems, languages, Computer science?)
3. Seeing and explaining the world/universe (philosophy AND religion AND natural sciences)
4. "Human activity"? (applied sciences/technologies (inc. Computer Science?), arts, social sciences, etc)
5. ? Anything left over?

I also think the system should have these qualities:

a. It should have massive redundancy: If we think that there is only one "perfect" place/number for an item and someone looks for it elsewhere, we've failed that person.

b. It should be faceted: For example, if an item can belong in are 1 AND area 2 AND area 3, why not state that on the classification? That way someone coming to look at that item will know that similar material can be found in other browsing areas.

c. It should leave LOTS of space for growth. If we fill a certain range (say, the numerals between 000 and 999) with all available knowledge, as soon as some new branch of knowledge comes about we will find ourselves frantically shuffling categories about, struggling to fit it into the existing structure. Instead, if we leave lots of room for growth (at both the global level and within specific subject areas), we should be able to just slot the new knowledge area(s) in.

Jul 9, 2008, 9:02pm Top

>43 Tricoteuse:
I like the way your list plays out - thinking the way people use the library and its resources rather than how us folks in the tech services room use the library's resources. Unless you're like me (haha) and shelve your books via LC or DDC at home, most folks use general groupings on their bookshelves. I would probably quibble with some of the groupings. For example: I think "mind and body" and "religion and philosophy" have the same connotations. So not only do we need to choose terms that are distinct unto themselves, they need to be easily recognizable and identifiable to the patron.

Jul 9, 2008, 11:55pm Top

Yeah, the terms need to map to things people are familiar with. I want to see where the history books are, not the books about things involving atoms in past time.

I prefer something like 49, except that I'd leave at least one letter space between all of them, and probably use two letters. The top level A, C, E, etc. can have some abstract meaning, but we can "hide" that--since I can't imagine any list of 13 encompassing subjects would avoid ungainly abstraction.

Jul 9, 2008, 11:56pm Top

Speaking of the "junk drawer" or "misc" part, maybe we can put that at the start of a classification, just to be different. :)

Edited: Jul 10, 2008, 12:03am Top

I'll add this to the mix. We are, in practice, developing new top levels at my public library. This amounts to layering a facet on top of Dewey. This is a sort of beta version that will be fully in use by September. This initial version is based on the questions people ask at the reference desk. My, don't I like the word 'this'. We expect considerable refinement as we gather responses from our library users.

-Arts & Crafts
-Business & Careers
-Geography & History
-Health & Medicine
-Home & Garden
-Language & Communication
-Literary Criticism
-Math & Science
-Moving To the U.S.
-Politics & Government
-Religion & Philosophy
-Social Topics
-Sports & Entertainment
-Tests & Education

-General Fiction
-Mystery & Suspense
-Science Fiction

-Graphic Novels/Manga
-Large Print

When we finish the conversion, I can provide statistical information about the layout. I can also provide updates on the changes our users request.

BTW, making our collection's structure responsive to our users is not a Library 2.0 thing. I personally detest that term. This is a Honest Customer Service thing. Library 2.0 just helps administrators pretend matronizing/patronizing the uninformed masses has ever had a legitimate place in a democratic society.

Jul 10, 2008, 12:08am Top

I lvoe "Moving To the U.S." as a top level category. Can we get someone from the Minutemen on to argue for a top-level section "Leaving the US right now"?

Jul 10, 2008, 2:26am Top

Yes, 'Moving To the U.S.' sticks out. It's also, more generally, a high volume question. Most people moving to X country want more than just how to keep their work visa. They want to learn X language, etiquette, what is expected of them legally, etc. The section is small, but that makes it more comprehensible. Titles in a language one barely reads don't convey "getting closer" type information.

This is like 'Local History' brought up in another thread. Should we / can we make some categories/facets/whatever relative? Can we say, "The exact name of this classification depends on where the library is physically located."? What a boon to know that 17:25:32 will always take me to 'Street Maps of the City I'm In'.

Jul 10, 2008, 2:30am Top

... Or that 18:21:32 represents "books about sexual practices this community thinks are perverse." Could solve a lot of lawsuits :)

56 is tough. I'd say we leave holes. On LT itself, the main classification needs to presume the library is nowhere.

Jul 10, 2008, 3:28am Top

On the question of many/few top-level entries, I'm happy to follow the lead of people with practical library experience. I like a small set of headings at the top-level, because it means I can quickly get a sense of the overall structure (and remember it without checking the book every time), but that reflects my experience of patents, where the classification is only used by a relatively small group of trained professionals.

For a public library I can easily imagine that a first-time user will find it easier to locate "religion" if it's called N than if it's called A03F, even if the latter better expresses its relationship to other subjects.

Jul 10, 2008, 4:53am Top

I've noticed that a couple of people have suggested things like 'Mind' and 'Body' sections and have categorised psychology alongside things like self-help books and diet books. This is going to upset the psychologists! Psychology is the science of the mind. It should be classed under 'Science'. I'm sure our university is not alone in that we have a Psychology division within the Department of Life Sciences - their research lies in areas of brain activity (MRIs etc.) and psychological questions. I'm not about to tell them they're going to be shelved alongside 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' ;)

Jul 10, 2008, 9:13am Top

Back on track please. The topic is top level. Once that is decided, and only then, can anybody think about subdivisions. Before that we really need to decide the character set.

An example from another thread, all we need to decide here is what does the “F” stand for. If we uses only letters we could have as many as 26 categories, alphanumeric, 36 categories, safe alphanumeric (no 0 or 1), 34 categories, very safe alphanumeric (no 0,1,2 or 5), 32 categories.

Personally I think 26 top-level categories is plenty; all life on earth just has 3 top-level categories IIRC. (26)(34) would give us 936 divisions in just the top two categories.

So the first step is how many top-level categories? Or am I completely off track here?

Jul 10, 2008, 9:29am Top

>14 timspalding:

Gee you must go to better-organized bookstores than me - I usually find the sort order has deteriorated completely, and it's impossible for the older among us to crane our necks sideways to try and make out the author names on the spines (this happens to me in cookbooks all the time), especially on the lower shelves. Hospitals colour code folders because it's easier to spot the misfiled - author names or Cutters or whatever, should be visible, and should aim for the same objective.

Jul 10, 2008, 10:20am Top

>60 TLCrawford:
Yes, we are trying for a list of top-level categories so that notation can be established. Thanks for the re-focus.

I think it's important to remember that we are trying to anticipate where someone might look for an object. While bookstores display their store map at a certain level of granularity, at some point they made higher-level associations so that all the books related to personal wellness occur in the same general area.

I came up with 23 potentials, in no particular order. I have tried to present them as adjectives so that we can understand that they refer to a group of more specific subjects (ie, Geological subjects).

Imaginative works: written
Imaginative works: pictorial
Imaginative works: constructed
Imaginative works: auditory


Jul 10, 2008, 10:57am Top

Those are all important - but physics is as least as important as the other sciences you name.

Geology could be considered a special case of planetary science which is a division of Astronomical. (Same with meteorology.)

Jul 10, 2008, 11:30am Top

Sports & Games are usually pretty big sections in bookshops and in my public library.

I really liked the Home & Garden category pwaak mentioned as well. Although I can see where the gardening stuff would go in the categories in #62 I'm not sure where the cooking, decorating and DIY books would go.

Jul 10, 2008, 11:52am Top

>63 hailelib:
Oops! Thanks for adding the forgotten science. So, maybe replace Geological with Physics? (Good adjective for this?)

>64 andyl:
How about Domestic?

Does anyone have a good descriptor for Sports & Games? "Recreational" makes me hesitate because it's kind of imprecise (there might be confusion around the place of professional athletics?).

Jul 10, 2008, 12:28pm Top

>62 sastolfi:

Where does sewing go? What about cooking? Real estste?

While ideally we want to serve all libraries and collections everywhere, if public libraries are going to be our main focus for the time being, I think we need to hone in on both the needs and language of those users. Someon's post in another thread (and please forgive me becuase I don't remember who or where and I read all out of order and often lose my place) suggested reviewing actual collection materials to help decide top level categories. Is there a way to aggregate some sort of dtata as to what the most commonly held books/materials/subjects are in American (and Canadian?) public libraries? Could we then also compare it to LT's data so see correlations and popular areas? I don't even know if this sort of thing would be do-able. But I think I'd rather have a solid base to stand on and begin to insert categories later for the more esoteric (in terms of public libraries) topics. I get that this could possibly lead to problems akin to DDC if unchecked--like Christianity dominating the 200s--which is why I'm only suggesting it as a place to start from, not to shape the whole system.

Jul 10, 2008, 12:36pm Top

>65 sastolfi:

Why can't we just call them "Home and Garden" and "Sports and Games"? It's fairly obvious what's in each of those categories, so is it necessary to have a single-word descriptor for them?

Jul 10, 2008, 12:53pm Top

>66 pivy: There are collection analysis products that provide statistical data on material in subject ranges, but I think that they are mostly based on the Dewey or LC number, which wouldn't be all that useful, since it would perpetuate the biases of the current systems. Also, they tend to be proprietory and costly to run.

Jul 10, 2008, 1:00pm Top

I propose more creative techniques for coming up with a consensus. Sure Dewey and LibraryThing already exist, but a bit of innovation could be of help. Also, consider that the organization of books into a virtual world may also matter.

Using a few creative techniques, here is what I have. Yes, these are crazy, but now is the time for craziness -- we can grow to be sane later.

How about top level classes that focus on:

* Geographic Area? (by publication, author birthplace or content)
* The human senses, and/or functions of the intellect? (touch, taste, smell, hearing, seeing, + thinking, imagining, remembering etc.)
* Chronology?
* Human Development/Age Appropriateness? (infancy, childhood, pre-teen, teen, 20s etc.)

Jul 10, 2008, 1:03pm Top

>66 pivy:

A whole lot of business stuff as well as law stuff isn't on the list either.

Would Finance & Business make a valid top level category?
Should law join it, or join the Political section?

Edited: Jul 10, 2008, 8:02pm Top

I'd like to make it explicit that academic use and general public use are structurally different. Systems that begin with an abstract theoretical top level and subdivide by field of study are pretty good for academic material, but make things very strange when fitting in popular works and how-to material. The general public, at least in the US, begins with "stuff people do" or "what my life revolves around" and subdivides inconsistently depending on the top level. This makes "Business and Finance", "Sports and Games", and "Pure Science" really good places to start, while "Mathematics" quickly becomes unwieldy.

Again, I only know that constraining the top level to things people do works in the US. I have been told that people outside the US initiate information searches differently, but I don't know how differently or in what ways.

>60 TLCrawford:

Let's assume at the start that the top levels are not constrained by the first character of the notation. I would prefer to make the top levels first, then create the notation with some empty space in case we need come back later and adjust for new developments.

Jul 10, 2008, 8:57pm Top

I'm really fond of a large number of fairly intuitive first level categories. So comments 49 and 54 appeal to me. I don't think most library users ever get beyond looking at the first level category when they are browsing so having a good amount of them allows users to zero in on what they want more quickly. There's a reason that bookstores organize that way.

It is nice to have deeper levels of content so that the more specific similar items are grouped together, but almost everyone that's doing research is going to use the public catalog. If you thought books about Pascal should have been under Science rather than Technology (not the best example, substitute a Medical/Chemical/Biological subject for more realism) it will become obvious after a search or two that this is not the case.

Jul 10, 2008, 11:19pm Top

>71 pwaak:

I'm worried about going too far on this however. If you have a "home and garden" section, what happens when you have a scholarly book about these topics? I could see it being weird.

Jul 11, 2008, 12:13am Top

As far as I'm concerned, home and garden (or home economics and horticulture) are not top level categories, and shouldn't be grouped together anyway. They are subsets of technology, and they descend from there through different paths.

I would have no problem putting the scholarly book Defiant gardens with "how-to" gardening books, possibly separated at a lower level of the classification scheme.

On the other hand, the components of "home" - household management, cookery, sewing, home design, interior decoration, etc., which are all aspects of the practice of home economics, would not end up together.

One of the things that has always irritated me about LC Classification is that it separates Nutrition (in Q) and Cookery (in T). So we have ended up with cookbooks for heart disease patients or diabetics nowhere near the rest of the cookbooks. Nutrition is (IMO) the reason for cookery. I find it more logical to treat nutrition and cookery as points on a continuum.

Edited: Jul 11, 2008, 12:21am Top

Its fine to treat those as points on a continuum sometimes, but keep in mind that the continuum is actually multidimensional, and thus the "nearness" relationships that are explicit in the continuum representation cannot all be explicit in the 1-dimensional mapping of that continuum onto a set of bookshelves.

However, its fun to think about a library in which all the books were tied to different points on strings that hung from the ceiling and you pushed your way through to find the book you wanted. Such a thing would be able to represent 3 dimensions fairly easily, so maybe that would help in some cases? :-)

At any rate, just an additional caution that has been already mentioned in so many places here that we cannot make this perfect. Somebody is going to expect something to be next to something else, and any given book can only have two neighbors.

Jul 11, 2008, 1:18am Top

74> Home and garden are only subsets of technology from one viewpoint. It takes less technology to take care of a plant then to run a theatrical production, but I don't think we're putting all that under technology.

As a factual matter, you're wrong in saying that nutrition is the reason for cookery. A lot of cookery is done solely for aesthetic reasons. I'd put nutrition under medicine, which would put it far away from the cookbooks, though I'd put cookbooks for diabetics or heart disease patients in the cookbook section. There's a split here, but it's somewhat inevitable.

Jul 11, 2008, 3:58am Top

>72 SatansParakeet:

I wonder how much that matters? It sounds as though the general sense here is that "casual" users find books principally by browsing shelves, so there have to be clear top-level headings for gardening, motor maintenance and yoga.

Is it reasonable to assume that users researching a specific topic will take the time to use the catalogue and identify the different headings under which relevant books are shelved? In that case, it would be less important to have an intuitive place in the hierarchy for more academic works.

Jul 11, 2008, 6:47am Top

>77 thorold:

I think a balance has to be struck. One of the advantages of academic strata is that they have sufficient history that they are likely to be changed significantly over time. Yoga, on the other hand, was way-uncool during the 80s & 90s.

Personally, I think the strata should be related to some kind of long-standing human routine. Having a domestic focus could be really interesting, actually, from an ideological point of view.

Jul 11, 2008, 9:31am Top

On the map of all human knowledge The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch and a doctoral thesis on plant nutrition in small scale agriculture fall very close together and should get the same classification. Will there be a problem shelving them together? No, if, and it is a big if, one library has both they have a reason to cover the same subject in such different levels of depth. Most of the small public libraries I frequent will lean more to the popular titles, the academic libraries will lean more to the weightier titles. It is still the same subject and should be classified the same.

Jul 11, 2008, 9:32am Top

I think that we are imagining current library signage, which often says something like "600-Technology" and leaves it up to the patron to figure out whether medicine is a technology. If we create an intuitive framework with a well-defined hierarchy, conceptually related materials should end up near each other, making them easier to find.

I'd like to suggest using "--- is an application of ---" to test whether a concept is first-tier. Here's why: If I'm looking for a book about growing corn in my garden, do I go to the section that seems to be about plants or the section that seems to be about domestic topics? A quick search in my OPAC shows that libraries have made divergent decisions - some have books about growing corn in the 580s and some have them in the 630s. 580 makes more sense to me, because it seems like planting a garden is an application of botanical knowledge.

I think it's important to remember that this is a behind-the-scenes frame for clustering works in an intuitive way. It's not completely necessary for a person to know that they are in the Economics section as long as they find personal finance and real estate near each other. And if you are a public library with limited theoretical works on economics but a great personal finance collection, it probably makes sense for you to use the term Personal Finance on your signage even though that might be a second- or third-level term.

Jul 11, 2008, 11:41am Top

>73 timspalding:

"If you have a "home and garden" section, what happens when you have a scholarly book about these topics?"

What about a standard subdivision to designate scholarly vs. non-scholarly? just a thought.

Jul 11, 2008, 11:47am Top

>69 greebie:

I've also been trying to "think outside the box" and come up with more creative and bizarre ideas, not necessarily thinking that they'll end up being used, but those sorts of ideas help push my brain in new directions (I know I have an inherent bias and I am actively trying to defeat that).

One thing I thought of yesterday what what if the classification levels didn't coresspond to any particular subject at all, but rather 'popularity' (for lack of a better word). The first level, let's say A1 or whatever, was whatever subject was the focus of that library, whatever area in which they held the most materials. In one library it might be personal finace, while another library it might be 'moving to the US.' B2 would be the next popular subject, etc.
It's an inhernetly flawed contruction in a number of ways, I realize, but I was trying to think up a way to accommodate the idea that different libraries have different needs.

Jul 11, 2008, 12:14pm Top

My experience as both an information seeker and a builder of information seeking tools always comes down to what library and information scientists call the vocabulary problem: "If everyone always agreed on what to call things, the user’s word would be the designer’s word would be the system’s word, and what the user typed or pointed to would be mutually understood. Unfortunately, people often disagree on the words they use for things" Furnas et al., 1987.

It seems to me that fine-tuning a deep taxonomy is missing the point. Unless information seekers will universally understand the taxonomy, it seems better to make sure there are many ways for them to navigate the information architecture of the classification system. Ranganathan at least had the right idea in principle.

