Library classification

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A library classification is a system of coding and organizing library materials (books, serials, audiovisual materials, computer files, maps, manuscripts, realia) according to their subject and allocating a call number to that information resource. Similar to classification systems used in biology, bibliographic classification systems group entities together that are similar, typically arranged in a hierarchical tree structure. A different kind of classification system, called a faceted classification system, is also widely used which allows the assignment of multiple classifications to an object, enabling the classifications to be ordered in multiple ways.

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Description

Library classification forms part of the field of library and information science. It is a form of bibliographic classification (library classifications are used in library catalogs, while "bibliographic classification" also covers classification used in other kinds of bibliographic databases). It goes hand in hand with library (descriptive) cataloging under the rubric of cataloging and classification, sometimes grouped together as technical services. The library professional who engages in the process of cataloging and classifying library materials is called a cataloguer or catalog librarian. Library classification systems are one of the two tools used to facilitate subject access. The other consists of alphabetical indexing languages such as Thesauri and Subject Headings systems.

Library classification of a piece of work consists of two steps. Firstly the "aboutness" of the material is ascertained. Next, a call number (essentially a book's address), based on the classification system in use at the particular library will be assigned to the work using the notation of the system.

It is important to note that unlike subject heading or thesauri where multiple terms can be assigned to the same work, in library classification systems, each work can only be placed in one class. This is due to shelving purposes: A book can have only one physical place. However in classified catalogs one may have main entries as well as added entries. Most classification systems like the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) and Library of Congress classification also add a cutter number to each work which adds a code for the author of the work.

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