Saturday, October 16, 2010

Library of Congress Subject Headings, what fun!

Well, OK, we're not sure that the "LC" subject headings and classification system are really all that much fun, although don't tell our cataloger that ;-) But they are rather handy to know about, if you're someone who likes to dig deeply into the catalog, or browse extensively in the stacks. (Our book shelves, or "stacks," hold the biggest collection of books among the four year SUNY colleges by the way...)

Basically the Library of Congress scheme is a framework with which to organize books; the Dewey Decimal system used in public and school libraries has a similar goal.

It works like this: there's an alphabet, A-Z. Each letter covers a major subject area, e.g. "B" is where the philosophy and religion books are located. Then by adding a second letter, and numbers, it gets more specific. For example, "BM" is for works on Judaism, and Talmudic literature is in the range of BM497-509. You can see the Library of Congress classification scheme here. Shown here is Herbert Putnam, creator of this classification system, which has been used for well over 100 years.

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