Edited: Jul 11, 2008, 1:30pm Top

68. >There are collection analysis products that provide statistical data on material in subject ranges, but I think that they are mostly based on the Dewey or LC number, which wouldn't be all that useful, since it would perpetuate the biases of the current systems. Also, they tend to be proprietory and costly to run.

It's not the end of the world if the stats are based on Dewey or LC. If nothing else, it tells you where the Dewey and LC top level categories are disproportionately large or small. (Of course, I can do that to a certain extent just by comparing the spine width of my LC schedules: e.g., C is tiny and P is huge.)

Jul 11, 2008, 2:49pm Top


I disagree that this system should be something that exists entirely behind the scenes. I agree with you that people will be able to make the correct assumptions regarding the overarching connections amongst materials in proximity to one another, but think we should focus some attention on how the patron will know to go to that area in the first place.

I like Tim's metaphor of having top level categories that would be appropriate on a store directory. Patrons should be able to use the system itself as a broad finding aid and they shouldn't have to rely on it solely for secondary searching once they are in a given location.

Jul 11, 2008, 2:57pm Top

I'm wondering if we're putting too much effort into reducing the quantity of top level domains. Any time I've seen someone introduce a potential descriptor that includes an ampersand it's raised a red flag for me.

Jul 11, 2008, 5:05pm Top

As far as something like 'Home and Garden' is concerned, I think it is sometimes appropriate but mostly I would not advocate putting two subjects together like that.

Jul 11, 2008, 6:46pm Top

"Imaginitive Works"--Would this also mean shelving fiction with books about fiction, the way screenplays, film criticism, and film history are all grouped together now?

Fiction/nonfiction split has its merits, especially in libraries with more than one floor, but I like the idea of patrons being able to get (for example b/c I had this question earlier) The Scarlet Letter, its cliff notes, some literary criticism, and maybe even an author biography without having to go all over the building.

Edited: Jul 11, 2008, 7:08pm Top

I think we need to start moving along with this..this is an excellent idea...right now lets just keep it focused on the top level categories. Drilling down into the individual categories can be done once we have the initial framework sorted out.

here is my 2 cents worth..

Having many top level categories is beneficial.

Think into the future when a lot of books may only exist electronically and have to be stored and accessed by some sort of computer Operating/File System. They do have limitations on "Tree" depth and string length of file names.

Starting with something like 2 top level categories is gong to create a lot of sub-directories. By the time a specific item is filed it could be 20 - 100 directories deep...this can present difficulties.

Having a large number of Top Level Categories is also physically beneficial for more easily breaking up the categories in a Physical Library...example...having only 2 top level Categories (say fiction and non-fiction) is only going to serve to physically split your library into two halves...each halve will still need to be subdivided further.

With a greater number of Top Level Categories, you can more easily section off your library into appropriate physical areas.

I don't believe that Dewey with his 10 Top Level Categories is enough...15 - 20 Top Level Categories would likely be more appropriate for the vast number of Topics in circulation today and in the future.

I say we start with a lot of Top Level Divisions and then combine them if needed. It is a lot easier than trying to split categories in a tree once they have been created.

Jul 11, 2008, 8:05pm Top

89> I think your concerns about computer storage are misplaced. For one, the current limitations on tree depth and length of file names are by no means guaranteed to exist in the future. For another, there's no need for internal storage to mirror any external ordering. Even if it does, there's lots of flexibility there; if it is an inconvenience to store them as 4/1/3/point/9/5, then they will be stored as 413/95.

I fail to see why more top level categories is necessarily better physically. Libraries can and will split on whatever fragments best fit the available space. We should have between 10 and 26 top level categories, IMO; that's what the bounds of our lettering/number system give us, and shouldn't be that hard to remember. Too few, and tags get too long; too many and it makes it harder to remember even the broad scheme.

Jul 11, 2008, 8:30pm Top

I'd just like to share a cautionary tale for those advocating a "bookstore-style" system or one based on 'lay-people's priorities."

Today I went into my local Borders to find three specific books: Al Gore's The Assault on Reason, something by Vandana Shiva (I didn't have a particular title in mind), and The World Without Us (which I knew the subject of, but not the author.)

Gore's book was shelved under History and Government>Political Science>Government and Politics, which was fairly easy to find. The other two, however, were not so simple. Turns out Shiva, who writes on issues of land and water rights in India, was classified under Animals and Nature>Gardening>Ecology alongside a number of books on 'Green Living' and global warming. The World Without Us, which depicts an imaginary future in which humans have suddenly disappeared from the the planet, leaving nature to restore itself, was under Animals and Nature>Science>Earth Science, which ended up actually being a subset of Astronomy.
Part of the problem, of course, is simply poor cataloging. (I saw Guns, Germs, and Steel nearby classified under Biology.) But a larger part of the problem is that by 'dumbing down' the system, there was just no good place for these books. I'm sure whoever first came up with this classification was well-intentioned (Animals and Nature seems like a more user-friendly top category than Ecology or Earth Sciences) but in the end it's a disaster. That's not to say that user-friendly top categories are a bad idea...but they need to accurately represent the kinds of books that are going to be shelved within them.

Just my 2¢

Edited: Jul 11, 2008, 10:16pm Top

>82 pivy:

Interesting direction. That gets me wondering if we can use facet families. By this, I mean faceting, but with the limitation that facets can only be arranged within predefined clusters. For instance, "Applied Science", "Plants", "Animals", and "Home and Garden" could be in a some cluster. The top level is the one the local library finds most useful, the others become second or third level subdivisions as needed. It may be impossible to create a family that spans many subdivisions without spilling all over the place. Perhaps a huge set of top level divisions that also act as subdivisions. So a library could choose between "Plants"->"Home and Garden" or "Home and Garden"->"Plants" to meet local need. In this situation, all top level divisions are, in a sense, optional. Or is this fatal flexibility?

> 91

I don't think anyone here is advocating BISAC. We have discussed the problems with the book store model, and I haven't seen anyone going there. That does not mean we cannot learn from a valiant effort. There is a difference between "dumbing down" and "trying to make more relevant," which is the reality of what BISAC attempted. To date, my book finding experience in both book stores and libraries is essentially identical. This tells me that BISAC and Dewey are not so different as people claim.

What really counts is sending the majority of people in approximately the right direction on the first try. Classification as a whole lives and dies on this, and it starts at the top level. So the approach we go with has to be a good one, and we have to know why we are going there. Subdivisions are like the CEO's office staff. They can make a good CEO look bad but will never make a bad CEO look good.

What I really want to see is a top level composed entirely of verbs instead of nouns. I don't know how this would pan out, but I think it's worth considering.

Jul 11, 2008, 11:20pm Top

A lot of the Dewey ampersands are there in order to make it less absurd, dated or embarrassing:

Dewey 1876: 297 Mohammedanism
Today: 297 Islam, Babism & Bahai Faith

Dewey 1876: 460 Spanish
Today: Spanish & Portuguese languages (Dewey considered Portuguese to be a dialect of Spanish)

Jul 12, 2008, 12:45am Top

I'm having a lot of fun with iTunes/UC Berkley podcasts of the course "Information Science."

I enjoyed mention of a classification of knowledge in Ibn Qutaybah's _Book of the best traditions_:

1. Power
2. War
3. Nobility
4. Character
5. Learning and Eloquence
6. Ascetisism
7. Friendship
8. Prayer
9. Food
10. Women

Anyone for starting from this? :)

Jul 12, 2008, 12:46am Top

>92 pwaak:

Yes, exactly. I am trying to think if there's a possibility for some sort of 'modular faceted' system, for lack of a better description. I think my goal in this project is to see if there's a way to really make the system useable for a wide variety of collections yet still be somehow consistent. Maybe those two conecpts are mutually exclusive, but I'm interested in giving it a shot to find out.

Jul 12, 2008, 8:40am Top

I don't know if Dewey actually considered Portuguese a dialect of Spanish, but if so, it's not reflected in his system. The 1876 system is here: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/12513/12513-h/12513-h.htm

The 400s go:

400 Philology.
*429 Anglo-Saxon.
*439 Dutch and Low German
*449 Old French, Provençal.
*459 Romansh and Wallachian.
*469 Portuguese.
470 LATIN.
*479 Medieval Latin
480 GREEK.
*489 Modern Greek.
490 Other Languages.
*491 Chinese.
*492 Egyptian.
*493 Semitic.
*494 Indian.
*495 Iranian.
*496 Keltic.
*497 Slavic.
*498 Scandinavian.
*499 Other.

All the 4x9s are separate languages stuffed under a similar language. One may as well accuse the moderd DDC of thinking the Scandinavian languages, which have been moved to 439, of thinking that Danish is a dialect of German.

Edited: Jul 12, 2008, 10:00am Top

But that proves my point! Anglo-Saxon is a form of English, Dutch and Low German are forms of German, Medieval Latin is a form of Latin, Greek of Greek, and on and on.

That leaves 449 and 459. While Provençal is today spoken of as a form of Occitan, drawing fine distinctions is not so easy and the language is closely associated with French (itself a bunch of dialects standardized around one of them) and is spoken in France. Romansh is rather a similar case—closely related to N. Italian dialects. Only Wallachian—I suppose he means what we call Romanian—is really off. Here Dewey is throwing in the towel, I think, not willing or able to give Romanian a full ten, but not having a good place for it. (It's quite possible, however, that, in the 1870s, Romanian was regarded as more Italic in origin.). As for the Scandinavian languages being part of German, this is directly contradicted by the words above. 498 is part of the 490s, labelled "other languages." (In fact, a modern linguist would consider them to be part of the Germanic family.)

The idea that Portuguese is a Spanish dialect is a very common 19c one. Linguists know that "dialect" and "language" are largely about political considerations, or at least cultural identity, not linguistic ones. And indeed various "dialects" of Spanish show as much difference from Madrid Spanish as Portuguese does. That said, even if you grouped the languages together today, you'd be a little more sensitive than Dewey seems today.

What's peculiar about Dewey's scheme is that, in a system explicitly-tree shaped, there is no conception of language families. By 1870, the concept of an Indo-European family was well established. I suspect a number of other trees were known too. But Dewey's "other languages" bears no trace of this. Instead it seems rather a "greatest hits," like religions, calculated by how much a rather narrow-minded resident of central Massachusetts might know about them. Egyptian, dead in the 18c except as a liturgical language among copts, and known to only a handful of scholars, is important. Japanese is not. Maybe it Dewey had been in eastern

Modern DDC has done the best it could, changing what it had to, but as little as possible:

491 East Indo-European & Celtic languages
492 Afro-Asiatic languages; Semitic
493 Non-Semitic Afro-Asiatic languages
494 Ural-Altaic, Paleosiberian, Dravidian
495 Languages of East & Southeast Asia
496 African languages
497 North American native languages
498 South American native languages
499 Miscellaneous languages

The result is structurally better but only underscores the crazy lumpiness of the system. Italian, spoken by about 63 million people, gets ten numbers. Chinese, spoken by a billion, is to the right of the decimal point--into the area of the classification too "specific" to be accessible without paying.

Edited: Jul 12, 2008, 10:10am Top

Incidentally, I think there's a tricky choice in languages—do you give big languages more space or do everything by family relationships?

Personally, I think Dewey's inclination is good. Going by trees alone, you'd end up very deep in before you get to, say, English. But I think you can do a little of both.

Fortunately, we can postpone this discussion for a while...

Jul 12, 2008, 11:25am Top

Dutch is a Germanic language closely related to German spoken in neighboring nations, as Portuguese is an Iberian language closely related to Spanish spoke in neighboring nations. Dutch is not a form of German.

>As for the Scandinavian languages being part of German, this is directly contradicted by the words above. 498 is part of the 490s, labelled "other languages." (In fact, a modern linguist would consider them to be part of the Germanic family.)

You missed the point; they were 498, but now they are 449; as your list shows, the modern DDC put South American languages there. They (well, not Finnish, which is presumably now 494) are Germanic, but that doesn't make them German.

I don't think that's a tricky choice; to give Penutian languages* as much space as Indo-European languages would do no service to anyone. Dewey did group by language relationships: 420-439 was Germanic languages, and 440-479 was Romantic.

I don't think you give Dewey enough credit here. For an American library of his era, why would you give Chinese all that much space? Even today, the Oklahoma State University library, which uses Dewey, 420, 430, 440 and 470 are each larger than the 490s, and 810, 820, 830, 840 and 870 are larger than the 890s.

I'd create a proposed sectioning of languages, but I need to know whether the system is going to be split alphabetic or numeric or what; do I divide it into 8 big sections, or 15, or 25 or what?

* Which is a controversial grouping, but the established language groups that it includes are, well, smaller.

Jul 12, 2008, 11:45am Top

Yes, you're right about Dutch. The situation is quite analogous. The issue might have been less of a problem if Dewey had labelled the section "Germanic" and "Iberian." "German" is a language--and anyway English should go under it. That's what the modern Dewey does, as you noted.

Dewey did group by language relationships: 420-439 was Germanic languages, and 440-479 was Romantic

Only with those parts. It goes IEGermanic, IERomance, IEHellenic, Chinese, Afro-Asiatic (Egyptian), Semitic, a mess of other IE, "other."

All I'm saying is that the grouping is a very 19c grouping. Without renaming the sections, it's likely to offend people. And it's bad for browsing. If you're interested in IE languages, you want them together. After doing Germanic and Romance and Ancient Greek, you don't want to have to skip over Chinese and Coptic to get to Russian and Scandinavian.

In short, the system is an unimaginable mish-mash today. If you interest is to weigh whether or not Dewey did well for his time, we may decide he did (although I disagree). But as a contemporary classification, it's a weird mess.

Jul 13, 2008, 12:14am Top

If you're interested in IE languages, you might want them together, but that's a pretty big if, as IE is an abstract theoretical creation. If you're interested in Scandinavian culture, you don't want to look for the material on Finnish far away from Swedish and Norwegian. Nor is it particularly useful for anyone but linguists to have Hindi and Bengali over with the IE languages and Kannada and Malayalam someplace else entirely.

This problem gets a lot more ugly if the same ordering is used for literature and languages, as per Dewey.

Jul 14, 2008, 8:54am Top

>92 pwaak:

I'm intrigued by the idea of categories being defined by their related action. Could you give us a list of verbs you would use?

Jul 14, 2008, 1:26pm Top

This thread has gotten past the 100th post and has raised several issues about the substance and form of top categories. I'm trying to see how these can be summarized and resolved and I keep coming back to what's the purpose of the OSC.

So, for example, I’m aware that OSC primarily will be used for shelving but do we ever see it as a tool for collection analysis at the level of library-to-library collection comparisons? If so, should its top-level categories correlate, in some ways, with widely-used classification systems such as the DDC and LC or with collection analysis tools like WorldCat Collection Analysis?

WCA uses a conspectus that has 32 divisions, about 500 categories and about 7,000 subjects or descriptors (see http://www.oclc.org/support/documentation/collectionanalysis/using/introduction/...). The divisions are as follows (24 out of 32):

Some of its categories and how they are mapped to DDC and LC call number ranges are in a speadsheet at http://www.oclc.org/collectionanalysis/support/conspectus.xls. Some of the descriptors can be seen in a sample collection analysis report at http://www.umanitoba.ca/libraries/units/archives/images/cr1.pdf

I guess what I'm trying to resolve here is if we start defining top-level categories as what is "real" to our users then we tend to get bound to particular times and spaces which, I'm afraid, would make the OSC as provincial as Dewey is sometimes described. But we don't want to make too abstract or all-encompassing either as to make it meaningless for our intended users.

Jul 14, 2008, 11:05pm Top

>103 glendac:

I find it quite reasonable for everything we do to be replaced 100 years from now. By then everyone may well be browsing purely digital collections using the Ranganathan's Revenge Classification System anyway. I see this project as an effort to resolve current problems in our current context. That said, I would like it to be easily extensible and retractable in the way that Dewey is not. This would help us adapt the system over the years.

>102 sastolfi:

I don't have a fully developed idea, but here are some examples:


This seems too abstract to be really useful. Perhaps gerunds would be better.

Jul 15, 2008, 6:43pm Top

My subject specialities would be religion, specificially christian/judaism.

I do think however, that this might be an area that rather than librarians we talk to subject specialists. Or librarything members with exception collections in certain areas.

Jul 15, 2008, 7:05pm Top


I do think however, that this might be an area that rather than librarians we talk to subject specialists. Or librarything members with exception collections in certain areas.

Assuming you mean where you go once you get past the top-level categories, as a non-librarian, I think this is an excellent idea. The Dewey classification for my area -- astronomy (where I have a PhD)-- is just awful. Looking at my library almost everything is crammed into two right-of-the-decimal-point portions (523.1 and 523.8) of the 520 range allegedly allocated to the science.

Jul 22, 2008, 5:30pm Top

With comment #106 we seem to have come full circle. See #1: "I think it actually benefits us to be somewhat specific in defining the first level of subjects, to help reduce the de facto "miscellaneous" sections at the beginning of each new subject area."

I am beginning to think that there is a better way to approach the idea of "top level terms." Maybe the top level ought to describe concepts that will be combined to form a call number. So, here are some attributes of a work that we might want to describe:

-subject discipline (what family of knowledge does it belong to?)
-use (how is the knowledge being applied?)
-descriptor (what is the nature of the application?)
-form (what type of material? what language?)

The next step would then be to define rules for combining these concepts, then terms that qualify as each type of concept, then some sort of alphanumeric shorthand to represent each term.

