Library Classification

Dipti Gulati (2013)

Library Classification:

The word classification is derived from the Latin word “classes” which, is a process of grouping. It involves putting together like entities and separating unlike entities and pervades all the various activities of our life. Library classification aims to create a system out of disorder and provides a comprehensive view of the documents on a subject. Once an orderly arrangement has been achieved, it will save the time of successive reader as well as of the librarian. Dr. S. R. Ranganathan has defined classification in five senses as mentioned below:

Sense I   “Division” which means grouping of same characteristics.

Sense II   “Assortment” which is the process of division of a universe of knowledge into groups, in addition to arranging the groups in a definite sequence that is assigning a range to each resulting group.

Sense III   “Ordinal Numbers in a Filiatory Sequence” which is practiced on a wide scale.

Sense IV   “Filiatory Sequence Coupled with Class Numbers”. In a filiatory sequence, each multiple class formed in the process of complete assortment is incorporated in its filiatory sequence.

Sense V   “Each Class has Unique Class Number representing it”.

Need for Library Classification:

A service library acquires books for use, which are arranged in a manner so that their utility increases to the optimum level and library classification aims to achieve the same objective. If the collection in the library is small, running into few hundreds only, a librarian would be able to lay his hand on a required document immediately without any problem. There would be no need for a systematic arrangement. When the collection grows beyond a few hundred, a librarian would find it difficult to lay his hand on a required document.

Due to the varying forms and purpose of documents, it becomes all the more essential to arrange them systematically on shelves. A user would be in a better position to help him if the shelves are provided with an adequate number of shelf guides whereby he would require less assistance from the reference staff. In order to provide an effective reference service, it is essential that documents are arranged systematically which would also save the time of the reference staff and that of readers themselves.

The basic objective of librarianship is to bring the user in contact with a specific document or information. Library Classification is a technique, which helps in the organization of the documents and information so that the user can use the resources of information effectively. Library Classification is a necessity in a service library and it is becoming more and more complex as well as more and more sophisticated in nature.

Library Classification Schemes:

The collection in the libraries of any appreciable size is organized according to some system, and this arrangement is generally referred to as classification. Classification provides formal and orderly access to the shelves. No matter what scheme is chosen or how large the library, the purpose of classification is to bring related items together in a helpful sequence from the general to the specific. Ease of access is especially important if the collection is heterogeneous. The ultimate aim of any classification system is to lead the patron to the information packages required.

According to ALA Glossary of Library and Information Sciences, Classification Schemes is defined as “a particular series or system of classes arranged in some order according to some principles or concepts, purpose or interest or some combination of such”.

The evolution of the schemes of classification is not a new phenomenon. Ancient and medieval philosophers also divided human thought to organize it systematically. Classification schemes for knowledge may themselves be classified according to purpose. A complete map of any area of knowledge, displaying all its concepts and their relationships is known as classification schemes or systems.

In the present study the major library classification schemes which are undertaken are as follows:

1. Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC)

2. Universal Decimal Classification (UDC)

3. Colon Classification (CC)

A. Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC):

Dewey Decimal Classification was devised by Melvil Dewey in 1876. The first edition of DDC published in 1876 consisted of only 44 pages, of which twelve pages were devoted to introduction, twelve pages as table or schedule and eighteen pages for index. A second greatly enlarged edition of DDC brought in 1885, consisted of 314 pages. DDC has played a vital role in giving direction and shape to the modern librarianship. The 21St edition of DDC published in 1996 is in four volumes, consisting of 4115 pages. The 22nd edition published in mid 2003 is also in four volumes. The most important factor behind the success of Dewey decimal classification is the revision and publication of different editions at regular intervals.

DDC is a hierarchical scheme, which proceeds from general to specific, using the decimal principal for the sub-divisions of knowledge. The basic plan in DDC is to divide the whole universe of knowledge into ten main divisions each of which is divided into ten subdivisions. Further each of these subdivisions has been divided into ten sections. These divisions are known as the first summary, second summary and third summary.

Dewey decimal classification is an almost enumerative scheme of classification. Since 1876 to 2003 (22nd edition) this scheme did not look back and it gained immense popularity grew day by day throughout the world. DDC has been translated into many languages such as Chinese, Spanish, Danish, Turkish, Japanese, Hindi, Portuguese, Sinhalese, etc. Dewey introduced the idea of using notation for the subjects in his scheme and applying the notation to the book and not to the shelves. The continuous revision policy enjoyed by the DDC system has no doubt made the scheme one of the most important internationally used classification systems in the world. DDC is in use in more than 135 countries in some 200,000 libraries and is published in about 30 languages, speaks volumes of its utility and popularity.

DDC 23rd Edition, earlier scheduled to be published in 2010, was delayed by about a year since it was to be released in May 2011 in the 135th year of its publication in 1876. The four volumes of DDC 23 forming a total of 4271 pages, has been divided into eleven sections marked A/K. Edition 23 that is the product of a new approach towards the development of print editions of the DDC. In its similarity to its predecessor edition 22, it was prepared in the context of the web; however the edition 23 is the first to be produced as a by-product of the underlying database instead of being as the sole focus of editorial development. Editorial development efforts since the publication of edition 22 have emphasized on short-term and long-term updates. The long-term updates have been held for simultaneous introduction in the print and web versions of edition 23, yet most of the short-term updates have been continuously distributed to users.

B. Universal Decimal Classification (UDC):

Universal Decimal Classification was developed by Paul Otlet and Henry La Fontaine in 1895. UDC is peculiar in the sense that it consists of a combination of both enumerative and faceted character of schemes and hence is designated as almost faceted scheme of classification. UDC basically derived from DDC is universal in the sense that it encompasses the whole field of knowledge. It is the most popular and multilingual general classification tool for organizing all sorts of recorded knowledge in the library.

The UDC was first published in French by International Information de Bibliography and had 33,000 sub-divisions from 1904 to 1907. The second edition was also published in French during 1927 to 1933 containing 70,000 sub-divisions. The third edition in German was published in 7 volumes of tables and 3 volumes of alphabetical index from 1934-51 consisting of 140,000 sub-divisions.

The 1st completed edition of UDC in English was actually the third edition being prepared and published by the British Standard Institute (BSI) with joint request of British society for International Bibliography and ASLIB. The UDC was brought out in different languages and which is estimated 30 different languages of the world. But the official language of UDC is English, French and German.

The development and maintenance of UDC is achieved by FID through its Central Classification Committee, which comprises of Secretary General of FID, editors of UDC and representatives from National Committees. The UDC is an International classification system which has the provision for classifying all universe of knowledge such as books, periodicals, reports, patents, reference documents, and other material such as Audio-visual, CD’s, databases, computer files etc. in more than 28 different international languages.

UDC was designed keeping in view the following purposes:

  1. To provide a method for arranging books on library shelves in an order which would be helpful to the users i.e. shelf arrangement.
  2. To provide a method of arranging sub-titles of the books themselves in a card catalogue and printed bibliographies.
  3. To classify the recorded knowledge.
  4. To retrieve the document or locate the document.

C. Colon Classification (CC):

Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan (1862-1972), a mathematician turned librarian and the father of library science in India was the creator of colon classification. The first edition of colon classification was published in 1933. Subsequently the other editions appeared in 1939, 1950, 1952, 1957, 1960 and 1987. From time to time, Ranganathan introduced major changes in the scheme. With the result only few libraries even in India could adopt this scheme. Ranganathan developed the theory of facet analysis, demonstrating that analysis and synthesis could be applied to every basic class.

The continuous research from 1924 to 1932 led to the publication of the first edition of CC in 1933. The second edition of CC was published in 1939 which has four parts. The third edition of CC incorporating the developments in the classification theory was published in 1950. The fourth edition of CC was published in 1952 incorporating the further developments in the theory of classification presented in ‘Philosophy of Library Classification’ (1951). Continued research in the theory of classification, as evident by the book entitled. ‘Classification and Communication’, and by several articles published in ‘Annals in Library Science’, led to the publication of edition-5 in 1957. The sixth edition of CC was published in 1960 did not have many additions. The much awaited seventh edition of CC which was supposed to be ready for publication and use as early as 1971, could actually see the light of the day in 1987. It was entitled, ‘Colon Classification’ by S.R. Ranganathan, edition-7 (Basic and Depth Version) Vol. I; Schedule for Classification; revised and edited by MA Gopinath; 1987, Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Science, Bangalore.’

CC is a relatively new scheme in at least two respects, i.e. first with regard to its period of origin and second with regard to its methodologies. As the scheme was first published in 1933, it is comparatively younger than some of the most famous schemes like DDC, UDC and Bliss bibliographical classification. Rather, it is interesting to observe that certain methods used in CC have been influenced considerably by the improvement work of other schemes.

Original Research Article:

  • Gulati, D. (2013). Use of library classification schemes in the ICT environment in selected libraries in national capital region a study. Retrieved from:

Md. Ashikuzzaman

Work at North South University Library, Bangladesh.

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