Here’s your sign.
Here’s my situation at work. Coming from a public library side, I was used to the DDC(Dewey Decimal Classification) in finding things on the shelves for patrons and myself. The picture of catalog sign represents LCC (Library of Congress Classification) which took me a while to even read it let alone understand what it means. To the average library user, both public and academic, I can see how this makes no sense. Lucky for me, my group cataloging paper has a section which I’m working for DDC and LCC.
From what I’m reading, I’m slowing understanding the makeup of the cataloging numbers for LCC. The REF, the top part of the sign refers to Reference. Many library do not allow their reference materials to be checked out but can be used inside the library. The same rules applies at mine library as well. The top of the sign is referred to as a location symbol.
The next two portions of the signs are referred as the class number. The letters HD and LC do not refer to High Definition or Lonely Cats but rather the Subject and the Subclass of the Subject. The first letter for each represent a general subject. H is this case represents Social Science. The subclass is D or HD which refers to Industries, Land Use, and Labor. The L is for Education and the subclass C or LC is Special aspects of education. This isn’t over yet, folks. While we have the subject and the subclass, the next series of numbers breaks it down even further. 58.7 is about Organizational behavior, change and effectiveness. For the other side 2717 falls in between 2699 and 2913 which is for Blacks and African-Americans.
The last set of numbers .G730 and .N47 are known as book numbers. When you look at a LCC label on a book the date of publication would follow with four numbers for the year. And if there are different versions, that is also noted. Going back to .G730 and .N47, I discovered in my readings, that this represents three letters of the authors last name. The G and N are the first letters of the last names. After that, I have to refer to Library of Congress Basic Cutter Table. This is when this get a bit confusing which I have not mastered but I’ll do the best I can. The first book with the .G730 has no author for the work. The title is called Graduate Training Programs and so on. So the cutter will follow the first three letters of the first word Graduate – GRA. Following the table, the R is represented by the number 7 and A is 3. Though this cutter number ends in 0 the table says never to end your cutter with a 1 or 0; so I don’t know what gives. Moving to .N47, the N is for the authors last name Nettles. The letter E is 4 and T is 7. However, on the Cutter table, T should be 8 not 7 so unless I am reading the table wrong, I think I just discovered a cataloging error.
After some time, I was able to find and shelve materials on the shelf as long as the catalog table so broken down as thus. If however, you tried to look these numbers up, the online catalog would display the location number as REF HD58.7.G730 and REF LC2717.N47. Now ask yourself, would you have been able to decipher the mixture of letters and numbers to locate the needed material if you had no knowledge of what you just read? I know some will say, “That’s why you have librarians.” To that, I say yes, but when we have shortages in staff, do we even have the time to have teachable moments with the patrons? Just now, a student came up to the desk with a printout of the materials she found on the computer which had the catalog number. In order to find it, we have to take the student to the stacks. Granted, we are a small, small library and can easily afford to do this. However, when this happens in a larger library the signs have to be easily understood.
The next project that is work related is to update the sign and sign holder for the serial section of my library. Now, serials here are organized with straight-forward alphabetizing by serial title. From there, within each title you would have volume numbers, year of publication or both to organize the material even furthers.
As you can see in the pic, there are two tags on either side and a larger mockup sign that I created in the middle. The left tag reads Academe – Amer. J. of Psychology. The right tag notes Amer. J. of Psychotherapy – Behavioral. The new sign, in my opinion, needs to have some indication of what’s on the shelve and in what order or direction. I tried to having the signs to have the full names of the journals with a down pointing arrow between the titles to show through as in this through that. The problem lied with spacing I had for the signs and how I could not fit the title. I could adjust the font and font size but this would look uneven from sign to sign. Having abbreviations could work provided the end user would understand them in the first place. Seeing the words Amer. J. of Psychology may not be clear to many people. Having acronyms for the journals could be even work like A.J. (O.) P.. In this case, we have two P’s, one for Psychology and the other Psychotherapy. I came about this design after several attempts and thought to use the LCC cutter table, sort of, for the name the journal but focus on just the first three letters. Using this format, I could control the look easier with the same consistency. As you read my sign, you have the indication Serials as the location, the title range and the direction where the range takes place. I still need to get my library director to approve the new sign format but as you can see, I did give it some lengthy thoughts on the matter.
One of the things I found funny when reading about LCC was what they said about good notation was:
- convey order clearly and automatically
- be brief and simple as possible
- be easy to say, write, and remember
I’m not saying that my sign was a stroke of genius but I strongly believe I accomplished this goal. Reading a DDC or LCC sign should not be complicated. After all, the signs were meant for us, the librarians, to put the materials in a certain and logical order. And yet, we have the signs that treats the end user like a librarian. I don’t think it’s fair and I say that change is in order. How? I don’t know yet.