Jul 22, 2008, 10:52pm Top

We do seem to be doing a lot of talking without actually getting anywhere. I'm fascinated by some of the creative suggestions put forth here, but I think we need to bring it back to the realm of the practical and start thinking about what's actually going to be useful to patrons.

If nothing else it might help to start a list, however long, of topics not to be missed, even if some of them eventually end up as subcategories of other topics. Without discussing how to organize them, let's just list them so we know what it is we're trying to organize.

Jul 22, 2008, 11:29pm Top

Yeah, I'm sort of waiting for the new "king" to take over. I've got someone, at least I think I do.

Jul 23, 2008, 4:32am Top

>94 timspalding:, 103, 107
Concepts as top level are an attractive idea but probably too abstract for the end-user approaching the shelves without prior knowledge...
Here comes an alphabetized list of 60 or so, compiled from the headings of major classifications used in large libraries. Now start adding, deleting, splitting, numbering, grouping into a few broader areas, and subdividing. Each may, after that, be given a 2-digit number, followed by hyphenized numbers of subdivisions. Then attach language, document type and/or geographic areas using dots or colons or whatever. Or submit a completely different list.

Agriculture and Gardening
Aviation and Space Exploration
Bibliographies and databases
Business and Economics
Chemical Technology
Children's literature
Civil engineering
Computer science
Domestic subjects
Education and schools
Electrical engineering
Environmental technologies
Fiction (by language)
General sources
Geography, Regional Science
Global Issues
Higher education, Research and Development
Information science, Libraries
Language (Linguistics)
Literature, General
Literature, by language
Machines, Mechanical Engineering
Materials, Metals
Molecular and Microbiology
Music (sheet)
Music (recordings)
Natural sciences
Paranormal phenomena
Performing arts
Politics, political science
Power technologies
Religion and Theology
Social sciences
Social work and politics
Sports and Physical education
Technology, general
-- Other subjects

Jul 23, 2008, 7:22am Top

If we're going to start working on this sort of a list (which I agree we should start on), why don't we move over to the wiki?

Jul 23, 2008, 10:40pm Top

eversberg's list seems like a good starting place to me. I put it over in the wiki (http://www.librarything.com/wiki/index.php/Open_Shelves_Classification#Proposed_...) so we can start mucking about with it.

Jul 25, 2008, 9:08pm Top

Fiction / Non-Fiction: I'm trying out mixing my fiction and non-fiction together. It's not bad. Left Behind gets stuck in with the bible, and Jurassic Park is in the science section. This is the extreme opposite of the current compromise of dividing the two intents. I've ended up with a large fantasy section, as it has little to do with the real world, and therefore my non-fiction books.

(It's funny that we call them non-fiction, as if fiction is the default!)

I don't think that age-groupings should be a part of the classification. Each library needs to make that judgment on their own.

There shouldn't be too many top level categories ... it seems to be against the point of having a hierarchy to begin with.

I personally lean towards a physical faceted system. One where each item has a specific physical place that can be predicted the same every time. How to get this effect is another question all together!

Below are a few of the various systems I have used over the years ... None of them are perfect, so I'm going to be interested in seeing what we come up with here on LT.


The subjects after the -> give you an idea of what the top level word is referring to, they are not meant to be exhaustive.

Arts -> arts, crafts, about music, architecture
Literature -> fiction, critique, analysis
Humanities -> social, education, history, culture, maps, religion, language
Science -> computers, ecology, health, chemistry, psychology, mechanics
Business -> Finances
Entertainment -> Games, Music, Videos, Comics


The following was more of a division of general knowledge, and the way we learn things, but still interesting.

1 things we do (physically create, do/execute)
2 things we know (remember, know)
3 things we decide (decide, imagine)
(4 things we feel)

Below are some examples of how these categories would applied to some common subjects.

Science-A | .2.
Science-B | 12.
Science-C | 123
The Arts | 123
History | .2.
Math | .2.
Language | .2.
Business | .23
Reli/Phil | .23
Health | 123
Teaching | 123

A = Theoretical, classroom | any textbook ;-)
B = Practical, executable | biology, doctors, physics
c = common craftsy stuff | cooking, gardening, teaching)

This system proved to be too abstract - even though I understood it. The categories are too wide. But, this demonstrates how inter-related knowledge is.


Even if we don't get it perfect, our categories are bound to be better than DDC :-)

Jul 25, 2008, 9:54pm Top

You don't have engineering, would that fit under science? And are there architecture books that are more how to build something than the aesthetics and if so should those still go under Art? And what about how to clean your house? I guess personal finance would go under Finances, but it isn't about business.

Jul 25, 2008, 10:17pm Top

I would place a book about Engineering in science. Science isn't really the best word, it's more about the study of the physical world, and is very broad.

I would place any book about architecture under art. How to build a house is as important as how it looks, just as both parts of any other art are important. It's just a difference between theory and practice.

Business is out of place, but I can't decide whether to place it under humanities or science. I am leaning toward science, as it is applied in the real world, rather than being a repository of knowledge. But, I would place how to clean your house in the humanities under a self-improvement section. I suppose the distinction is that there is no right way to clean your house, but there is a right way to do your taxes. (science is about laws, and humanities are about opinions ...)

The categories I listed are based around my personal interests, and so some items do not really have a place. In practice it has served me fairly well, and I have had to modify it much less as time has passed.

Jul 26, 2008, 12:15pm Top

I think the last few posts are a good example of why just a very few top level categories are not necessarily the best option. There's too much mushiness surrounding what goes where.

If you doubled or even tripled your number of top-level categories you'd still only have 18, which I think is a manageable number, and there would be a lot less mushiness needed to combine things that don't entirely fit together.

Jul 26, 2008, 8:29pm Top

116: I'm with you in that I remain unconvinced that a limited # of top level categories is the way to go. However, I feel it's worth pointing out that we will always need to allot for some mushiness. There are just too many books out there that won't fit nicely into any system we can come up with.

For example there's a Shirley MacLaine book I cataloged that's half about dogs and half about reincarnation. The case can be made to place the book under either subject, neither of which will be remotely near one another in any system I think we could devise.

Jul 28, 2008, 5:15am Top

How about a top level of at most 10 broad categories but then using this only for purposes of grouping of physical areas of shelving? If we then agreed that this top level is not reflected in the notations (i.e., not a necessary part tof notations!) then every library could choose their own grouping level and group the 50 or more "real" top level categories into these areas.

Edited: Aug 3, 2008, 10:18pm Top

re sastolfi's 1st post in this thread:

Are you asking if anybody with a subject specialty thinks their subject should be a top-level subject, or are asking if anyone wants to mention what their particular subject specialty is?

I assume the latter, because, as i am in the process of putting my own suggested list of top-level categories, i am trying to bend over backwards not to cater to my own prejudices. At the same time, i try not to bend over so far in the other direction that i under-emphasize an area either.

My subject specialties would be history and area studies, human cultures, belief systems, languages, and music (especially contemporary). Under belief systems, i'm focused on Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Rastafari, and i have a rather in-depth collection of items related to liturgy and worship practices, but i certainly dont consider that anywhere near top-level. Under area studies i have a rather in-depth focus on New Orleans and Louisiana.

Aug 5, 2008, 3:58am Top

There's the "Broad System of Ordering":
Not very different from DDC in structure, but a good deal more modern. It might be exploited, at least in parts, for OSC. It is open content.

Edited: Aug 5, 2008, 12:54pm Top

eversberg, I agree that the BSO could be an excellent source for putting together top-level categories. I think the arrangement overall could serve as a very good start. The arrangement of the main categories is somewhat similar to Bliss.

The allocation of the notation is way skewed to technology (600s thru 900s!) and all the humanities (arts, literature and religion) are all squeezed into the 900s! But that's just a matter of re-spreading out the notation.

I didn't realize it was open content. Does that mean one can write down a subject number without fearing a knock on the door from the copyright storm troopers?

Aug 5, 2008, 1:46pm Top

I'd be in favor of:

1-400 Technology
500-900 Humanities
1000 - Misc

Where is it said to be free?

Aug 5, 2008, 2:10pm Top

On the start page cited above:

'... for the purpose of interconnection of information systems in the framework of the UNISIST programme, design and devlop a broad subject-ordering scheme, which will serve as a switching mechanism between information systems and services using diverse indexing/retrieval languages...'

* freely available classification system
* electronic format (ASCII files)

And all the schedules are there for free downloading.
There's no indication whatsoever that it might NOT be open content and one should beware of any particular forms of use!

Edited: Aug 5, 2008, 4:36pm Top

I keep yakking about the Bliss Classification.

Here is an outline of top-level categories of Bliss 2d ed. as used at Sydney Sussex College, Cambridge.

The left column is the list in alphabetical order, the right column is in classified order


A few of the categories are not really top level in the way we are talking about, e.g., Land Economy, Anglo-Saxon Language & Lit., as it can be seen that those have 3-letter codes. I assume such are areas of strength for that particular college's curriculum. Also "REF" for Reference is not a Bliss Category and has nothing to do with Bliss's class R - Politics & government.

The 2nd edition is really a whole different classification than the 1st edition, or in Dewey terms, a "phoenix" schedule of the entire classification. The 1st ed. was developed by Bliss himself in the early 20th century (He was head librarian of City College of New York at the time). He was an influence on Ranganathan. The 2nd edition, devloped in the late 70s and 80s by Foskett et al., was designed to be an entirely faceted classification.

It was designed both for general shelf classification and for in-depth classification of monographs etc. The in-depth class symbols can get quite long, but class symbols for books on shelves can be short, sometimes just a letter or 2.

Aug 7, 2008, 9:36pm Top

Here's an idea that you might consider. I developed my own classification system some decades ago to classify and catalog some of my writings. I called it the Christian Decimal System.
One of the significant things I used was 2-digit numbers (01-99) to classify everything religious. To that I essentially added the DDS. In other words, anything with 2-digits (left on the decimal) was distinct to the subject I was interested in.
Although covered in DDS, it was expanded in my system. Other libraries might want to reserve a section of the scheme for the subject that they are focused on. In other words, the top level in some subjects might be defined by the library, whether Cooking, Business, Computer Technology... Just a thought.

Aug 8, 2008, 10:51am Top

>120 eversberg:-123

BSO is an interesting system, and I think it will be helpful in guiding our project.

BUT, to clarify:
--BSO is copyrighted (University College London, School of Library Archive and Information Studies). It may be "freely available", but there are no specific terms of use. This makes me wary of pilfering.
--It was developed by UK library students (not necessarily a bad thing).
--Not developed for the public library audience, like OSC.
--The online manual is not complete and the print version is out of print.

I think we can make something better.

Edited: Aug 8, 2008, 4:57pm Top

My thoughts - If we are looking for a practical system which gives a useful shelving order then possibly our top level division should be format:

1. Standard size books
2. Tall books
3. Very large and other difficult to shelve books
4. Records
5. Tapes
6. Digital media
7. Flat stuff (I'm sure there is a technical term!)

For the second level we take a biological kingdom style approach which gives us:

Non-Fiction (fact)
Mixed works (some fiction and some non-fiction)

possibly at this level you also need

Religious texts {study of religion is non-fiction as is literary criticism}

There are problems, one persons religious text is another persons mythology and may even be other peoples' fiction or indeed fact.

There are also issues that "Myth in the Lord of the Rings" as non-fiction is shelved nowhere near "The Lord of the Rings".

This addresses some key issues - in any library (and indeed in my own collection) the three foot high books are not shelved with the standard hard backs.

If you go into a public library the first thing you (or certainly I) decide is am I after fiction or fact?

The third level is where it starts to get difficult (or interesting).

Aug 8, 2008, 5:43pm Top

127: Regarding material type as the top level designation, I've been fighting the inclusion of format as a category in a number of posts, but I sort of like it as the top level if it can be designated as optional.

On one hand this would allow libraries the freedom to interfile them if they so desired (which my library does with non-fiction a/v materials). On the other libraries that will separate out these sorts of materials will almost certainly use some sort of format designation at the start of any call #, and maybe this way we could promote standardizing the terminology.

Aug 11, 2008, 3:39pm Top

I know I am jumping in late here but I really like BISAC. I think we should look at it. I also recommend we all read Everything is Miscellaneous and take a deep breath.

Aug 11, 2008, 5:23pm Top

I second the ETIM mention. I think Laena and David have. I gave them a copy, as I recall!

What do you like about BISAC? To me it's a fair idea, but not that well-executed, and for most libraries too broad-brush.

Aug 13, 2008, 4:23pm Top

Yes, everyone interested in the OSC should read ETIM. Thanks, Tim.

What do people think of BISAC (book industry standards & subject headings)? And how can we improve upon it?

Here is the list of BISAC Subject Headings (2007):

Antiques & Collectibles
Biography & Autobiography
Body, Mind & Spirit
Business & Economics
Comics & Graphic Novels
Crafts & Hobbies
Family & Relationships
Foreign Language Study
Health & Fitness
House & Home
Juvenile Fiction
Juvenile Nonfiction
Language Arts & Disciplines
Literary Collections
Literary Criticism
Performing Arts
Political Science
Social Science
Sports & Recreation
Study Aids
Technology & Engineering
True Crime

Aug 13, 2008, 6:07pm Top

Where does true crime fit today—fiction, non-fiction, memoir, some low-level penal cateogry?

Aug 13, 2008, 6:12pm Top

Tim: In my library we do shelve it in non-fiction, but we truncate the dewey number so as to create a collection designed for browsing as our patrons seem to prefer it that way. We do the same thing with biographies and memoirs.

Aug 13, 2008, 7:40pm Top

Genealogy is not adequately represented in this system. Most how-to genealogy titles end up under reference. Many items will fit well under History, but what will you do with the family genealogies? Do they end up under biography? history? reference? I've seen them in all three in various bookstores.

Aug 13, 2008, 7:49pm Top

All in all, I think it's a good starter set. I'd want to move some headings "down a level" (eg., Photography goes under art, pets under cooking, etc.) But I wouldn't think it a disaster if something close to this were offered and members got to assigning with it.

Antiques & Collectibles
Bibles — Not as a top-level
Biography & Autobiography
Body, Mind & Spirit — Blech; health? religion? bad philosophy? Can we have a category for Chopra, and then prohibit its use
Business & Economics — I'd separate them.
Comics & Graphic Novels
Crafts & Hobbies
Family & Relationships
Foreign Language Study — Languages and Linguistics
Health & Fitness
House & Home — What goes under here?
Juvenile Fiction — There's a basic question here. I'd rather have this be, like DVDs, a top-level facet.
Juvenile Nonfiction
Language Arts & Disciplines — ?
Literary Collections — Reference? Fiction
Literary Criticism
Performing Arts
Political Science
Social Science
Sports & Recreation
Study Aids
Technology & Engineering
True Crime

Aug 13, 2008, 8:38pm Top

Science might be too broad.

Aug 13, 2008, 8:42pm Top

One thing we could do, by the way, is have member classify according to a big list like this, then "tuck" some numbers under other numbers post facto.

Aug 13, 2008, 11:44pm Top

What is ETIM? I looked further on this page and couldn't find it.

Re Tim's idea about having a member classify according to a list like here, and then tuck numbers -- does this mean there will 1st be a notation for the list, for further nos. to be tucked under.

Re BISAC. Yes it is too broad-brush to be a library classification system, but that is the point we are at in the process right now, i.e., at the main broad category level. I think it gives a good insight in what popular categories people are interested in (adjusting for certain cultural biases).

Although even at the broadest level, and even for public libraries (as compared to academic libraries) there are more than a few patrons that come in to do fairly in-depth research, rather than just browse a few popular categories. So BISAC might under-emphasize some subject areas for which there actual is a greater interest than merely book sales stats might show.

Aug 14, 2008, 12:28am Top


Everything is Miscellaneous


Yes, I meant that you could have members classify something as being about "photography" and put that under "art" later. Not idea, though.


I don't think anyone is suggesting BISAC without any further levels. But we can perhaps hammer out a top level from it.

Edited: Aug 14, 2008, 3:49am Top

For what it's worth, this is what I think! :

Antiques & Collectibles
Bibles Not top level! Should be down under 'Religion' and 'Christian' etc. From classification and use standpoint, I don't think (certainly in the UK) that many people (relatively speaking) come into a library looking for a bible in the first instance!
Biography & Autobiography
Body, Mind & Spirit Please obliterate this completely - hate it! What's the difference between 'body' and 'health', what's the difference between 'mind' and 'psychology', what's the difference between 'spirit' and 'religions'??? It's redundant.
Business & Economics Split it
Comics & Graphic Novels
Cooking Cookery, please!
Crafts & Hobbies
Family & Relationships
Fiction If you keep 'Juvenile Fiction' separate at top level, there's no justification for not splitting 'Fiction' - I'd rather split it a level down
Foreign Language Study Languages and Linguistics - to encompass EFL books which do make up a regularly accessed section in UK libraries. 'Foreign' limits this
Games I have no idea what this would encompass, which surely can't make it the best top level heading
Health & Fitness
House & Home
Juvenile Fiction see 'Fiction' comments above
Juvenile Nonfiction see 'Fiction' comments above
Language Arts & Disciplines Hate this, don't know what it would include
Literary Collections Don't like this as a top level - split under fiction and then more specifically
Literary Criticism
Medical Possible confusion with 'Health'
Performing Arts Different to 'Drama' how?
Photography Different to 'Art' how?
Political Science
Science Split it a top level, please!
Social Science
Sports & Recreation Possible confusion with 'Health and Fitness' and 'Crafts and Hobbies'?
Study Aids
Technology & Engineering
True Crime Eeuurggggh! If it has to exist, please make it a lower level classification!

