Competency G: demonstrate understanding of basic principles and standards involved in organizing information, including classification, cataloging, metadata, or other systems.
Classification, broadly defined, is the act of organizing the universe of knowledge into some systematic order. It has been considered the most fundamental activity of the human mind. – Lois Mai Chan, Cataloguing and Classification: An Introduction
While Competency F largely concerned itself with the physical organization of library materials, this competency focuses on concepts that provides the underpinning for that organization. Proper cataloging, classification, finding aids, and other standardized systems help to save the time of the user by making it much easier to locate material.
The most common classification system in the United States are both the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) and Library of Congress Classification (LCC). Standardization, including a standardized means of calculating the cutter number, determining subject headings, and completing MARC records all makes it easy to locate items in electronic catalog.
This in turn has made it easy for libraries to make their catalogs’ contents available on WorldCat, which has simplified cataloging. Catalogers can download and use the MARC entry for an item, which greatly speeds up the cataloging process. The availability of records on WorldCat also makes it easier for libraries to request books from other libraries for inter-library loan.
Another form of standardization that eases access is the use of controlled vocabulary. Some controlled vocabulary lists are developed in-house, while other lists are available online for various topics such as art, history, science, and so on.
Unlike many of the other competencies in this ePortfolio, I have little professional experience in cataloging and classification. This is precisely why I chose to take certain classes that would help fill in this particular gap in my knowledge. Having at least a basic understanding of how exactly to classify books and archival materials will help me communicate with catalogers more easily. It will also come in handy should I ever work at a smaller library, where I may be working in several roles. This basic understanding will make cataloging materials significantly easier when I put my church’s library back together after the construction finishes later this year.
In a cat food database that I developed, the content field was developed with an eye to the data people might search for. The aspects of cat food was classified according to a validation list I created, which formed a sort of in-house controlled vocabulary list.
Similarly, I created a simple image database for architectural students using controlled vocabulary and including key phrases or descriptors that the students might use when searching for examples of various types of architecture.
In another class, I developed a finding aid for an archived collection of personal letters. There is a variety of approaches to developing finding aids, ranging from the general to the more detailed. In this finding aid, I made it fairly detailed and organized the artifacts in a way that I thought might be useful for researchers.
Finally, I cataloged and classified a number of books in a course, working with two other classmates. We all worked on each field and item together, which makes it difficult to describe exactly for what portions I was responsible. Our general process, because of how our schedules worked out, was that I did the initial legwork of cataloging and classification, while my classmates would go through, fix, and double-check the work against standards, and fill in any areas I was uncertain in, then I would go back and provide the triple-check. We used the standard subject headings from OCLC for our 650 fields, and checked for pre-existing author records to provide consistency in our 1xx and 7xx fields when creating our MARC records.
Cataloging and classification is an essential part of organizing information in a library, archive, or other information repository. While each different place may use a different means of information organization, the principles behind them are the same; the controlled vocabulary, a standardized classification schedule, and an orderly catalog record all make finding information significantly easier for both library staff and users.
Chan, L. (2007). Cataloguing and Classification: An Introduction. 3rd ed. Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press.
Last edited on September 11, 2012