Library of Congress Classification:· Does Organization of Knowledge Need a Shelf?

Jolande E. Goldberg


In the literature on cataloging and classification, the Library of Congress Classification (LoC) has been described as a generally acceptable library shelving device and shelfbrowsing mechanism for American libraries, based on LC literary warrant Indeed, from its inception, the various classifier never claimed that they developed LCC as a scientific system but rather as an utilitarian tool for reclassing and servicing large existing LC collections. Likewise, its critics rarely ever provided a discourse on the fact that it is a knowledge-based logical system, in which the records ofa literate culture are organized: the various manifestations of recognized knowledge fields, corresponding to their scientific framework at a given point in history. Since development of the last LC Class K (Law), classification has no longer been tied to the mandate of providing for retrospective conversion of existing LC holdings, and other classificatory techniques could be explored that advanced yet a more coherent concept classification. By freeing the electronic LCC from older policies and the constraints of providing for stable shelf arrangements for American libraries at large, its potential as a unique retrieval tool (browsing the virtual shelf) as well as a trans-class navigation tool for electronically-stored bibliographic information can be realized.

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