Introduction to LC Classification

Informal Notes

Document sections

Classification versus call numbers In-house verification
Features of LCC Previewing schedules
Principles for assigning class numbers

Classification versus call numbers

Our focus here is on classification.  For additional information on LC call numbers, see the local document "Verifying Call Numbers in the Shelflist (When Cataloguing)."

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Some features of LC Classification

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General principles for assigning LC class numbers

(Please see also the handout from LC's Subject Cataloging Manual:  Classification, F10:  "General Principles of Classification.")

A.      Specific rather than too broad

The principle of specificity applies as it does for LCSH.  Again, however, there is not necessarily a 1-to-1 correspondence between the topic and the class number, so numbers often have to be assigned that represent a broader scope of the subject than the work's content itself does.

If there are several subtopics of the same broader subject, one generally classes the work with that broader category, again, like LCSH.  One example:  conference proceedings often have fairly broad numbers assigned to them, reflecting the "common denominator" subject.

B.      Usually prefer topic over form

It is only if the subject is very general that one classes under the form.  Otherwise, one classes under the topic.

Latin America (General) has specific class numbers for:

Periodicals; Societies; CollectionsF1401

However, a conference about intellectual life in Latin America would go under:

Latin America:  Intellectual life      F1408.3

not under the general Congresses number.

If a class number based on form is available, the subject should be about as broad as the subclass or section where that form number is located.

C.      Sometimes there is a choice between emphasis on topical or geographic focus.

If the schedule does not provide for both in a single class number, it may at least give guidelines as to which to prefer. The general priority for choice:

  1. Specific instructions in the schedule for that topic and/or place

    E.g.      F2510.5    Brazilians in foreign countries (General)

              Note:  "For Brazilians in a particular country, see the country."

  2. LC's practice for that number in the LC shelflist

  3. Clear pattern in our shelflist (if any).

  4. General guideline:  If there are no other indications, classify by topic.

D.      More than one topic:  If a work overs more than one topic (not 3 or more subtopics of a broader subject):

  1. Check any special instructions in the schedule.

    E.g.      Mexico:  Antiquities:  notes at F1219.3

              "Class here general works on specific topics only.
              For works limited to specific peoples, see the people in F1219.7 or F1221.
              For works on special topics in specific localities see F1219.1.A-Z."

    (A general pattern in the F schedule for Indians of Latin America tends to be:  For topic vs people vs place, prefer place over people and people over topic.)

    E.g..      Statistics:  note at beginning of HA:

              "For applications of statistics in the social sciences, see the field."

    If no instructions are available:

  2. Class according to the emphasis in the work.

    For example:  In a historical breakdown by period, if a work covers two time periods but covers the later period more than the earlier, with the earlier period covered primarily as background for the later, class with the later time period.

  3. If there is no particular emphasis of one topic over another, class with the topic that is dealt with first.

    For example:  In a historical breakdown, if a work covers two time periods and covers them about equally, class with the earlier time period.

  4. If there is not a straightforward order of topics, class based on:

Scope notes and references for possible alternative numbers are numerous in the schedules.

E.g.      Social and cultural anthropology, Ethnology:  Beginning of section, just above GN301:

          "Many topics provided for here represent concepts also encompassed by the discipline of sociology in HM.  In cases of overlap, the following principle should normally apply, unless specific instructions are made to the contrary.  Class here those works that deal with the nature of human societies in general, as well as those works that deal specifically with preliterate and/or folk societies.  For those works that deal principally with modern civilization, see HM.

Cf. [four alternative areas of the class schedules, for History of civilization; Human ecology; Manners and customs; and Sociology]."

These "cf." notes are not absolute instructions to use a different class number, but they provide suggestions about related class numbers or class number areas that you may want to consider and that might be more appropriate, depending on your specific case.

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In-house verification of class numbers

In a rough order of priority, although in some situations you may want to interchange steps 3 and 4:

  1. Shelflisting in Voyager -- online in Voyager (as you have already been doing:  the routine shelflisting procedure).  Whenever you encounter no problems -- which should be the majority of times -- you can stop with this step.  Check:

  2. LC Classification Schedules (LCCS):  Consult the schedule only if the pattern in the shelflist is unclear (and while you are in training, as indicated by your trainer).  LCCS is currently available:

  3. Voyager subject heading searches:  Other bib records with the same subject heading(s) illustrate how call numbers that we have provided or accepted have applied a number.  They may help to:

  4. LC Catalog Online:  To see how LC has used a number or classified a particular subject.

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Previewing individual schedules

The general structure of the individual schedules:

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top of this document Local documentation list

informal notes, 18 April 1994; rev. 6 March 1996, 13 January 1997, 8 May 2003, 11 June 2007

HTML document last reviewed:  20 June 2007