Aug 14, 2008, 3:56am Top

Cookery. Just say no.

Aug 14, 2008, 6:55am Top

No to cookery

Sports & Recreation/Games/Crafts & Hobbies is very redundant

comics & graphic novels potentially a top level category with the formats

Transportation could possibly get split amongst travel & technology

Change Social Science to Sociology based on all the other social sciences in the list

Aug 14, 2008, 7:13am Top

Bah! If we get 'cooking' instead of 'Cookery', can we have 'Bus Riding' instead of Transportation, 'Church Going' instead of 'Religion' and 'Adding Up' instead of 'Mathematics' ... maybe 'Fiction' could be 'Story Reading' ;) Although it might get rid of 'True Crime' ..... it could be 'Robbing and Murdering' which actually has a better ring to it .....

Aug 14, 2008, 7:48am Top

Cookery, noun, the art or practice of preparing food.

Cooking is a verb.

I don’t see it as a top-level category regardless of how many titles there are.

Aug 14, 2008, 8:04am Top

#142, jmgold: I think you've got a point about Social Science. It also kind of reinforces the point behind splitting 'Science' at top-level. After all, why is it OK to devolve the social sciences but not science? I get that the point is to make this more applicable to non-academic libraries, but I think that most people make a first attempt at finding a book at a more specific level than 'Science' just as is acknowledged in the above list for 'Social Science' - non-academic the populace may be, complete idiots they are not!

Aug 14, 2008, 8:48am Top

I hate the word cookery. (I do admit to its use as a tag in my library but only under protest. When doing the cookbooks I let my husband win that discussion.)

If I'm looking for a book on botany I don't want to find myself in front of the astronomy shelves (or vice versa).

Gaming as a category implies role-playing, video, etc. games and probably needs its own category. If it were second level instead of top what would it be under?

Aug 14, 2008, 9:22am Top

I'm curious as to whether the 'cookery' vs 'cooking' debate revolves around common usage variations in the UK vs US. Certainly amongst the people I know in the UK, 'cookery' is used to describe the subject (cookery programmes, cookery books etc.) whereas 'cooking' is the action of doing it. Might seem a bit off-topic but I think it raises an interesting point. If this is a universal system of classification, debated and developed in an international forum (LT), what happens at these top-levels if there is a usage variation?

Aug 14, 2008, 10:20am Top

In docimentation we could record it


and let the library decide how to lable the shelves.

Aug 14, 2008, 10:59am Top

That is a very sound idea TLC!

Edited: Aug 14, 2008, 11:15am Top

My opinion with some personal biases clearly represented.

1. Art
..a. Architecture
..b. Music
.. c. Performing Arts
..d. Photography

2. Literature
.. a. Comics & Graphic Novels
.. b. Drama
..c. Fiction
.. d. Literary Criticism
.. e. Poetry

3. Humanities
..a. Biography & Autobiography
..b. Education
..c. History
.... a. True Crime
..d. Language Study
..e. Language
..f. Philosophy
..g. Psychology
..h. Religion
.... a. Holy texts
..i. Social Science.
.... a. Economics

4. Sciences
..a. Natural Sciences
... a. Gardening
... a. Medical
....b. Fitness
.......b. Nutrition
.....a. Cookery
... c. Nature
..b. Technology
..... a. Computers
..... b. Transportation
.. c. Mathematics

5. Important stuff that has to fit in somewhere but not as top-level categories.
..a. Business
..b. Law
..c. Political Science
..d. Reference
6. Silly stuff that might be popular and need included but not as top-level categories.
..a. Antiques & Collectibles
..b. Body, Mind & Spirit
..c. Crafts & Hobbies
..d. Family & Relationships
..e. Games
..f. Pets (should be Animal Husbandry under Natural Sciences)
..g. Self-Help
..h. Sports & Recreation
..i. Study Aids
..j. Travel

Aug 14, 2008, 1:02pm Top

I’m not happy with this yet, but FWIW, here are my thoughts so far:

Art –includes painting, sculpture, music, drama, architecture, interior design, photography as art, and maybe crafts. Includes the technological “how to” stuff for things like photography.

Fiction and works related to fiction - subdivided by genre (Mystery, SF, Fantasy, Romance, Historical, etc.), Comics & Graphic Novels, Humour, Literary Collections, Poetry, Literary Criticism

Geography – travel, maps, cartography

Health – subdivided into physical (medicine, fitness, nutrition) and mental (psychology, relationships, criminology, etc?)

History – includes Biography & Autobiography
Languages and Linguistics (including much of what ends up in reference – i.e. dictionaries, thesauri)



Religion - subdivided by faith or sect or whatever. Includes generic “spirituality.”

Science - Mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, nature, etc.

Social Science Political Science, Economics (includes business), sociology, true crime, education, library science

Sports and Recreation – games, sports, hobbies (general works and hobbies like stamp collecting that won’t fit under Art or Technology)

Technology – Agriculture (includes pets), Engineering, Computers, Cooking, Gardening, “Domestic science” aka home economics would go here).

I keep getting hung up by trying to apply my headings. Depending on its emphasis, a book on quilting could go in art (design, examples of quilts) or technology (how to make a quilt). Is that a helpful division for a user? Would they not rather have all the books about quilts together so they could see the inspirational ones and then easily find a how-to that helps them achieve the same result?

And I like the idea of putting physical and mental health together because they relate to each other and there are books that cover both aspects so having them listed under a higher category of Health allows those books to have a logical place, but psychology also has links into the social sciences, and true crime could be seen as an aspect of criminology but in my mind it doesn’t fit comfortably into a category like Health. In fact, true crime could also be an aspect of history (biography, autobiography) or maybe even Law.

And then there’s physical geography. Does it go with Geography in my scheme or is it under Science with the natural history type stuff? Or do I take Geography out of the top level and split it into Physical Geography (under Science) and Human Geography (under Social Science?).

Aug 14, 2008, 2:39pm Top

Crafts under Art and Biography & Autobiography under History make sense to me but I still think that True Crime and most books on Politics belong under History.

I like what you have grouped under Health and I won’t even gripe about it being a top-level category the way you have presented it. Maybe we could fit Sports and Recreation in there somehow as they promote physical and mental health.

Could we put Philosophy in with Social Sciences? Still nobody will read it but they might brush up against it.

I like the idea of splitting geography but I have to admit that atlases have been mixing physical and political geography for a long time.

Over all I think this one looks good.

Aug 14, 2008, 5:18pm Top

This (BISAC) classification is based on how book stores typically are laid out. Juvenile and adult fiction are never together. Language study and linguistics are usually not together. Linguistics is frequently stuck next to anthroplogy, and I'm not sure how anthropolgy fits in. Graphic novels are usually separate except for something like Persepolis. Bibles are usually grouped together but next to other religious categories, so it doesn't need to be a separate category. Bibles used to be discounted in diiferent way from other books, and that may be the reason for a separate category. I agree that 'Body, Mind and Spirit' is a fuzzy concept.

Aug 14, 2008, 9:03pm Top

vpfluke: thank you for bringing up Persepolis as an example. I know I'm running this into the ground a bit but I would really like to see graphic novels pulled out of fiction due to the number of non-fiction titles available and have them treated as a format in the same way as the a/v materials.

Aug 14, 2008, 9:26pm Top

If Family & Relationships, Psychology, Self-Help, and Social Science all get their own category, Science is WAY too broad.

I've always hated the "Nature" category. Is The Beak of the Finch Science or Nature? Call it Biology, and split up the rest of Science too.

Aug 14, 2008, 9:44pm Top

Based on my use of libraries, "Science" is too broad, but when I go to many bookstores, Science is all together with a lot of subcategories without enough books in any one of them. However, I wouldn't want to divide science into two categories: hard and soft. That debate gets emotional.

Aug 14, 2008, 10:00pm Top

>155 lorax:

Are we optimizing for what people want or trying to be fair to knowledge in the abstract. It seems to me that bookstores recognize that, say, cooking or birding or self-help are of strong, general interest to many and deserves discrete sections. If we were trying to be fair to some abstract order and importance to people who don't read, we might decide that cooking was eight levels down under anthropology, birding belonged under six under science or perhaps under mental disorders.

Edited: Aug 14, 2008, 11:54pm Top

>151 tardis:

I like the groupings you've made. I do have a couple questions about where you would fit in or otherwise handle certain subjects:

Beauty & Grooming (Not exactly mental or physical health. Are makeup and curling irons technology?)
Field Guides (Keep them all together (maybe use an optional location facet before the subject classification number) or put each one by the other books in it's subject?)
Sex and Sexuality (Pop-up Kama Sutra, anyone?)
Dream Interpretation (not the scientific/academic stuff used by psychologists but the stuff for the masses like The Dreamer's Dictionary)
New Age (like The Secret Language of Birthdays and Do Dead People Watch You Shower?: And Other Questions You've Been All but Dying to Ask a Medium)
Eating Disorders (Obviously under Health, but it is both Mental and Physical, so which do you put it under?)
Current Affairs (For example, the current Iraq War: do we put it under Political Science or under History with the subcategory of Middle East, Iraq, or subcategory of United States, Wars?)
Religious Fiction (Under Religion with the subcategory of fiction or under Fiction with the subcategory of religion?)
Philosophy (Why does it get it’s own top level? At most it should be on par with any one religion (Islam, Christianity, or Zoroastrianism) though not necessarily under Religion, perhaps?)
General Reference (Encyclopedias, Almanacs)
Consumer Reports/Reference
Genealogy and Family Histories
Books about Books (Not necessarily literature. Like A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books)
Style Manuals
Public Speaking
Study Aids/Test Prep (SAT, GRE, LSAT, CCNA, A+, MSCE, Linux+, etc.)
Humor (joke books, etc.)

Also, as I would like to use OSC to order my own bookshelves (though I am aware OSC is meant mainly for public libraries) I would like to know where Personal Journals/Sketchbooks and Scrapbooks/Photo Albums would go.

But honestly, I really do like your overall approach. It's much better than having only a few top levels that are way too broad to actually mean anything to the average user.

Edited: Aug 15, 2008, 12:56pm Top

>143 klarusu: and 144

I'm just curious what you would call the subject of "Engineering"? How about "What Engineers Do"? Or "Design and Development of Structures, Machines, Apparatus, or Manufacturing Processes" perhaps? After all, isn't the word "engineering" both a (transitive) verb and a noun (not to mention an adjective)? In American English at least, the word "cooking" is also both a verb and a noun.

See Dictionary.com definition where it says:

cook • ing /kook-ing/
1. the act of a person or thing that cooks.
2. the art or practice of preparing food; cookery.

Edited: Aug 15, 2008, 1:11pm Top

154>I don't see any kind of format (whether graphic novel or A/V material) as important at this level. I think graphic novels are still fiction and should be categorized as such. Non-fiction graphic materials should go with the appropriate non-fiction category. Libraries who want to separate them can add a facet for format.

158> Your list points up some of my own dilemmas. It is going to be very difficult (impossible?) to make a list that is cut and dried and fits all situations. I've put a few suggestions in bold, but I'm not wedded to any of this and will not be hurt to be told I'm missing the point.

Poetry I'd lump it with Fiction. I realize that people who love and read lots of poetry won't like it, but maybe if we called it "Imaginitive Works" instead of "Fiction" it might fit better.

Essays - -either with the subject (if one can be identified, or with Fiction

Mythology - -Religion? Most mythology did come out of someone's religion, didn't it? Or a subcategory of Fiction?

Beauty & Grooming (Not exactly mental or physical health. Are makeup and curling irons technology?) -probably Technology, yes, for the "how to" stuff, but a book on the psychological effect of being well groomed might end up in Health

Field Guides (Keep them all together (maybe use an optional location facet before the subject classification number) or put each one by the other books in it's subject?) -by the other books in the same subject

Sex and Sexuality (Pop-up Kama Sutra, anyone?) -Health - it's either physical or mental or both

Dream Interpretation (not the scientific/academic stuff used by psychologists but the stuff for the masses like The Dreamer's Dictionary) -Religion (except might have to be expanded to "Spirituality" because this isn't strictly speaking religion.

New Age (like The Secret Language of Birthdays and Do Dead People Watch You Shower?: And Other Questions You've Been All but Dying to Ask a Medium)Yuck. Religion/Spirituality, I guess

Eating Disorders (Obviously under Health, but it is both Mental and Physical, so which do you put it under?) Might need a broader category under Health for things that cover both aspects

Current Affairs (For example, the current Iraq War: do we put it under Political Science or under History with the subcategory of Middle East, Iraq, or subcategory of United States, Wars?)-Good question. Today's current affairs is tomorrow's history, so I guess it ought to go there

Religious Fiction (Under Religion with the subcategory of fiction or under Fiction with the subcategory of religion?) Fiction is fiction. Religious Fiction is a sub-genre of Fiction

Philosophy (Why does it get it’s own top level? At most it should be on par with any one religion (Islam, Christianity, or Zoroastrianism) though not necessarily under Religion, perhaps?)I'm willing to be convinced, but I'm not a philosopher - it could get lumped into Social Sciences, maybe

Wedding-this may be on a more case-by-case basis - some wedding books will fit better in religion, some in law, maybe some elsewhere.

Etiquette - yeah, might need a "General" category for the really cross-subject stuff like this.

Trivia -under "waste of paper?" Sorry. Um, under subject if one can be identified, or maybe General if contents too broad for anything else

General Reference (Encyclopedias, Almanacs) -Okay, I concede we need a general category at the beginning for these (and etiquette and trivia) unless they can be identified with a specific subject (e.g. Encyclopedia of Soil Science goes with Soil Science, not in General).

Consumer Reports/Reference -Possibly in Technology but could make an argument for General.

Genealogy and Family Histories History

Books about Books (Not necessarily literature. Like A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books) -maybe general, maybe Social Sciences (Humanities?).

Style Manuals -Languages and Linguistics

Public Speaking-Languages and Linguistics?

Study Aids/Test Prep (SAT, GRE, LSAT, CCNA, A+, MSCE, Linux+, etc.) -With the subject they relate to, if a specific one can be identified. General otherwise.

Humor (joke books, etc.) -Fiction. I realize that's not strictly accurate, but in my mind it fits well enough

Here's another fun one that I just thought of - Baby Name books. Suggestions?

Edited: Aug 15, 2008, 1:19pm Top

Crafts under Art... (#152)

Oy! What does The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns (and I could add more examples) have to do with art? I'll cut myself off here before I go into full-fleged rant mode, but I don't see how a book about a craft fits under the heading of Art. "Crafts & Hobbies" makes much more sense, even if it is a little vague. But these are top-level categories and can afford to be a little vague.

The whole "Science" thing (plenty of posts)
My take on this is that Science should be the top-level subject, and then different sciences (astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics, etc.) should have subheadings. I think most people are bright enough to look for geology and physics and whatnot in the science section.

Aug 15, 2008, 2:09pm Top

>161 AnnaClaire: - well, I did say that I was conflicted on quilting - knitting would be the same issue. There are knitting books that are "how to" (including pattern books) which ought to go in Technology with carving, woodturning, weaving, sewing and quilting and the like, but there are also books highlighting the artistic results of knitting, weaving, carving, quilting, woodturning, etc. which could arguably go in Art. Photography same thing.

Aug 15, 2008, 2:55pm Top

>160 tardis: "Imaginitive Works"

That would provide a very nice umbrella heading under which to group a lot of subjects. But it's like the LC term "Aerial spraying and dusting in agriculture" - it's technically accurate, but if you're looking for a book on "crop-dusting" would it be the first phrase that popped to YOUR mind? If the point is for people to find things on shelves rather than that the concepts be technically all-encompassing and accurate, I think you need to call it either Literature or Fiction and be done with it. I don't have any data to back this up but I'd be willing to bet that most people would instantly know what those words refer to - I think you might need to give them a definition to go with "imaginative works."

Edited: Aug 15, 2008, 3:25pm Top

# 161

Knitting in Dewey is 746.43, under art. In the LoCC it is TT689, in Technology, under the sub heading that includes manual training, hairdressing and laundry work. I think industrial scale knitting should be under technology but a ‘Handy book of Patterns’ makes me think of a person toiling away to produce a thing of beauty, a work of art. Now that is not how it always turned out for my sisters but that was their goal. Knitting, jewelry making, painting and model making are all crafts and all should in my opinion be under Art.

Basically I agree on Science but there are so many and they branch so much we might want to split it into two or more top level groups.

Aug 15, 2008, 4:22pm Top

>162 tardis:, 164
Now, I'm not a cataloger. And the closest I get to being a librarian is being a librarian's daughter. So I can't speak to how it "should" be done. Where I can speak up is where someone might look. And I hardly think -- existing cataloging structures aside -- that people would think to look for crafts such as knitting and quilting (and many* other crafts, such as woodworking) in either art or technology.

If I correctly understand the point of this excercize, it's to create a more user-friendly classification structure, and I'd say that a big part of user-friendliness is where people would look for subcategories.

When I hear "art" I think of something meant primarily as decoration (like painting). But most knitting that I've seen and heard of is in the form of garments -- objects intended to keep us warm and/or covered but which, beyond what colors would flatter the wearer, are not really meant as decoration. Similarly, when I hear "technology" I think of something closer to engineering (or at least more science-y than knitting) -- things like computers and railroad locomotives. I'm not sure how well most crafts would fit in with such company.

