What Dewey know about DDC?


Let’s start dispelling the nasty rumors right off the bat. Melville Dewey did not write Moby Dick nor is he a library cat. Melville Dewey created his own library classification called the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC). His system for cataloging was to divided all knowledge into 10 main classes. Within those 10 main classes, 10 divisions are created and the each of those are divided again into 10 sections. The idea to convey of the breakdown would be of a tree. The trunk represents all knowledge. The tree has 10 branches that sprout from the trunk and are the 10 main classes of information. Each of those branches break off further into 10 more branches or divisions and of those 10 continue to branch out further. What you are left with are 1000 categories to catalog books. The decimal came into play, in later editions, to break down the 1000 categories even further to 10,000 and 100,000 and so forth. This then begs the question, what do the numbers mean?

Let’s look at my favorite subject Graphic Novels under Dewey:

700 Arts and recreation – Main Class

740  Graphic arts and decorative arts – Division

741 Drawing and drawings – Section

741.5 Comic books, graphic novels, fotonovelas, cartoons, caricatures, comic strip – Sub section with decimal

One of my problems with DDC when it comes to graphic novels is how they are treated inside 741.5. For example, there is an graphic novel of Ultimate Spiderman Vol. 12 written by Brian Michael Bendis labelled 741.5973 BEND Y. I am not going to go further in explaining the 973 part of the call number but note the author’s partial last name BEND and the Y notes this book for Young Adults. There is another book just called Spiderman Vol.4 by M. Zeb Wells. This call number would be similar except for the author’s last name – 741.5973 WELL Y. Add to the mix other writers you who also wrote Spiderman stories and then you’ll see that the books would go in alpha order by last name since many of them would be simply listed 741.5973 XXXX. My problem is that you could have Spiderman books all over the section as opposed to by the main character and then by series or even within a series have multiple authors but I digress. Having worked as a page shelving this section was a pain because that how I thought it should have been down. Screw DEWEY!

One of the easier things about DDC is that fiction is listed in under the 800 – Literature heading. But because literature is so massive in a public library this is broken out and has it’s own section called Fiction. There the section is alphabetized by author’s last name and then the title of the book or series. The Library of Congress Classification also has literature listed in its classification under P for Language and Literature or PR for English Literature. In my experience, I have not seen a separate fiction section under LCC. Looking over my academic library both for graphic novels and literature, DDC only wins slightly with literatures ease of finding books that a patron could find on their own.

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~ by The Monster on October 24, 2012.

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