Posted by: Steven Harris | April 4, 2008

New Life for LC Classification

Classification is out of style these days. It once seemed ok as a method to physically organize library collections. Even that, however, has been questioned in recent years.  Are we losing customers because we are forcing them to understand Dewey? One public library has decided to go the bookstore route and forgo Dewey.  The transformation of libraries to electronic collections is really spelling the death knell for classification.  (Hello tagging!)

Well, I’m an LC kind of guy and my previous post got me thinking about “organizing knowledge.” I think it’s time to expand rather the contract the use of the LC classification.  (Anyway, we don’t want to incur the wrath of OCLC.)

My idea is that universities should be organized by LC classification.  The major classifications would be analogous to colleges.  College of T, College of P.  College of H.  Now, there are a lot of subclassifications.  This might be too many departments.  I suggest that these narrower levels function more informally, as communities of interest.

Faculty could move from one to another depending on their current research and teaching interests.  Transportation folks would be associating in the TE, TF, and TG communities. Of course the English Lit folks would be hanging in the PR community.  Courses would be owned by these subclass communities. Administrative organization would happen higher up at the main class colleges.

All of this would make it much easier for librarians to assign journal ownership and allocate collections funds.  This kind of organization makes as much sense as current practice in higher ed.  There is quite a lot of variation in organization from one university to another.  The reasons for the differences have little to do with logic, local need, or necessity, and plenty to do with politics, power, and persnicketiness.  Let’s just normalize the whole thing, and give the librarians a break while we’re at it.


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