Classification Systems

This June, I've been taking an online course for my library science degree--Introduction to Classification, which covers the tedious world of library classification systems aka how they keep track of all the books.

I'm most familiar with Dewey--it's the most widely used system. It's numbers based. So first, you have to figure out which class the discipline of the book best corresponds to.

000 Computer science, information, library science
100 Philosophy and psychology
200 Religion
300 Social sciences
400 Language
500 Science
600 Technology
700 Arts and recreation
800 Literature
900 History and geography

Once you've figured out the class your book belongs to, say the 800s, then you move to the second digit. 810 is American literature in English. 813 is American fiction in English. Then you can add a decimal point after 813 and continue on to the Tables, which have Standard Subdivisions, divisions for geography, divisions for works by individual authors, languages, etc. I find the tables pretty confusing still.

Then there's Library of Congress subject headings and classification. LoC is, of course, used in the Library of Congress but it is also used many academic libraries. LoC subject headings are a bunch of authorized subject headings that are applied to books; they are controlled vocabulary, meaning the headings aren't just willy-nilly.

From that class' homework assignment:

I sort of compare them to the categories your book can go into on Amazon lol. Library of Congress also has call numbers, which usually begin with a letter (K for Law, for instance), then numbers, then a decimal point, and more numbers.


  1. The Dewey decimal system is interesting. I can see how it gets confusing after the basics, keeping up with all the authors and genres and sub-genres. I can't help but wonder if a southern vampire novel like the Sookie Stackhouse series has a much different classification then the English adapted Phantom of the Opera.

    Library of Congress looks confusing.

    1. You know, I'm not sure how Dewey handles genre or even if it does. The additional tables are confusing. In the library I work in though, all fiction is labeled FIC then the first initial of their last name.

  2. How interesting! I always wondered how the libraries decided which numbers were for what and why. I just never considered that it would be so systematic. But it makes sense. Good luck with the class!

    1. Yup! It's not the most exciting thing, but it is important to keep track of everything.


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