I think there should be a place in which to put things like knitting and quilting (and woodworking) that is neither Art nor Technology. Something like "Crafts and Hobbies" perhaps. Just not Art and not Technology.

* I qualified this to avoid starting a post war about just what can be called a craft. If we do go with a Crafts and Hobbies category, we can have this discussion there. If we don't, craft-ness is moot and crafts should be individually assigned to larger categories.

Edited: Aug 15, 2008, 4:31pm Top

Basically I agree on Science but there are so many and they branch so much we might want to split it into two or more top level groups. (#164)

What two-or-more did you have in mind? As far as I'm concerned the sheer number of sciences isn't in itself reason enough to split them up without some subject differentiation.

For what it's worth, some sub-classifications can be nested, even if they have to be (or ar better when) nested twice, as in:
* Science > Astronomy > Astrophysics
* Science > Physics > Astrophysics
* Science > Biology > Biochemistry
* Science > Chemistry > Biochemistry

Aug 15, 2008, 5:38pm Top

Well, I am a cataloguer, and that biases me, but technology is applied science, which is making things that are useful. Knitting, weaving, woodworking, sewing, photography all qualify to me, along with gardening (and I know some gardens that are beautiful enough to be considered Art (sadly, not mine)).

I could probably cope with a "crafts" category, but not hobbies. I garden as a hobby, but I wouldn't want some gardening books put in a "hobby" category while books that might be closely related on landscape design and turf management end up in Technology. Books about hobby farms should be with the rest of Agriculture in Technology, too.

I would not support a hobby category that became a ghetto of hobbies that just didn't fit anywhere else (like maybe stamp collecting). Those hobbies can go in sports and recreation, being that recreation is what hobbies are for.

Aug 15, 2008, 7:45pm Top

Well, "Hobbies and Crafts" was a suggestion. I can handle "Crafts," but putting crafts in with paintings or computers (see post 165 paragraph 3) seems a little nuts to me.

Edited: Aug 15, 2008, 9:59pm Top

160> Isn't poetry a form, like graphic novels, so by your argument about graphic novels, poems about historical events should be filed under history, etc.

168> Couldn't we make Crafts a top-level category?

Aug 15, 2008, 11:36pm Top

Yes, the goal is user-friendly classification. Let's keep this in mind as we evaluate the top-levels. Will public library patrons find these categories useful? Public librarians, please stand up.

Consensus is for more descriptive, browsable categories as opposed to fewer abstract ones. Again, it's all about the user.

Aggregating the above discussion, how does this look? (Please scrutinize.)

Antiques & Collectibles
Art & Architecture
>Performing Arts
Biography & Autobiography
Comics & Graphic Novels
Crafts & Hobbies
Family & Relationships
>Literary Collections (or reference, tbd locally)
>Literary Criticism
Languages and Linguistics
>Foreign Language Study
Health & Fitness
House & Home
Political Science
>Body, Mind & Spirit
Social Science/Sociology
Sports & Recreation
Study Aids
Technology & Engineering

>Juvenile Fiction, Juvenile Nonfiction: as agreed, audience choices will be local.

I suggest when evaluating the need for a category, start looking and searching library catalogs. As an example, Brooklyn Public Library has over 300 books on automobiles alone, clearly making transportation a contender.

Aug 16, 2008, 9:16am Top

I kind of hate to suggest this, but at my library the biggest problem subject for us is career guidance, and I think it might be worth considering breaking them out into their own category. In the BISAC based list you could argue to group them together under either business, economics or education (or just split them up according to the career in question, but our patrons at least seem to like having them all in one place).

Aug 16, 2008, 9:18am Top

I agree with tardis that Crafts and Hobbies don't belong together.

Edited: Aug 16, 2008, 10:43am Top

>170 laena: - Comic books and graphic novels

So the standard book form of Neil Gaiman's Stardust or Neverwhere is going to be shelved separately from the graphic novel versions of those very same titles? And Stephen King's standard book versions of The Dark Tower series could potentially be shelved all the way across the library from the graphic novel version of the very same series?

Maybe this isn't an issue really; maybe public libraries don't have very many (if any) copies of these kinds of crossover titles. And maybe it would be the same as the DVD version of Stardust being stored separately from the book version. But to me a graphic novel is a book; a book with nothing but words in it is a book. If they both tell the same fictional story, are aimed at the same age bracket (i.e. not a picture book version of an adult fiction title), require no special equipment or specialize knowledge to read/view (unlike a DVD or a Braille version of a book), have the same rules re. checkouts/loans/borrowing/whatever, why should they be shelved separately?

And yet I know there will be some (maybe quite a few) library users who will want all their graphic novels and comics books stored in one place. For those people the shelving of fiction with graphic novels would be an annoyance...and that's probably putting it mildly.

Which brings me to a question that may need to be tabled until after the upper level subjects are selected (but just in case that's not the case, I'll go ahead and ask it now): how do you see these upper level groupings being implemented? Would you start from A and end at Z - so that "Comic Books" would always be physically next to "Computers" and potentially on the opposite side of the room from "Fiction?" Is the point just to standardized the upper level groupings and then let libraries decide if they want to have the "Computer" section on the side of the room with "Science" and "Comic Books" shelved near "Fiction?"

Aug 16, 2008, 11:44am Top

173: Thank you for pointing out another good reason to treat graphic novels as a format and not a subject. That way a library can reserve the option to shelve those items together while still making them retrievable in the catalog by searching for comics.

You've also introduced an excellent point on the groupings. I think it is possible to group some of the top level catagories into clumps that will make sense to have in proximity to one anther (social sciences, creative works, etc...), but ordering those is another matter. Alphabetical might be a good idea in order to remove any sense of an implied hierarchy.

Aug 16, 2008, 12:05pm Top

Well I am sure there would be plenty of blind users wailing that you aren't treating braille books as proper books. They are just in a different written alphabet.

Braille should equally be a format just as much as graphic novel (or large format type).

On to graphic novels as a whole I think a lot of libraries shelve them apart from the normal fiction. Partly because it is seen as a specialist interest - someone who reads a graphic novel is more likely to be interested in another graphic novel than a non-graphic novel (even if by a writer who has also done graphic novels) and partly because they are usually of a larger format than non-graphic novel fiction.

Edited: Aug 16, 2008, 12:25pm Top

>175 andyl: re. "Well I am sure there would be plenty of blind users wailing that you aren't treating braille books as proper books. They are just in a different written alphabet."

Oh, I'm not saying to not treat Braille as proper books - but it is a different alphabet. Someone above (forgive me if I don't hunt out who) mentioned that you'd organize by language - so all the English versions of all Neil Gaiman's books could be grouped together and all the Russian (or Spanish, or whatever) versions of all Neil Gaiman's books would be together. Why wouldn't you treat Braille the same way? It may be the same language, but a sighted English reader may or may not be able to read Braille and a legally blind English reader may or my not be able to read standard print - just as a person who may read English may or may not read in another language. There's no implied definition of "what is a real book" by just grouping languages/alphabets together.

At least I don't think there is - although I'd love to hear what some blind users think about that.

Aug 16, 2008, 1:25pm Top

(Sorry, I got so excited about Braille that I forgot my graphic novel point and I'm a little too new to all this to know whether it's better to break out subjects into separate comments or just string everything together in one long comment. I'm sure one of you old hats will be more than happy to tell me if I've just committed a major LibraryThing gaffe.)

>175 andyl: - ""Partly because it is seen as a specialist interest - someone who reads a graphic novel is more likely to be interested in another graphic novel than a non-graphic novel (even if by a writer who has also done graphic novels) and partly because they are usually of a larger format than non-graphic novel fiction."

Larger format/shelf space may be an issue. But man, talk about treating books as not real books - "special interest?" Are you kidding me?

If you are a fan of (let's pick a new author) Laurell K. Hamilton - you're only going to want to read Guilty Pleasures in either print OR graphic novel, but not both? REALLY? I don't know about that. Maybe once upon a time comic books were comic books and "real" fiction was "real" fiction - but that's just not always the case any more. And I think it's a bit presumptuous to assume that readers of one format aren't going to also be readers of the same book in another format.

Of course what *I* think isn't the point - where would users look for it? No organizational system is going to fix all issues of "where does this book belong" and you have to be able to rely on your online catalog to get people to some things - so IF users really want a separate section for graphic novels, fine. But do we know that to be a fact? If people have never been given the option of finding both formats together, how can you possibly know WHAT they'd like?

Edited: Aug 16, 2008, 3:36pm Top

I think that formats and language (including Braille which is technically not a language, but rather an alphabet) should not be treated as a true category like History or Fiction. By leaving formats and languages out as categories, the library is given some much needed flexibility and a tremendous amount of consistency.

Let me explain. If the Austin City Library wants to shelve all the works in Spanish seperate from those in English because that is how they have found thier patrons tend to find things most easily, then they simply put ESPA before the call number on the item and shelve it within the Spanish wing/floor/section of the library by call number, thus allowing the same consistency of browsing within the Spanish section of the library as within the English area of the library.

If however, the Boston City Library finds that their patrons find things more easily if the English and Spanish editions of the same work are together, they still put ENGL or ESPA in front of the call number but shelve by call number first and then by the language/format indicator.

This also is consistent as anyone walking into either Austin or Boston could easily browse for and find what they want as the subjects and categories are the same for either one. If however, we make graphic novels, DVDs, audio books, Spanish, French, Cantonese, Pig Latin, etc. as separate categories, we cause inconsistency in shelving and in the browsing experience within those catagories, compared to within the rest of the library as a whole.

Aug 16, 2008, 4:04pm Top

In my local public library (North Bellmore, LI), Neil Gaiman's books can be filed under:

Fiction Hardback
Fiction Paperback
Short stories
Young Adult Fiction
Young Adult Graphic

Now, if I collected Neil Gaiman, I would keep them all together in my own library (with other fantasy, probably).

However, when I shelve books, I separate them out by size, but I try to keep subjects close to each other If they are in what I have figured out is a "collection."

Aug 16, 2008, 5:15pm Top


Oh I agree that graphic novels are as much real books as non-graphic novels. I would think that there are more people who primarily read graphic novels/manga/bande dessinee that there would be benefit in shelving it all together just like they may shelve by genre (all SF&F books together for example) despite quite a few authors having books in multiple genres. Of course such a scheme is fraught with problems due to age appropriateness of some works.

When jmgold and I talk about a format - we are really talking about a facet which libraries are free to ignore if they wish. I think aarmstrong78 gives an example in his message #178.

Aug 16, 2008, 6:26pm Top

andyl: thank you for explaining that far more clearly than I have been.

And to everyone else I'm sorry for taking us off on such a long tangent from our main focus on this thread. :)

Aug 16, 2008, 8:08pm Top

Okay, slight reversal.

I think it makes sense to bring back the facets, not as a general structural principle, but only for things that some libraries might want to shelf together—but others won't.

We have already spoken of audiobooks as an example. Here are some others.

Literature Literary Criticism
Graphic novels Novels
Books in X Books in English

To repeat, I don't care for facets as an intellectual structure that can be "reduced" to a shelf order—when the whole point of the OSC is to make a shelf order. But there are certain bodies of books that some shelve together and some don't, and binary facets are a good way to think of this situation.

Edited: Aug 17, 2008, 12:50am Top

>181 jmgold: - Actually, I think that was my fault - no need for you to apologize for it. Besides, I suspect this is a problem for more than just graphic novels - it's just I don't know much about the intricacies of related sciences, for example, so I wouldn't presume to try to speak on them. Fiction I know a little bit about, so I'm comfortable talking about it.

Re. facets - it sounds like what you're saying is that related subjects could be grouped together and that libraries could decide for themselves how best to shelve related subjects to best serve their users. So if a library wanted graphic novel versions of a book shelved with the standard print versions of the same title they could do that. Or if a library wanted graphic novels in a separate section, they could do that. Is that right?

And if it is right - how would you signify these decisions to your users? Dewey and LC have plenty of flaws but one of their pluses is standardization - the 800s mean the same thing in New York City as they do in Walla Walla, Washington. But, if I understand correctly, you're talking about a system that is totally flexible. So if you know a library uses OSC and you know that OSC has a top level section for graphic novels and you walk into that library looking for a graphic novels section and you see none, how are you (as a user) to know that this library has decided to shelve graphic novels (or various language versions of titles, or literary criticism) in fiction rather than as a separate section? Aren't you more likely to assume that they have no graphic novels at all and go elsewhere? I mean, even big box bookstores always have the same sections in more or less the same places so that people know exactly where to look for things.

Are you going to rely on signage to convey all this? That seems problematic.

Forgive me, I'm really not trying to shoot this idea down. I like the idea of something that's intuitive and flexible; I particularly like the idea of allowing individual libraries to determine for themselves what will work best for their particular users while still having a structure that a newcomer to a community could navigate easily. I'm just trying to pin down how it's going to work and right now I'm obviously not understanding something.

Aug 17, 2008, 4:55am Top


Except that a lot of Dewey based libraries do not shelve fiction exactly by Dewey. They separate out paperbacks. They separate out by genre. They separate out YA and children's fiction. They separate out large print books.

I think both librarians and us users have noticed that they already do these sort of separations. The choice then is to either pretend it doesn't happen or come up with a system that can cope with the most prevalent extractions from the main body of fiction.

As we will be applying call numbers to works large print and paperback/hardcover cannot be dealt with inside the OSC system. The paperback is the same work as the hardcover as the large print version. Therefore those sort of separations must be handled completely in each individual library.

Edited: Aug 17, 2008, 9:41am Top

>184 andyl:

But you're talking about different format books that are all physically located near each other. You walk into a public library and you expect to find a fiction section, yes? Whether all the formats are sorted together or whether the paperback and the hardbacks for your fiction sections are shelved separately doesn't matter because they are shelved close to each other and both are subordinate to the upper level subject of "Fiction." But if you moved the paperback fiction and shelved it beside the computer books (again, potentially on the other side of the library from the hardback fiction) THAT'S a different story. What's the difference between doing THAT and having something like graphic novels as a completely separate subject parallel to Fiction and in no way physically associated with it?

You mentioned before that "I would think that there are more people who primarily read graphic novels/manga/bande dessinee that there would be benefit in shelving it all together just like they may shelve by genre (all SF&F books together for example) despite quite a few authors having books in multiple genres." Fine - but you're not talking about pulling Science Fiction and Fantasy out as a separate subject parallel to Fiction and physically shelving it somewhere not near Fiction, right? So again, what's the difference between THAT and what is being suggest with graphic novels?

It seems to me there are two choices: you either make graphic novels a subordinate subject to Fiction and parallel to Science Fiction, Romance, etc. - which allows you to group graphic novels together but have them located physically near the rest of the Fiction section. That doesn't solve my Neil Gaiman print/graphic novel issue but it at least makes sure that those books will be located in the same general Fiction area, even if they are in different genre sub-sections.

Or you make graphic novels a format and you do something similar to what aarmstrong78 was suggesting in #178 (which I think is pretty innovative and could be wonderfully adaptive, particularly for how you would deal with books in different languages). I just haven't wrapped my head around that idea enough to know what it would mean in the long term.

Aug 17, 2008, 9:56am Top

As for the patrons walking into libraries looking for specific numbers, I think that's a fantasy. Not one patron in a hundred remembers and pursues DDC numbers. There are a very very small number of such people—no doubt more on LibraryThing than in any other group worldwide—but those are also the people most able to find a book by whatever system you give them.

Aug 17, 2008, 9:59am Top

>183 Quipxotic:

First, let's go with the simplest example—separating pure "format." I think the idea is that a call number might look like

AUDIOBK 123.456.123

If the library chooses to separate audiobooks from paper books, they use this. If not, they discard the "AUDIOBK," which is, on LibraryThing a "book" not "work" feature anyway.

So, SOME faceting isn't hard. DDC libraries do this sort of thing all the time.

For criticism and literature, the key thing is to make absolutely sure the *structure* of the two classifications are the same, so they *can* be interleaved. Then you can do:

1. You give the sections adjacent numbers, and put signage up that "10 (Fiction) and 11 (Criticism) are shelves together."
2. The library converts the numbers as they enter, eg., turning all 11s into 10s.
3. The library system stores the original number, but transforms the number at the point of display (eg., 10 and 11 are stored, but all 11s are turned into 10 on patron display; alternately, libraries that wanted to combine 10 and 11 would end up with call numbers of 12, a number that--to the trained eye--is not final, but represents either 10 or 11 in another context).

The BEST solution, IMHO would be one that changed call numbers in a non-lossy way. That is/it somehow stores both the "reduced" and the "original" call number. Would it be too lossy to say


Meaning shelve under 12 (combined fiction/criticism), but it was originally 10 (fiction).

Can anyone think of a clever way to do this? I have confidence there's some trick of numbers we can use that traditional library systems don't use. (For example, it took commerce to invent the ISBN checksum; LCCNs and OCLC numbers have no checksums, to their great detriment.)

Aug 17, 2008, 10:20am Top


Where a library shelves its stuff is their concern.

The idea is to make it so that the call number COULD be used to separate out graphic novels (usually next to, or as a subsection of, the normal fiction but not necessarily) OR so that graphic novels COULD BE interleaved with the normal fiction.

So for Stardust you might have
GRAPHICNOVEL 10.1003.Gaiman1998 for the illustrated novel.
10.1003.Gaiman1999 for the non-illustrated one.

The numbers are purely illustrative (as is using the author and date).

