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Learning Objectives
• Define classification and its purpose.
• Discuss universal and specialized systems.
• Define Library of Congress Classification (LCC) and provide examples of how this system is used.
• Define Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) and provide examples of how this system is used.
• Differentiate between LCC and DDC systems.
• Define specialized classification systems.
• Define a book Cutter number based on the Library of Congress Cutter Table.
• Define ISBN and provide examples of how this number is used.
• Define LCCN and provide examples of how this number is used.
• Demonstrate how ISBN and LCCN numbers can be used in searching WorldCat.

Librarians use classification systems to organize similar materials together.

Classification is the process of organizing items into hierarchical classes and subclasses based on their characteristics.

A classification schedule are the names assigned to classes and subclasses in a classification system.

A classification system is a list of classes and subclasses arranged based on a set of principles for the purpose of organizing items in a collection.

hivClassifying an item and assigning a classification number and call number is part of the cataloging process.

Classification Systems

Many standard systems of library classification are currently in use.

Library of Congress Classification (LOCC) and Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) are examples of universal schemes.

Some specialized systems were designed for particular subjects or types of materials such as the British Catalogue of Music Classification for music and NLM Classification for medicine.

Library of Congress Classification

The Library of Congress Classification (LCC) is a system of classifying items such as a books, DVDs, and other items in a collection.

The system divides knowledge into 20 classes and a general works category.


gadgetLibrary of Congress Example

Letters and numbers are used to indicate divisions and subdivisions within each category.

These are called the LC call number and are used to arrange items for storage and access.

Most research libraries and academic libraries use LCC.

Explore the LOC Outline.


Dewey Decimal Classification

Dewey Decimal Classification (DCC) is a system of classifying items such as a books, DVDs, and other items in a collection.

The system divides knowledge into 10 major classes, then 10 divisions.


exampleDewey Decimal Classification Example

The DCC call numbers include numbers with decimals.

Many school and public libraries use DDC.

Explore the DDC summaries.




Let’s compare the Library of Congress Classification (LCC) system with the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system.

Although LCC has been criticized for being slow to change, it is better able to handle new topics than DDC.


Specialized Classification Systems

Some specialized libraries use subject-specific classification systems.

For instance, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) Classification Schedule uses letters to denote broad subjects categories and numbers for subdivisions like medical, biomedical, and health sciences.

Moys Classification System is used for law books and based on both LC and DDC.
Superintendent Documents Classification (SuDocs) is used for government documents.

Alpha-Numeric System for Classification (ANSCR) is used for classifying sound recordings.

Faceted classification systems allow multiple classifications for an object so it can be arranged different ways. For instance, a collection might use an author facet, subject facet, date facet, or format facet. Faceted systems are useful in some search systems.

Cutter Numbers

A Cutter number can be used in both LCC and DDC systems to assist in arranging items on the shelf. They are generally used in academic settings and large libraries.

Alphanumeric codes are assigned based on the author’s last name or title if necessary depending on the item. The number consists of one to three letters from the name followed by one or more numbers from the Cuttle Table. This number is placed at the end of the call number.

A Cutter Table is used to assist in making the assignment of the number. This image below shows the beginning of the Cuttle Table.

Try It!
Explore the Cutter Table.


Classification Issues for Libraries

Unlike subject headings where multiple terms can be assigned, most classification systems require that an item be placed in one class.

Traditionally, classification was essential because an item can only be physically located in one place. However, the emergence of digital collections has raised issues about necessity of a single call number.

Some librarians don’t like either the LCC or DDC system and have gone to more subject-based approaches often found in bookstores. However many catalogers criticize this approach and recommend the development of a more intuitive approach that allows detailed classification.

International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN)

isbnISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It’s a unique, numeric commercial book identifier. Originally 9 digits, then 10, there are now 13 digits or EAN-13.

Even online self-publishing websites such as CreateSpace and Lulu assign ISBN numbers. A book published privately sometimes doesn’t contain an ISBN number. However, anyone can apply for a set of numbers.

In the United States, RR Bowker is responsible for assigning numbers with a basic cost of around a few hundred dollars for a starting group of numbers.

Each new edition of a book (except reprintings) receives a new ISBN. The digits refer to the group, publisher, title, and check digit. The barcodes on the back of most book covers contain the EAN-13, a currency type, and retail price.

ISSN standards for International Standard Serial Number. This system identifies periodical publications such as journals and magazines.

To learn more about ISBN numbers, go to the RR Bowker ISBN FAQs.

Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN)

LCCN originally stood for Library of Congress Card Number. However because of the digital nature of today’s records, it can also stand for Library of Congress Control Number.

It’s a unique, serially based system for numbering cataloging records at the Library of Congress.

The number is used in the process of cataloging books published in the United States.

The number includes the year and a serial number.


ISBN and WorldCat

It’s possible search by ISBN in many catalogs and online services. For instance, you can enter the ISBN in a WorldCat search and the book will be shown.


The ISBN number can be helpful in cataloging resources in social networks such as LibraryThing and GoodReads. Just enter the number and choices of cataloging will be provided.

Try It!
Want additional practice?
Try a tutorial to The Library Catalog Tutorial.
Explore a cataloging blog at Planet Cataloging.


Classification is the process of organizing items into hierarchical classes and subclasses based on their characteristics.

Library of Congress Classification (LCC) and Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) are two popular, universal schemes. Specialized systems such as the National Library of Medicine (NLM) Classification system have been developed for particular disciplines and formats of materials.

Cutter numbers are sometimes used to assist with arranging materials on shelves.

Library of Congress Control Numbers (LCCN) are assigned by the Library of Congress.

International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN) are assigned to most new books and new editions of books. However, new numbers are not given for additional printings of a book.

| eduscapes | IUPUI Online Courses | Contact Us | 2014 Annette Lamb (Adapted from earlier s401 materials)

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