From the catalogs of babes

{January 28, 2010}   libraries using alternative classification

Dear Readers,

I’m looking for concrete examples of libraries currently using alternative classification schema (i.e., not DDC or LCC) for some reasearch I’m doing regarding our library’s reclassification project. BISAC, Bliss, Colon, locally-designed, home-grown, what-have-you are all okay. Examples of academic libraries (regardless of size and specialty) are preferred, as are corporate libraries. Not so much on the public libraries (I’ve already noted Maricopa County and the other public libraries recently featured in the press) but I’ll take whatever I can get. Beggars can’t be choosers, and all.

If any of you faithful readers out there know of any examples, please leave a comment with any info you have and you will earn my undying gratitude (at least for now, until the next project…)

With sincere thanks,

your friendly neighborhood cataloging librarian


Holly says:

My favorite example is the UBC Xwi7xwa library, which is using Brian Deer: I have some photos from my visit: Let me know if you’re interested in more about native classification, which is my primary area of interest.

Tom says:

Hello. We use a home-grown scheme called Garside: We have merged with a number of other libraries, some of which have been shoe-horned into the Garside scheme, with peculiar local oddities, and some of which have retained their own, mostly commonly NLM.

Alan Pritchard says:

Bournemouth Library (UK) uses Bliss for the local studies collection. I’m just getting it onto the OPAC.
I’m using UDC for a large (15000+ items) bibliography on alchemy

Emi says:

The Clements Library at the University of Michigan, a research library for early American history, uses a specialized scheme described in a 1950 book by Robert Benaway Brown, “The Lenox-Eames Classification Scheme at the William L. Clements Library.” Most of the main book collection is organized chronologically, with a subject classification system for reference works.

Here are two special libraries that use custom classification schemes.

* The American Numismatic Association in Colorado Springs ( ) uses a classification system they developed themselves. The classification system is described here:

* The Grolier Club in New York ( sorry, links within the site do not work) also uses a home-grown classification system. You’d probably need to contact them for details.

In the academic sector, Princeton University used to use Richardson call numbers, but they have been using LC for a long time now. They still have Richardson stacks, though, so I don’t know if you’d be interested.

I’m sure there are others that I should be thinking of. If and when they occur to me, I will share them.

At the American Numismatic Society ( ) we are actually embarking on a project to start using call numbers for our collection. Since we don’t really have time for developing a classification system at the moment (and we don’t want to completely reorganize the library, since people have gotten used to where the various sections are), we are just cuttering every book and using the sections we currently have (broadly geographical sections, mostly… “England,” “China,” “Austria,” “Roman,” etc.). We’re definitely interested in improving the classification system, so if you’d be willing to share any other examples you know of, we’d be very interested.


Laurel Tarulli says:

Markham Public Library in Ontario is using a home-grown classification called C3. Sorry I couldn’t help with academic or special library examples!. I blogged a bit about Markhan’s new system after their presentation at CLA this past year It’s under the CLA: The second day section of the post.

Lynn Corrigan says:

Perhaps try this from the opposite direction; e.g. the Bliss Classification website has a page with selected libraries using it:

You’ll probably find the same from other published schema such as UDC.

Well, a very commonly used classification other than LCC and DC is SuDoc used in most depository libraries. There should be several in your area using it.

Another common classification system is ANSCR used in some local public libraries for recorded music. Alternatives to Dewey have long been used in public libraries, just not received the press.

Houston has lots of medical libraries and some of them use NLM classification. I’d bet some in your area do as well.

Dodie Gaudet says:

Hi Ivy:

Charles Cutter (of Cutter number fame) was the first director of the Forbes Library in Northampton, Mass. They still use the Cutter Classification System (which evolved into the Library of Congress System). The Holyoke Public Library also uses it. Several other area libraries have switched from Cutter including the Williston Library at Mt. Holyoke College. However, they never reclassed most of the Cutter Collection when they switched and it still exists (not certain if that’s the kind of thing you’re interested in, but as a cataloger I think it is).

Tom says:

At the Squire Law Library, part of Cambridge University ( we use a home-grown faceted scheme developed by one of our librarians in the 1960s. Unfortunately it’s never been updated so the classification of newer subjects such as the environment and information technology is unsatisfactory, but in the main it’s still very good in my opinion – its notation in particular is much more expressive than mainstream alternatives such as Moys. A similar scheme was devised a few years later by the same librarian for a law library in Italy. Let me know if you’d like more information on either scheme.


Cheryl says:

Hi Ivy,
Don’t know if this fits the bill, but the Braun Research Library at the Autry National Center uses a modified Dewey to classify Native American materials. We break out the base numbers 970 and 980 into some very detailed categories. If interested, I could send you a word doc. explaining the scheme.

robin says:

BRC Imagination Arts in Burbank organizes their library according to the projects they are currently working on or have worked on in the past. I unfortunatley fell out of contact with their librarian, but I’m sure you could just give them a call:

Booker says:

You know about this, but you wanted corporate/special library examples, and AWWA’s Waternet database counts ( It’s sold as a bibliographic tool, and also serves as a look-up tool for journal articles and standards documents for the water supply industry ( The structure is unrelated to any other, as far as I know, but was developed specifically for industry publications by a forward-looking colleague of mine starting in the 1970s. I can gather more stats if you or others would be interested.

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