Now obviously the GRAPHICNOVEL bit could be encoded within the call number. However when doing that complexity increases. Whilst having one level of optional facet in the number itself for genre is manageable introducing a second level starts to become unwieldy (there are graphic novels in many genres - from romance to sf to horror and so on). Therefore it makes more sense to treat graphic novels in the same way as audio books as described by Tim in msg #187.

Aug 17, 2008, 10:26am Top

There are also non-fiction graphic "novels", like Maus. Do libraries separate out graphic novels do they just separate out the fiction ones? If just the fiction ones and we want to reflect that in a facet it becomes more problematic as you are mixing format and subject.

Aug 17, 2008, 11:10am Top

>188 andyl:

Tim is right, the call number is not the point. You're setting up a system that documents logical associations between areas of knowledge and using that to determine physical placement of books on shelves so that patrons can intuitively navigate a system that is inherently flexible and adaptable. That's the point, yes?

And where books are shelved may indeed be up to libraries but there better be some similar structure of the top level subject divisions library to library or how are you expecting patrons to know where to look for things?

Speaking of which (and I apologize now - I know you've all have got to hate me as some opinionated know-it-all and "who the hell does she think she is?"), why was this system designed to be flat? Because right now you have Fiction parallel to children's books and that's not how libraries (or bookstores for that matter) operate as a rule. Most libraries and bookstore operate on the idea (whether they state it or not) that the first sort on books is by audience. So you have:

Children's Books
Adult Books

With YA hovering somewhere between the two. But those two main sections are physically separated from each other - then within those divisions you have:

Children's books - Non-fiction
Children's books - Fiction
Adult books - Non-fiction
Adult books - Fiction

And the children's fiction is nested within the children's section but physically separated from the children's non-fiction, just as the adult fiction is nested within the adult section but physically separated from the adult non-fiction.

And then you have:
Children's books - Non-Fiction - Science

And you would have a similar structure in the adult section. And even though one division has some subdivisions that the other won't have (can't imagine a need for "Children's books - fiction - picture books" equivalent in the adult section), they operate using the same basic structure.

I'm just wondering why you're really replicating Dewey or LC - dividing up the world of knowledge into slices that have no connection with each other - when you could be nesting things, similar to html, xml, or EAD. If you did it by nesting, that would give individual libraries more freedom to move around lower levels and yet give patrons some predictability that some subjects will always be located near each other.

Aug 17, 2008, 12:07pm Top

190: I think the nested organizational method only works up until a certain point. I agree with you as far it works for the layout of the larger areas of a library (adult/children, fiction/non-fiction) but think it breaks down as soon as you hit one of the top level categories (science).

You brought up the problem of the proposal "dividing up the world of knowledge into slices that have no connection with each other". I think the problem is more that every slice can theoretically be tied to every other slice under the right circumstances (the Everything is Miscellaneous Model), which breaks any sort of nested/tree structure.

Aug 17, 2008, 1:41pm Top

> 182

Now that a single, optional facet for bringing certain items together is back on the table, I thought we should try to answer the question of what exactly should it be used for in more detail. But as this is not the right thread for it, I've started a new thread, How should the optional facet be used?

Is is just for languages? Formats? Age groups? What should be completely out-of-bounds?

Don't respond here though. Go to the new thread instead.

Aug 17, 2008, 2:49pm Top

>191 jmgold: "I think the nested organizational method only works up until a certain point. I agree with you as far it works for the layout of the larger areas of a library (adult/children, fiction/non-fiction) but think it breaks down as soon as you hit one of the top level categories (science)."

Does it? It seems to work for subject headings, but again science is a real subject weakness for me and so that might be my ignorance talking.

I don't know, I think in the end you're going to have to make some choices about what trumps what in the placement of books. To me subject trumps form, which is why the whole graphic novel as a separate high level subject makes no sense to me. Someone would have a hard time convincing me that a comic book version of a biography of Byron has more in common with Watchmen (and therefore belongs in the same section) than it does with other biographies of Byron.

But obviously several people disagree with that, so whatever system you come up with needs to take that into consideration. I still don't think a high level subject division for graphic novel is the way to do that, but I have no ideas for what would satisfy that need. Maybe aarmstrong78's facet thread will do the trick?

Aug 17, 2008, 3:02pm Top

>193 Quipxotic: I agree with you completely on the form side of things in this instance. But the fact remains that many people (including the patrons at my library) like to see items clumped together by form. And by breaking the form out as a facet instead of as it's own subject as has been done with graphic novels traditionally, we can at least subdivide those in a meaningful way.

As far as the tree design goes, it works in some cases but there are far too many instances in which one leaf deserves to be on multiple (sometimes quite distant) branches. As an example take a book on careers for artists. Under dewey this could go in the 300's (under education), in the 600's (under personal success in business) or in the 700's (under art). None of these three possibilities really has an advantage over the other two. But if we had more top level categories (something like career guidance in this instance) the book could fit in more naturally with other similar titles without fracturing the collection as much.

Aug 17, 2008, 7:04pm Top

In my personal library, form tends to trump subject, and half my libary is grouped together by "collection" rather than some strict adherence to subject.

At the two public libraries closest to me, both have children's rooms which are quite distinct. Regarding Young Adult Fiction, one files them behind CD's, the other across the aisle from adult DDC 900's. The fiction that is closest to YA Fiction in both libraries is that which is found in DDC 800's, and not near the vastly bigger Fiction by author section.

Aug 17, 2008, 11:22pm Top

So, what if we structured the call number like this:


So, the first letter is audience (A, adult, Y, young adult, C, children's)
The second letter is format (B, book, A, audio, G, graphic-novel, etc.)
Other facets could be for whatever else needs to be called out—language, etc.

And so you have

AB 123.321 - Lost Moon
AA 123.321 - Lost Moon in an audio format
CA 123.321 - Goodnight Moon

Aug 18, 2008, 6:16am Top

> 170
While laena's list certainly sums up the topics frequently requested in public libraries,
1. Some items are way too large: science, nature, technology
2. The list is already too long to be "top level".

Most of laena's headlines are contained in the more extended list I supplied in >110 eversberg:, except these:

Antiques & Collectibles
Biography & Autobiography
Comics & Graphic Novels
Crafts & Hobbies
Family & Relationships
Health & Fitness
Study Aids

So, throw all of these together and then see how to group all of it under no more than 20 headlines. Then, number these by widely spaced two digit numbers for the top level, and the items under each headline with their own
two-digit numbers to get pairs like 70-20 Mathematics

Aug 18, 2008, 10:51am Top


I think Facets, followed by call number is workable. And then one can chooses whether to actually shelve by facets or by call number. At one of the libraries I go to, Young Adult non-fiction obviously had its own section, but all these books are now filed with adult non-fiction (except college guides and related material). Some libraries (public) have separate language sections, while others (academic) shelve them all together.

Aug 18, 2008, 11:10am Top

2. The list is already too long to be "top level".

Why? What are the constraints here? The numbering system? Patron guidance? Seriously, what is lost and what gained as you move from, say, 2 top-level heads to one-hundred?

Aug 18, 2008, 11:34am Top

So, throw all of these together and then see how to group all of it under no more than 20 headlines. Then, number these by widely spaced two digit numbers for the top level, and the items under each headline with their own
two-digit numbers to get pairs like 70-20 Mathematics

Why? What are these these two-digit numbers for exactly? And why two digits?

I have no reason to think that setting an arbitrary ceiling on how many top-level headings we can have is really the end to attack. We would do better by determining a consensus of "what" before choosing a "how."

Edited: Aug 18, 2008, 11:44am Top

We're back to the lumper vs. splitter issue, maybe, and what is a satisfactory median point.

The bookstore I remember with endless categories is Foyle's in London.

Aug 18, 2008, 12:37pm Top

Personally, I'd favor a library that had a fairly flat classification scheme, with many many categories. Bookstores with 60 categories don't bother me, anyway.

Aug 18, 2008, 1:39pm Top

Yes to >199 timspalding: & 200.

Why is science too large a category for a public library and how should we divide it? At Brooklyn Public Library, physics (530s in DDC) and zoology (590s--animals, everyone loves animals) are by far the most used science numbers. Do we make them top level?

Let's start experimenting and testing within our collections to find out what top-levels are the most used. As we begin to see what is least useful, we can "tuck" (see >137 timspalding: & 139) these into sub-levels.

Below is a list (sub-levels under science based upon discussion), please comment on what you think needs to be added, parsed, etc.

Antiques & Collectibles
Art & Architecture
>Performing Arts
Biography & Autobiography
Comics & Graphic Novels
Crafts & Hobbies
Family & Relationships
>Literary Collections (or reference, tbd locally)
>Literary Criticism
Languages and Linguistics
>Foreign Language Study
Health & Fitness
House & Home
Political Science
>Animals (Zoology)
>Biology & Life Sciences
>Earth Sciences
Social Science/Sociology
Sports & Recreation
Study Aids
Technology & Engineering

Facets & Call number structure for audience, format, language, etc.
So, the first letter is audience (A, adult, Y, young adult, C, children's)
The second letter is format (B, book, A, audio, G, graphic-novel, etc.)
Other facets could be for whatever else needs to be called out—language, etc.

AB 123.321 - Lost Moon
AA 123.321 - Lost Moon in an audio format
CA 123.321 - Goodnight Moon

Aug 18, 2008, 2:30pm Top

>202 timspalding:
And would you also want "many many" subcategories
below each category?
What's lost is the potential of truncation, lumping together all subcategories of a larger category.
But of course, a useful and meaningful design with several levels of hierarchy is more difficult to do than a flat list.

Aug 18, 2008, 3:55pm Top

So we're going to have graphic novels now as a subject AND as a format?


Aug 18, 2008, 4:29pm Top

Depending on content, graphic novels are currently shelved with comic books under Art > Drawing (741), Fiction or by the subject that the book addresses (Persepolis under Iran, 955) in DDC.

What do you think is best for users?

Aug 18, 2008, 5:00pm Top

What I like is to have graphic novels integrated with the related subject matter, whether fiction or non-fiction, and use a format to break it into a separate collection if required. However, I'm not a big user/collector - I only have a few items.

Aug 18, 2008, 11:29pm Top

>207 tardis:

Needless to say, I agree with you.

Aug 19, 2008, 7:43am Top

>207 tardis: & 208 Ditto

Edited: Aug 20, 2008, 4:06am Top

The lists are getting better, however as someone trying to classify 2600 books in my own library and a long-time library lurker (mainly university level) I'd like to make a few comments on the latest list to make it a bit more compact and some of the headings perhaps less ambiguous:

Antiques & Collectibles Should really fit under art and architecture. Even comic books and clothing could be considered art forms - a much better fit than Drama and Performing Arts that are already here>
Art & Architecture
>Performing Arts
Biography & Autobiography
Economics Even my university lumps business and economics into the Faculty of Economics and Commerce - and neither discipline appears to complain.
Comics & Graphic Novels
Cooking and Home Economics
Literary Collections (or reference, tbd locally)
>Literary Criticism
Languages and Linguistics
>Foreign Language Study
Gardening under House, Home?
Health & Fitness Should be Personal Health and Fitness
>Medical Medicine should go under science as there are many grey areas between biology, genetics, and medicine
House, Home and Cooking?
Philosophy including epistemology
Political Science
Psychology It should be reasonably easy to separate pop psy into Personal Health and Fitness from Psychology as a branch of Science or Medicine
>Animals (Zoology) this heading should be Natural History, as it would then easily include field guides, fish keeping, nature walks, etc.
>Biology & Life Sciences Just Biology - Medicine, Genetics, Psychology plus Botany and Zoology make up the Life Sciences. Biology can then be subdivided into Botany, Zoology, Marine Biology, Ecology, Physiology, etc.
>Earth Sciences

Social Science/Sociology
Sports & Recreation
Study Aids
Technology & Engineering
Travel and Geography



Edited: Aug 20, 2008, 6:38am Top

Where to put these:
Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries
Environmental & Global issues, Disasters
Information, Reference, Libraries, Archives
Occult & Paranormal
Space Exploration
Work (under Careers?)

And at least subdivide Technology & Engineering into
Biotechnology, Bioengineering
Chemical tech.
Civil eng.
Electrical & Electronics eng.
Mechanical eng.
Materials, Metals
Power tech.
Vehicular tech.

Not all of these may be of huge concern in public library collections, but among LibraryThingers, there ought to be a few with sizable collections in these fields.

Sep 10, 2008, 5:55pm Top

As the first flurry of OSC excitement has died down, I would suggest people take a look at the wiki, where David and I have posted the general consensus on top-levels: http://www.librarything.com/wiki/index.php/Open_Shelves_Classification

Is this good? What needs to be moved down a notch? What is missing?

Librarians, can you look at your circulation stats and see which subject headings circulate most. Are we forgetting something important?

Non-librarians, browse your local catalog and see if you can help us back-up this consensus.

Sep 10, 2008, 7:33pm Top


Here's a list of stuff from the Dewey 10s that I can't figure out where it would go. (Maybe these things have already been discussed. There were too many posts for me to plow through.)

Museology (maybe public library patrons aren't interested in how to run a museum?)
The Paranormal
Minority groups (okay that's a Dewey 1, but a big one and you've got the other Dewey 1s of that size split out)
Government function (Census, public administration ...)
Folklore (maybe that is going with Literature?)
General science books
Exploration (maybe the exploring that's already been done could go under history, but where do you put the books about plans for exploring Mars?)

There are also a couple of things that Dewey doesn't deal well with, but I don't see them here either:

Space travel - I would have said it should be under Transportation and/or exploration, but since Aviation isn't under transportation and you have no exploration, I'm flumoxed.

The "geology" of other planets. Perhaps changing "Earth" science to "Planetary" science would solve that.

Sep 10, 2008, 7:49pm Top

Concerning the top level categories in the wiki list, where are you putting Botany and Meteorology.

Also are you considering geology as a subcategory under Earth Science? I suppose meteorology could go here as well.

In my school's library we have a separate section for prehistoric life. (Children are fascinated by dinosaurs, etc. so we have a lot of books in this area.)

Sep 11, 2008, 1:39pm Top

My thoughts:

I would put Botany under Biology; and meteorology under Earth Sciences (although there is some astronomy in this one).

I would move aviation under transportation.

Would anthropology be under Social Science/Sociology? (It could have been subsumed under a category like geography, which would have also brought in earth sciences, geology, meteorology, and agriculture; but no one thinks about geography any more).

Presumably, written drama works come under fiction, and the visual/adudio vresion under "media". Also graphic works would be under fiction.

Sep 11, 2008, 2:27pm Top

Paper is a media.

Have we abandoned all intentions of separation by topic of anything not on paper?

Sep 11, 2008, 3:42pm Top

>216 TLCrawford: and 215

No, I believe we decided to make it a format facet (although I have dim memories that the word "facet" was given up and another word was adopted). Therefore libraries that want to shelve graphic novels with fiction could do so and those that want to pull them out by format could also do so. Same goes for audiobooks, dvds, etc. - see this thread.


Sep 11, 2008, 7:56pm Top

217: that's a yes.

212: in regards to non-fiction areas with large circulations the big ones in my library (that are not already on the list) are as follows:

memoirs (we keep them separate from biographies, although I often find the distinction a bit arbitrary).
True Crime (the one area besides cooking and biographies that patrons browse)
Paranormal (also the highest concentration of lost items)

Sep 12, 2008, 4:47am Top


I would agree with losing Aviation - it looks to be covered by a combination of Transportation and Military.

Edited: Sep 12, 2008, 6:02am Top

Is it just me, or is this falling into the category of a potentially endless debate about miniscule details? Wouldn't this be about time for the project moderators to step in and start bringing a conclusion to the top-level stuff. While it's collaborative, eventually someone has to step in and start making decisions otherwise we'll never get anywhere.......

Sep 12, 2008, 1:46pm Top

Hello David here, one of the moderators.

The top level thread has been going on for some time and we have heard a lot of good ideas, but now it is time to test if these categories actually represent the holdings of public libraries.

We need volunteers to take the working list of top level categories listed in the wiki (http://www.librarything.com/wiki/index.php/Top_Level_Categories) and look at online catalogs for public libraries. Most online catalogs will allow you to search by Dewey Call Number, so Laena is going through and finding the correlating Dewey Numbers for each of the top level categories. She should be done this later today and will post the information to the wiki. Please search by Dewey Numbers correlated to our top level categories and then report on the wiki how many books turn up for each category. You will need to figure out how to search using wildcards in your catalog so that you turn up books will longer Dewey Numbers as well.

Once we have this information, we can then evaluate if the working list of top level categories needs to be edited.

Sep 12, 2008, 2:09pm Top

I'm happy to pitch in and look at some of the online catalogues for UK libraries (that being where I am!)

Sep 12, 2008, 2:48pm Top

Top levels can be reviewed here (http://www.librarything.com/wiki/index.php/Top_Level_Categories), along with some nice summaries of how we got here, in case you forgot.

