I admit it. I have a thing for Dewey. Not just the man (while he was fascinating, strange and brilliant), but for the Dewey Decimal Classification System.
While I’m not so enamoured that I don’t think it can be improved (but what classification system is perfect?) I do believe that libraries that are currently using DDC, but are experiences twinges of doubt about keeping it, need to think again.
As libraries continue to grow and change, we are noticing a mash-up and mutation of services. A good example of this is the blurring of service lines between reference staff and readers’ advisors. While we’ve been noticing this mash-up in the branches, we haven’t really been exploring the possibilities in cataloguing.
Next generation catalogues are starting to create a mash-up of services in the catalogue. We’re introducing reference services and RA services into our bibliographic records and offering chat within the catalogue. Slowly, we’re even making the content of our websites searchable in our catalogues, including programming and library hours.
So, if we’ve been able to concede and make room for additional content in our catalogues (and even in our bibliographic record content), why haven’t we looked at ways to expand or mash-up DDC to increase access? This doesn’t involve tainting the classification system itself, but incorporating the “bookstore model” into our stickering or call numbers.
In 2008, I wrote the following:
Although traditionally libraries shelve by classification number, they don’t have to. I’d love to see libraries embracing Dewey yet exploring new ways to shelve. Perhaps shelving by Dewey number within genre categories? Cataloguers provide subject headings and classifications. Front-line staff should take a leadership role in enhancing the “foundation” we are providing and find new and inventive ways to feature the collection so that it is easily accessible. Why do we need to get rid of one to have the other?
I think the one change I would make to that statement, two years later, is to encourage a collaborative leadership role between front-line staff and cataloguers.
I don’t believe getting rid of DDC in our libraries is the answer to better access. But I also don’t think we should refuse to explore additional ways to enhance physical access to the collection through our classification systems. This can be done without compromising organization and strict classification that provides the foundation of access.
Many of us are open to allowing user tagging in our catalogues because it sits on top of our structured subject and genre headings. While not “messing with” the integrity of our data, we are allow yet another level of access. Can we not start exploring the same options for adding another level of access with our call numbers?
Related slideshow that may be of interest: