On 19/11/2012 15:43, Sandford, Mark wrote:
If it’s a library’s policy to assign one, and only one, classification number, then you’re stuck in the shelf-order mentality. We have plenty of items in our collection for which two or more LC numbers make perfect sense, but because our ultimate need is to put it on a shelf, we give it only one. Even items in our online collections get a single classification number. The decision not to consider adding more sure seems like a holdover from the shelf.
A classified order, or “classification” does not necessarily mean numbers. Numbers are only the shorthand used in libraries for physical arrangement. When Cutter et al. came up with the “dictionary” catalog, the question they had to solve was: we have all these catalog cards. What is the best way to arrange them? They decided upon a dictionary/alphabetical arrangement over a classified arrangement, but they understood the problems and retained the classified arrangement through the syndetic structure within the authority files. It is all still there, but so buried it is lost to everyone now.
If you look up “Hamburger” in the LC Authority file, and look hard, you will get a Broader Term reference to “Sandwiches” from there to “Cooking” from there to “Home economics” from there to “Family life education” etc. This is a classified arrangement that exists now, and has always been. It’s just that the classified arrangement was always more difficult to use, first, because Cutter et al. decided to focus on alphabetical order with their dictionary catalog. But they understood what they were losing and wanted to retain the possibility of classified retrieval. That is the importance of the syndetic structure of the authority file. The cards weren’t arranged in classified order, but in dictionary order but the classified arrangement could still be followed–with trouble.
The second reason the classified arrangement is more difficult to use is that the computerized catalogs haven’t included them very well or when they did, they did not have decent displays of the classified structures. That has been a complete disaster and in fact, has been the case for such a long that much of their power has been forgotten–although it is all still maintained.
You can kind of see it in id.loc.gov http://id.loc.gov/authorities/subjects/sh92002088.html, where you can navigate along the broader/narrower terms. In the visualization view, it’s OK to follow the broader terms until you come to “Cooking” when it scares me to death! Still, the structures could be resurrected and put to use in new and interesting ways.