Here are the top level categories, along with the corresponding Dewey Decimal #:

Agriculture 338
Antiques & Collectibles 745
Art & Architecture 700s (709)
Biography & Autobiography 920
Business 380
Economics 330
Careers 650
Computers 000, 600
Cooking 641
Crafts 745
Hobbies 790, 746, etc (depends on the hobby w/dewey)
Education 370
Family & Relationships 158, 302, 300, etc (not specified in dewey)
Fiction & Poetry 800
Languages and Linguistics 400
Gardening 630
Health & Fitness 613, 332
History 900
House & Home 646, 728, 747
Humor 817
Information & Libraries 027
Law 340
Mathematics 500
Memoir 808 (writing of, or with subject)
Military 355, 620
Music 780
Paranormal 130
Pets 636
Philosophy 100
Political Science 320
Psychology 100
Religion 200
Science 500
Self-Help 158 (see 360, 610 also)
Social Science/Sociology 300
Sports & Recreation 796, 700
Study Aids 600 (usually with subject)
Technology & Engineering 600, 620
Transportation 380
Travel 910
True Crime 364

Questions about Dewey? An overview of classes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Dewey_Decimal_classes

Sep 12, 2008, 7:54pm Top

>223 laena: 500 is general science; Mathematics is 510s.

Edited: Sep 13, 2008, 9:30am Top

Some additional notes on Dewey.

-Agriculture 338

This is the economic aspects of agriculture. How to farm is in the 630s

-Business 380

This is the Commerce section. How to run a business from the internal sense is in the 650s. The books on micro-economics are in the 330s.

-Careers 650

This is where general career books are, but if you want to be a nurse they’re in 610, if you want to be a lawyer, they’re in 340 ...

-Computers 000, 600

Actually computers are 004-006 and 621

-Gardening 630

Landscaping and landscape gardens are in 710

-Humor 817

8x7 as we’d say in libraryese. 807 - General humor. 817-American humor 827-British humor. ...

-Information & Libraries 027

Actually all the 020s

-Memoir 808 (writing of, or with subject)

Or with Biography. Or in the 8x8 if their collected.

-Military 355, 620

There is military technology in 620, but the 620s cover all general engineering whatever it’s application

-Psychology 100

Psychology is 150 and 616.something

-Religion 200

Taoism and Confucianism, normally considered religions by public library patrons, are in 181. Until the recent revision of the religion schedule, books on Wicca were ending up in 130. Many libraries have not re-classed

-Technology & Engineering 600, 620

Engineering is 620, 660-690

-Transportation 380

This is the general transportation number. Transportation engineering is in 625.

-Travel 910

910 is generally geography
911 is historical geography
912 is maps and atlases
The travel books are really 914-919

Sep 13, 2008, 10:33am Top


I'm glad you went further with Dewey.

The 380's are a little complex. I did take a look in the Nassau County (NY) catalog (ALISWEB), where one can easily determine how many books are at a given 3-digit call number without delving knowingly into database operations. (DDC info from Wikipedia site - my stuff is in braces{})

General commerce is 380 (270 books) LC=HF
381 is internal commerce ((707), LC=HF
382 is foreign trade (316), LC=HF1
383 is postal communication (117), LC=HE6000-7500
384 is Communications, telecommunications (917) LC=HE
385 is Railroads (647) LC=HE1001=5600
386 is Waterways, ferries (196) LC=380-560
387 is Water, air space transport (930) LC=HE380-971 (water), HE9761-9900 (air), TL787-4050 (space)
388 Ground transportation {public transport, trucks, et} (403) LC=HE
389 Metrology & standardization {weights & measures} (86) LC=?
625 Engineering of railroads & roads (430) LC=TF (railways), TE (highways)

Long ago in the 1950's when I first got interested in transportation, 656 was used for the management or business of railroads. In addition, engineering of electric railways was something like 621.33. And then, even today some public transport will be put under 711, as a part of city planning.

Just to putter around and to give some comparison, I did look up 745 - crafts (decoarative arts): there were over 10,000 books in Nassau in this classification. 746 - hobbies (textile arts) also has over 10,000. Amazing, and I used to think that the world began and ended with transportation!!

So, 380-382 and 389 are presumably Business; 385-388 + 625 are Transportation; maybe 383-384 are also business. The devil is in the details.

Sep 13, 2008, 3:46pm Top

Coming in a bit late again but this is just the top level of BISAC. I do think that there is room for improvement but I recommend that folks check out the subdivisions. One easy way to look at them is on Amazon. It may be that some of the subdivisions could go to the top level. I would get rid of the Reference Category.

Sep 13, 2008, 11:56pm Top

Reference is not necessarily a separate subject, but reflects where people might actually want to place books. Most libraries have a reference collection that doesn't circulate, but is close to the librarian. Many bookstores have a refernce section where dicitonaries and almancs are placed.

I haven't looked at Amazon divisions: is there an orderly listing of them some place?

Sep 14, 2008, 7:27am Top

227 - Dewey includes several numbers for general reference books that are all encompassing: encyclopedias, almanacs, etc. If you're going to make a class scheme that encompasses all knowledge (which it doesn't appear that you're doing here), you have to have a place to put what Dewey calls "Generalities".

226 - I've started a new thread about why the Dewey numbers are spread all over.

Sep 14, 2008, 11:24am Top

I've had a go at the list provided for Stoke-On-Trent libraries. Biggest issue appears to be that there are few items in some of the n00 categories. For instance 800* produced only 2 items, whereas 641* produced 2185 items. This might be me misunderstanding the task. If it says 800 in the table, do a actually want everything in 8??*. As it is, only 19,000 of the 88,000 items in the library were picked up.

Sep 14, 2008, 2:19pm Top

I think 800 means 8**, and 400 means 4**.
However Science 500 includes all 500's except 510- 519 which is/are mathematics. There is some math at 317 (statistics) and perhaps elsewhere. In my Nassau County library system (ALISWEB), I would have to do 98 inquiries (not 804 or 819) to get the full holdings of the some 50 libraires that are included.

Sep 14, 2008, 10:21pm Top


Nassau County Libraries are also weak at the start of 800, and then it grows:

800 Literature - 82 books
801 Philosophy & theory - 466
802 Miscellany - 13
803 Dictionaries & endyclopedias - 73 {not word dictionaries}
804 Not used (but ALIS has 35 books, all pre-1975)
805 Serials - 12
806 Organizations - 44
807 Edu * Research - 28
808 Rhetoric & collections of literature - 3690
809 Literary history & criticism - 3717
810 American lit in Eng - 3031
811 Poetry - 4054
812 Drama - 3975
813 Fiction - 4129
814 - Essays - 2059
815 - Speeches - 265
816 - Letters - 91
817 - Satire & humor - 1659 {a separate category in the Top Level}
818 - Miscellaneous - 3437
819 - not used (but 12 in ALIS)
820 - English & Old English lit - 1980
821 - Eng poetry - 4460
822 - Eng drama - 4656
823 - Eng fiction - 4100
824 - Eng essays - 842
825 - Eng speeches - 18
826 - Eng letters - 72
827 - Eng satire & humour - 384
828 - Eng miscellanous - 2590
829 - Old English - 287

Also Non-Dewey (these do not include YA or children's lit):
FIC - 1102
SF - 2189
SS - 3821
FANT - 126
MYS - 902

Sep 14, 2008, 10:33pm Top

More Nassau County

790 Recreation & performing arts - 572
791 Public performances - over 10,000
792 Stage presentations - 3095
793 Indoor games & amusements - 2263
794 Indoor games of skill - 1356
795 Games of chance 1721
796 Athletic & outdoor sports & games - 3557
797 Aquatic & air sports - 1620
798 Equestrian & animal racing - 12
799 Fishng, hunting, shooting - 31

Also, adding into transportation is
629 Other engineering, mostly aeronautics & automobile (including repair) - 4041

Oct 5, 2008, 9:48pm Top

So "imaginative works" would include, art, music, fiction - ?
And "History of Art" or "History of Music" would be some combination of "History" and "Music", like "Philosophy of music" would be some combination of "philosophy" and "music"?
It's going to get complicated, especially as areas of study that used to be thought of as distinct and separate, have increasingly merged and distinctions between them are blurred - as they should be, because it's all a product of mind which is anything but tidily compartmentalized.

Still, I like the idea of imaginative works, or creative works - just interested in how it might all play out.

The more I think about these things - and I'm a librarian who has thought a lot about browsing a la Barnes & Noble vs. browsing a la public library - the more I think Dewey was a rare genius. Wonder what his Myers-Briggs was....

Oct 5, 2008, 11:45pm Top


I think I found the posting you wre referring to: it is #62. It's useful in long threads like this one to put the Message number in.

In any case, welcome to LT.

Regarding Dewey's MBTI, he might be an INTP -- I'm not sure. I don't rally know his personality. But in the Enneagram system, he is likely to be a 5 (Observer, thinker). Fives discern patterns.

Oct 15, 2008, 3:49pm Top

Hello Laena here, one of the OSC moderators.

Thanks everyone, we are ready to move on to a new task! The public library top level category testing has proven to be very insightful. Check out the comparison chart on the wiki (http://www.librarything.com/wiki/index.php/Results_from_searching_Public_Library...)

While this has been helpful, we need volunteers to evaluate what subjects get used the most in their library. This is easy to do if you are a librarian! You can run a report in your ILS, as I did, on subject heading circulation statistics. If you don't know how, ask your systems or technical services librarian. Be anonymous, we do not need to know WHO just WHAT. You can use this thread to post the list of top subject headings that circulate or you can add this information to a handy spreadsheet I made (http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pCCmnhjiYbsTrCV3L1OFdLA)

Once we have this information, we can then evaluate if the working list of top level categories needs to be edited.

Oct 15, 2008, 6:27pm Top

I wasn't able to see the comparison chart on the wiki. There was a link to Google but it seemed to be a generic login page.

Oct 23, 2008, 9:33am Top

>>237 aulsmith:

Sorry for not responding sooner aulsmith, but to see the comparison chart you need to have a google account (as is the case with all Google docs). Once you log in, it should take you to the chart.

Oct 23, 2008, 9:34am Top

238 - Thanks

Oct 28, 2008, 12:07pm Top

We are not alone in our attempts to create a new, usable alternative to Dewey. Check out the Frankfort Public Library District's Dewy Free reclassification project (http://deweyfree.com).

As we begin to solidify our top level categories, it is time to start talking again about notation and depth versus breadth. How deep do we go? What are the advantages of a flatter system?

Let's talk about notation on the numerals/letters thread. Take a look at what has been determined thus far on the wiki: http://www.librarything.com/wiki/index.php/Open_Shelves_Classification#Proposed_....

We want a system of notation to make labeling and browsing efficient. I think we want to stay away from this: http://deweyfree.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/picture-0821.jpg

So far, this is what we have.

AB 123.321 - Lost Moon
AA 123.321 - Lost Moon in an audio format
CA 123.321 - Goodnight Moon

Oct 28, 2008, 3:04pm Top

As we begin to create subheadings, I've started pages on the wiki with description and subheadings: http://www.librarything.com/wiki/index.php/Top_Level_Categories#Top_Levels_Worki....

These are examples from BISAC for now, that I hope we will edit or expand.

Nov 4, 2008, 2:39pm Top

>236 laena:
I have noticed as interesting difficulty as I assemble our most read subjects. Our tendency to use the most narrow subject descriptions makes it difficult to examine the collection's use in broad terms. In my own library, about 2/3 of our book use invokes terms so specific they register three or fewer uses even though the subject in a broader sense appears frequently. I can still get a list of most used terms that is representative. But I will be overlooking enough relevant terms that subjects are likely to be inappropriately omitted. The apparent order of popularity is also highly suspect. We use OCLC cataloging here, so I'm sure other libraries are encountering this as well.

A second issue I'm encountering is a significant difference between adult and juvenile subject distributions. Would it be reasonable to create a separate schedule for each? To what extent would this be a doubling of effort?

Nov 4, 2008, 3:01pm Top

Laena, I am unable to add anything to the subject spreadsheet (http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pCCmnhjiYbsTrCV3L1OFdLA). Am I missing something?

Nov 6, 2008, 12:53pm Top

You will need a Gmail account to edit this document. If you do, try it again. It should be open to anyone to edit: http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=pCCmnhjiYbsTrCV3L1OFdLA&hl=en

Nov 8, 2008, 8:42am Top


This is not just OCLC cataloging, it is a basic principle of all Anglo-American cataloging called Cutter's principle: Assign subjects and classification at the specific level of the book as a whole.

Nov 8, 2008, 9:55am Top

Should that principle be maintained?

Edited: Nov 8, 2008, 3:40pm Top

I was trying to find out more about "Cutter's principle", and found this quote frm a site trying to catalog sacred scriptures: "Cutter's principle for selecting subject headings maintains that the terms assigned should serve "the best interest of the user" (Chan, 1986, p. 17)." The site this quote is from: http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/courses/220.stuhlman/220readings/suiter1994.html

So the question here is: what is the best interest of the user?

Nov 9, 2008, 8:44am Top


You need to get out more. This has been extensively debated in the profession.

and especially http://www.guild2910.org/Pelopponesian%20War%20June%2013%202007.pdf

Nov 10, 2008, 8:52am Top

Just a heads up in case there is anyone out there who is checking the group threads but not the Thingology blog. Our most recent update can be found at:


Nov 11, 2008, 1:19pm Top

I would like to remind everyone, once again, that the OSC is being built for public libraries. Let's keep this in mind as we think about specifics (what category does this book fit in?) and broader ideas (Cutter's principle).

Cutter's principle and OSC can work in tandem. We are not creating thesauri or new subject headings. Our goal is to create a physical, browsable classification system. Everything should be able to work together: tags, subject headings, and classification.

Fast Food Nation (http://www.librarything.com/work/3735/details/2664403)
LC classification:
TX945.3.S355 2001 (home economics > hospitality industry)
394.10973 (social science > general customs)
OSC (*example*):
AB 123.321 (SOCIAL SCIENCE / Customs & Traditions)
Convenience foods › Great Britain
Convenience foods › United States
Convenience foods
Cookery, American
Fast food restaurants › United States
Food Habits
Food habits › Great Britain
Food habits › United States
Food industry and trade › United States
United States
agriculture(28) america(67) American(35) American Culture(28) animal rights(15) business(50) capitalism(23) consumerism(40) corporations(18) cultural studies(46) culture(100) Current Affairs(36) current events(43) diet(48) eating(22) economics(57) environment(22) expose(25) fast food(183) food(507) food industry(52) food politics(12) food writing(17) health(208) history(41) journalism(36) labor(13) mcdonalds(47) non-fiction(776) nutrition(97) obesity(33) own(42) owned(15) political(13) politics(144) pop culture(23) read(107) restaurants(12) science(16) social commentary(31) society(36) sociology(242) united states(18) unread(42) usa(27) vegetarian

Nov 11, 2008, 1:40pm Top

As we test the top levels, it is helpful to start thinking about relationships.

Here is a diagram of OSC Top Levels mapped to Librarything Top Tags http://www.librarything.com/wiki/index.php/Map_of_OSC_Top_Levels_%26_Librarythin...

Is animals a better top level term than pets?
Is there something missing?

Nov 11, 2008, 2:11pm Top

Just, please, make sure that Until Now is never near The Atlas of the Newborn

Nov 11, 2008, 4:39pm Top

Re: the mapping of top levels to tags

1) Not all animals are pets.

2) I apply the tag historical to a lot of my fiction but nonfiction books about history get the tag history.

Nov 11, 2008, 8:15pm Top

I vote for animals over pets. "Pets" indicates animals domesticated and used for human pleasure. Were animals created for human pleasure/use? Depends on which religious tradition you believe.

I also question the category of fiction. Whether or not a work is fiction relates to questions of its truth. Maybe others will argue with me here, but I think concepts of truth have a lot to do with religion. I am both a Christian and a librarian, which means I have strong (and sometimes conflicting) prejudices about what exactly constitutes fiction. I have a librarian friend who (somewhat jokingly) states that all religious books belong in the fiction category. I also know Christians who think that everything that is not explicitly Christian belongs in the fiction category (for example, evolution).

Can we find an unbiased word that covers the whole of "literature that is presented simply for the sake of art and pleasure?" Is this word intuitive for library users? Maybe that's a tall order.

Thanks for listening.

Nov 12, 2008, 1:17pm Top

For some of us, putting everything that isn't all truth into fiction would make the category way way too big.

Even some categories like literary analysis and poetry are regarded as non-fiction in many areas (like best-seller lists). Some belles-lettres and poetry is "presented simply for the sake of art and pleasure".

In my own library, I generally don't keep poetry with novels, or even near them in most cases (except drama in verse form, i.e. Shakespeare).

Nov 14, 2008, 12:44pm Top

>245 aulsmith:
I understand the point of specificity. I also use it and support it because it works. My comment is directed more at the reporting tools we use. MARC records nicely break subject tracings in useful components. For instance, The Last Lecture includes the subject "Cancer -- Patients -- United States -- Biography" which is coded as "$a Cancer $x Patients $z United States $v Biography." For this type of subject analysis, it would be very helpful to know how many books use '$v Biography', how many use '$z United States $v Biography', and so on for each combination. Thanks to specificity, we have the data for this. But reporting tools can obfuscate this information by limiting queries to indexing strings, which tend to look like 'Cancer Patients United States Biography' with any segmenting information stripped out.

In short, I was not complaining about cataloging standards. I was pointing out the danger of some subject areas looking much smaller than they really are due to how they are reported.

Nov 14, 2008, 3:03pm Top

I understand the concern, but the data will still be of use in evaluating circulation. For example, if "$a Cancer $x Patients $z United States $v Biography" is circulating frequently in multiple libraries, we need to factor this in to OSC.

Jan 6, 2009, 5:03pm Top

I somehow posted this in the wrong tread so I put it in here too:

I am new to this group, but I have something to say about a couple of things if it's not to late.

