It has always been a lifetime practice of man to arrange things in the most convenient order to save time and for ease of access and use. Such practice is commonly known as classification; the aim of which to bring order and logics to things and thought. We are exposed to classification in every aspect of our life, for example the filing of patients records in a doctor’s office, the way supermarket arrange groceries on their shelves and the layout strategies garments stores use to display their products.
Classification is one of the main activities of cataloguing and involves the assigning of numbers to represent subject content. Without classification, access to and the storing of library material would be very challenging, time consuming and frustrating. Hence I strongly endorse this quote “Books are the foundation of library; classification is the foundation of librarianship” (qtd. In Sharma and Sharma 17). The aim of library classification schemes is to keep like and related items together, moving from general to specific, for easy access by users and ease of re-shelving by library staff. Sharma and Sharma gave the purpose of library classification as, to separate subjects on the basis of likeness and unlikeness, to make grouping and sub-grouping of subjects, to arrange things in the most convenient order to make books available to every reader, to enable reader to receive his book, to arrange books in classified order, to retrieve information whenever needed and to make available the whole library stock to readers by publisher, date of publication, title, by author, or by subjects. The proper way is to arrange by contents of the material (16). Whether online or manual, the aim of classification remains the same; however the process differs.
Chan defines library classification as “the systematic arrangement by subject of books and other material on shelves or of catalogue and index entries in the manner that is most useful to those who read or who seek a definite piece of information” (qtd. In Chan 309). There are three types of classification; Enumerative, Synthetic and Hierarchical. Mortimer lists the general features of a classification scheme as schedules, notation, index and number building (8). These will be expounded on later on in this essay. “How good a classification is will be dependent on the intended market and how familiar the user is with the subject matter” (Gao 240). However in order for a classification scheme to be successful it must meet the following criteria outlined by Mortimer:
It should create an order convenient to the user – the main purpose of classification, it should be as complete as possible, covering the whole field of knowledge, it should proceed from general to specific, it should be evenly appointed, so that subjects of equal importance have roughly equivalent space in the schedules, it should have generalities and form classes, forms and geographical divisions, effective notation and an...