1) I do not like, as an Architect, to categorise my architecturebooks under Art & Architecture, It feels quite wrong. You can of cause find some art in architecturebooks, but as a whole it's problematic.

For now I have used Amazonbookstore's catagorizing and they have been tagged under; "Professional & Tecnical, Arts & Photography"
This does not feel right and Architecure are as much an own Universityfield as Psysics and Medicine and are so much more than some books about beautiful houses.
Therefore I suggest Architecture as an own category.

Under is some examples of different ways I have tried to categorise some own my books:

architecture, history,

Art, history, architecture, folklore,

Architecture, landscape, garden

Architecture, Technology, Building, Craft

Architecture, History & Periods, International, Norway, Oslo, food, cooking

Architecture, History & Periods, International, Sweden

Architecture, Interior Design, Asia

Architecture, History & Periods, International, Norway

Architecture, Technology, Project Planning & Management, energy

Architecture, Landscape, Garden

Architecture, Landscape, History & Periods, Garden

Architecture, Landscape, Garden

Architecture, Interior Design, Achitects A-Z, Capability Brown

Architecture, Interior Design, Achitects A-Z, William Morris

Architecture, Technology, Project Planning &
Management, energy, fireplace

Architecture, Technology, Craft, Woodwork

Architecture, Interior Design, Building Types & Styles

Architecture, Urban & Land Use planning

Architecture, Building Types & Styles, Theory, debate

About Cooking. This is not something that just happens at home. I have a lot of cookbooks, but my way of categorise this is to start with FOOD.
Food can be so much. Professional cooking, nutrision, healtfood, industrial foodmaking, cooking, etc. So I think "Food" should be the upper category, and everything about food down from there, altso cooking (not cokery, ugly word)

Jan 7, 2009, 3:59pm Top

>258 IaaS:
You may have not been viewing the most recent top-level categories. They are listed here: http://www.librarything.com/wiki/index.php/Top_Level_Categories

In case anyone needs a reminder, the top level categories are:


Jan 7, 2009, 5:51pm Top

Yes that was better, but I have a lot of food books that have no place under cooking, so where shall they go ?
Mythology is missing too, I myself tends to put all religoinsystems under mythology because that's what it is really. Or is Mythology so old that we do not know the origin.

Jan 7, 2009, 6:01pm Top

Are we at a point we can start asking users to assign these headings, just as a test? I'm thinking that a lot of users would do so. I'd literally give them a drop-down and a way to get a random book.

I don't know your feeling, but I'm thinking that some contact with reality will help clarify things.


Jan 7, 2009, 6:05pm Top

Sounds like Google's image tagging "game". I would totally play with assigning headings for hours!

Jan 7, 2009, 6:13pm Top

I think it would quickly surface issues. People would say "Where does Mythology go?" and "What about memoirs written by lunar craters?" Etc.

Jan 8, 2009, 11:39am Top

Sounds great, Tim! I think this is the perfect time for user testing.

Jan 8, 2009, 11:54am Top

Yes I agree.

Jan 8, 2009, 12:38pm Top

Oh, good. I'll knock something up. My thought is that you can do it to any book, but that there's a "pick a random book" feature that does just that, except that it tries to get more than one opinion on every random book—so we can see the accuracy rate. You wouldn't see what others thought it was until you voted.

Jan 8, 2009, 12:45pm Top

I like it! Good game.

Jan 20, 2009, 3:46am Top

Will this "game" come here on LT ? I have seen some links to wiki, but if we should try the system it is much easier to follow here.

Jan 20, 2009, 5:46am Top

Hmm. Personally I think Animals should be the top level tag rather than Pets. There are books about animals that are not pets, and I'm confused about where to put them.

Jan 20, 2009, 5:13pm Top

Agree, animals; so wild animals and domestic animals; pets or farm animals. This is logic for me.

Jan 21, 2009, 5:15am Top

Isn't the difference betweens Autobiography and Memoir small enough that they should be in the same top heading?

Jan 21, 2009, 7:25am Top

#269: Exactly. That was the one category that practically jumped out at me as totally out of synch. How did it get in?
Maybe because I have only one book on "pets" (a book on aquarium fishes), but a tonne (or half a tonne) on animal husbandry, an atlas of domestic animals, identification keys etc. (coming from an agricultural background). The pet category is nice for people who have pets/books about pets, but useless for people who have books on animals other than pets.

Jan 21, 2009, 7:31am Top

But if this is findability, then that's OK.

If you go into a library to look for a book on Animal Husbandry then you won't look in pets, and actually once you got to the shelf you wouldn't want to have books on pet rabbits next to books on rabbit farming.

Whereas someone coming in looking for information on whether to get a budgie, a rabbit or a goldfish for their kid's 8th birthday will want books on all those things together.

I actually agree that Pets is a bit specific as a top level category, I'd put it under a Hobbies type top level, but I don't think it would help to put it in with the agriculture stuff.

Jan 21, 2009, 8:00am Top

I'd still put it under top level Animals. Sub-categories, like proposed "wild" and "domestic" and maybe "pets" (as opposed to domestic animals such as cows). But we'll run into the problem on how to classify a book about foxhounds or border collies --IMO these are not pets, but working animals, and would go in the "domestic animals" category.

Jan 21, 2009, 8:10am Top


I agree about the animals. A similar case occurs with chickens. Most of the books are probably in the farming area but quite a few people do keep some chickens in their back gardens.

Edited: Jan 21, 2009, 8:14am Top

And then there's horses.

Jan 21, 2009, 8:19am Top

Some people keep working dogs (eg. border collies) as pets, while others keep them as working dogs. So the line is a bit overlapping there.

Jan 21, 2009, 8:42am Top

To me, the logic goes animals>domestic>pets. (and I have nearly always had pets.)

Jan 21, 2009, 8:44am Top

#278 That's where I would intuitively look on the shelves, library or bookshop, I would expect an animals section and within it pets - for me pets is just not top level.

Jan 21, 2009, 9:03am Top

Another vote for the memoirs with biography/autobiography; comics/graphic novels/manga, Animals not Pets; and a twinge of concern for a top level category of 'self help' and another of 'paranormal' where the whole of science is lumped in together. I also wonder about careers. What about Drama vs Performing Arts? It seems like there is a disparity in the level of splitting between certain kinds of categories at the top level. Where should fashion and costumes and so on go?

Jan 21, 2009, 9:16am Top

ok, so memoirs and manga have been taken care of already, but another issue has arisen. What do we mean by 'literary collections'? How is that to be distinguished from drama, fiction, poetry, and literary criticism?

Jan 21, 2009, 9:31am Top

I think animals would be confusing. I can then imagine books I think I should find in Science>Biology but will find in Animals.

Edited: Jan 21, 2009, 10:01am Top

What do we mean by 'literary collections'?

Something I picked up on earlier too Merriwyn. If we are supposed to be developing an intuitive 'where users would be most likely to look' classification system, then this is really redundant if it is meant to encompass things like anthologies (like the Norton ones). I would expect to find anthologies under Fiction or Poetry not as a separate collection. If it's meant to encompass something different then enlighten me! Possibly it could be a bit of the old-school cataloguing mind slipping through? Anyhow, as this beta test is about where we would assign texts, I've been putting the Nortons etc in Fiction. If all we do is replicate where things are being put right now, it won't provide useful data as to how this system can be better and dynamically different and where it should stay the same.

Feb 2, 2009, 1:55pm Top

Greetings! David and I have been busy compiling and analyzing all your comments, and a post with new top levels is forthcoming!

In the interim, take a look on Thingology (http://www.librarything.com/thingology) at the summary of the OSC meeting we had in Denver last weekend.

Feb 23, 2009, 2:01pm Top

So now that you've created a new thread for every top-level category, were there actually any changes made due to our comments? Can you at least give your reasoning in this thread before moving on? I don't think I'm going to feel like contributing any more if my comments are just going to be ignored.

Feb 23, 2009, 2:11pm Top

read the blog and the wiki.

Edited: Feb 23, 2009, 2:30pm Top

Is there a blog post about the new toplevels? I can't find one...

Edit: yikes! Moments after I posted, the blog post appeared! Apologies...

Feb 23, 2009, 2:38pm Top

OK, you've blogged the new top levels. But there was no discussion about why the majority of recommendations in this group were rejected.

Feb 23, 2009, 2:41pm Top

They are also on the wiki.

And for your perusing pleasure, also here as a list (grouped based upon possible flow vs. alphabetical, as requested):

















Feb 23, 2009, 2:43pm Top


I think this group is primarily a one-way flow. They'll maybe take a few suggestions from librarians, but mostly it's just to tell us what the developments are.

I certainly don't plan to contribute any further -- my comments would mostly be about Science anyway, which it's clear laena doesn't care one whit about.

Feb 23, 2009, 2:57pm Top

288 and 290:

Wasn't this classification system supposed to be built socially? Is this actually happening? I think there's a disconnect somewhere. Hopefully Tim can weigh in with some helpful comments here. Otherwise I'm tempted to stop following this group.

Feb 23, 2009, 2:58pm Top

For more on the top level building process, see the OSC blog posts on Thingology.

If a public library may reasonably want to aggregate at a certain level (e.g. fiction or science), then it exists as a top level.

Feb 23, 2009, 3:02pm Top

But the point is that there isn't a top level equivalent for the social sciences - they're all broken out at the top level, but the pure sciences are all lumped together under science.

It isn't consistent, and it creates a negative perception of the pure sciences as less important.

Feb 23, 2009, 3:07pm Top

Hmm...no Reference heading. An interesting omission. Did that become a facet and I missed it?

Feb 23, 2009, 3:08pm Top

Reference is included in the General Knowledge category.

Edited: Feb 23, 2009, 3:22pm Top


"Supposed to", yes. Actually? It appears not.


People have said that dozens of times (you may be one of them, I don't recall) -- laena doesn't seem to care. She just cuts & pastes the same references to the blog posts, assuming that if we disagree with her pronouncements it must be from ignorance.

I am attempting not to draw conclusions from the total lack of any science books at all in laena's own library on LT, since she presumably hasn't entered all her books, but it's hard not to.

Feb 23, 2009, 3:18pm Top

Ahhh. Thank you. I didn't look at the breakdown there yet.

Although that still seems odd to me - Reference I often think of not just as a means of classification (i.e. dictionaries, thesauri) but also as non-circulating items within the library. General Knowledge as a breakdown of lower-level subjects I would think of only as headings to be applied to the circulating collection.

Ah, well. Easy enough to use the headings and just place the books separately to denote that they cannot be checked out.

Feb 23, 2009, 3:34pm Top

>296 lorax::
Accepting the logic given (though with some reservations), I can deal with the idea of all of the sciences being lumped together. What bothers me then is the implied assumption that no library would ever want to lump together smaller and more closely related subjects, such as art, architecture, and design.

And of course public libraries are not the only constituency for a DDC replacement. School libraries are also major DDC users, and their classificatory needs are rather different from public libraries. For instance, they might want "social studies" (history, geography, politics) to be lumped - because in American schools, that is conceptualized as a single category.

Feb 23, 2009, 3:47pm Top

I think I have to agree with lorax and jjwilson61.

The process isn't working. It just doesn't feel like a collaborative development.

There were a load of suggestions and I think we can all accept that they can't all go forwards not least because some of them contradicted others. However there has been no communication why suggestions were rejected and why something very close to the original suggestion is still in place when there were so many gripes and counter-suggestions. A lot of these gripes still exist - where does one put field guides to plants? Under Science -- Biology -- Botany? Doesn't seem to make sense to me. Agronomy is a sub discipline of botany yet it also seems to fit under agriculture.

If one was to look at the new topic for TV & Film I have raised exactly the same points I raised before. Does Radio (as in radio programmes, radio industry etc) belong with TV & Film or with the Performing Arts. Personally I would have put TV & Film (along with radio and stage productions) into Performing Arts. Secondly Performing Arts says that plays should go under fiction, yet TV & Film lays claim to screenplays. That can't be right surely? It just isn't consistent.

Yes, I do know how hard it is to run a collaborative open-membership project. It is doubly hard when one isn't used to that development model. I think before jumping forwards that people need to sit down and flesh out the process by which this is supposed to work and communicate it. Despite post #292 there doesn't seem to be any detail on how the process is supposed to operate or is operating. It looks as though from time to time the next level is posted. We all complain about perceived holes, or lack of consistency (and I believe a self-consistent system is a desirable trait) and it seems to get ignored.

Feb 23, 2009, 3:48pm Top

>297 beatlemoon:
Reference is usually treated as a collection in public libraries, which allows it to remain flexible and reflect the community it serves. For example, in my library we have the Dictionary of Art in Reference for easy access, yet it retains its ART classification and could go there as well.

Feb 24, 2009, 6:14am Top

One thing that I think would aid the transparency of the process is for the data from the testing to be available on the Wiki. That would help everybody see how the original list fared in classification and might also help with the development of the sub categories.

Apr 4, 2009, 11:51am Top

I read that a top level class will be Self-Help: Includes works on self-guided improvement (economically, intellectually, or emotionally).

What does "self-guided" mean?

I've got several books that purport to improve my intellect to the point where it can use statistical techniques intelligently. These are for my improvement; ergo, they're self-help. Come to think of it, I could put most (all?) stats books there. As I could books on foreign languages. And books on architecture, car repair, er, just about everything. (I've even seen the occasional didactic/utilitarian poetry book.)

I do see an advantage of a section on "self-help", as I notice the term used in bookstores while I head for alternative walls. For one thing, if you chuck into such a section the kind of thing skewered by Wendy Kaminer in her I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional, you end up with a psychology section that has real psychology and isn't burdened by "popular psychology" piffle about Mars, Venus, moving cheese around, etc.

Edited: Jul 10, 2009, 9:39am Top

I started writing down my thoughts when I got to around the middle of the thread, so some of this has already been addressed, but I suppose it doesn't hurt (too much) to reiterate.
Most of the suggested lists of top level categories read something like this:
I. Everything
A. Non-fiction category
B. Non-fiction category
C. Non-fiction category
D. Non-fiction category
E. "Imaginitive Works" including all fiction, poetry, scripts, graphic novels, joke books, movies, music . . . ?
If the plan is to split fiction from non-fiction, we ought to be seeing something more like this:
I. Everything
A. Non-fiction
1. Arts
2. Sciences
B. Fiction
1. Fantasy
2. Sci-Fi
It might be better to shelve fiction with non-fiction on the same subject where possible. Assuming everything is either fiction or fact leaves us with some whole categories that no one is quite sure which side to shelve them on. In my opinion, poetry and scripts, like audiobooks, films and graphic novels are formats rather than genres and should not be considered in the same system as categories like art and history. Individual libraries certainly can (and likely would) choose to give some formats their own areas, but they should still be sorted according to the same rules as all the rest.
In comment 161 AnnaClaire said, ". . . I don't see how a book about a craft fits under the heading of Art. "Crafts & Hobbies" makes much more sense, even if it is a little vague." tardis' response referred back to a previous comment suggesting that books with photos of quilts be classed under "Art" while books about how to do quilting would go under "Technology". As a crafter who often looks for just that sort of books when visiting a library, I can tell you I'd be far more likely to look under "Art", "Crafts", "How-to" or even "Hobbies" than "Technology". In fact, the ONLY thing I'd expect to find in "Technology" is books about electronics. I think "Arts and Crafts" works just fine as a top level category.
On a side note, "Hobbies" should by no means be considered as even part of a category title, as it is more than a little vague. ANYTHING can be a hobby. It simply means something someone chooses to do on their personal time.
Joke books I would put with games and sports. Same with collecting stamps or antiques - it certainly isn't a craft. Architecture, on the other hand, is at least as much a craft as it is an art.
Looking at the Wiki Top Levels list: Why are plays under Fiction and screenplays under Film? Why is there a categorical distinction between Architecture books for professionals and ones for amateurs? Why isn't Family and Relationships a subset of Anthropology and Sociology? Why isn't True Crime under Law, Politics and Government? Why is Music separate from Performing Arts? While I'm asking questions, why is there no break between Career and Computers?(sorry) And it just doesn't seem right that "Pets" is its own top level category, although I don't know where else to put it.
Here's a challenge - where do I shelve my Stage Makeup textbook?

Edited: Sep 10, 2010, 1:54pm Top

Wow, I finally found where someone was trying to devise a system. Lucky for all of you, I was working on a system alone at about the same time as this project was in development. And, this is what the top-categories is going to look like - they're called GROUPs:

2. TECHs
5. IDEOs

The collation system that generates the GROUPs and their categories is as follows:

2. TECHs
3. INDVs
4. ORGs
5. IDEOs

The idea(s) that I was concerned about was that I wanted a system that was ergonomically friendly with computer application interfaces - file browsers, bookmarks, and bibliography tags. So, I insisted on single term designations, and a collation system that was manageable for efficient comprehension - people can only handle the presentation of so many categories at a time. And, as it turned out the complete system for libraries and organizations has seven GROUPs, but can be abridged for individual use down to five, or three.

I have devised the system to about 3 levels of the hierarchy. And I have resigned myself to accept that further development will require subject-expert participation and contribution.

I am concerned about the copyright, because I do not believe open-source is appropriate; and the inactivity of the Open Shelves project is an example of why the copyright provision is probably necessary - you were not able to do it.

Sep 10, 2010, 9:27pm Top


Copyright has nothing to do with the failure of the Open Shelves project -- the participants and the "facilitators" (laena et al.) going in with drastically different, and diametrically opposed, ideas of how the process should operate had everything to do with it.


This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.




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