A 1969 study of professionals in various kinds of North American libraries as well as instructors of technical and reader services in accredited library schools (survey size: 244; responding: 152 or 62.3%) concerning the role and importance of classifying library materials showed thatlibrary professionals generally rejected the following propositions:

                effective library classification reflected the “true” order of science and nature (66.2% did not agree);

                evidence of classification enhanced librarians’ professional status among patrons (67.1% did not agree);

                close shelf classification had a pedagogical rationale (88.5% did not agree).                      (Source)

        Ibid…. showed thatthere was relatively strong support for the general idea of open-shelf access and browsing as evidenced by support for the following ideas:

                all readers should be encouraged to browse (77.7% agreed);

                browsing provided a valuable learning experience (81.2% agreed);

                shelf classification was necessary for browsing (78.4% agreed).

Further, there was strong rejection (89.2%) of the idea of “exclusively bibliographical” access to the collection.              (Source)

        Ibid…. showed thatthere was strong agreement with the idea that “serendipity” (“making desirable but unsought for discoveries”) was a major value of browsing (89.9% agreed). Further, “almost three-fourths” of the respondents agreed that shelf classification made serendipitous discoveries more likely.                (Source)

        Ibid…. showed thatthere was some ambivalence concerning the role of shelf classification in subject searching:

                58.8% agreed that shelf classification was “more important as a locational device than as a means of systematic subject approach”;

                58.0% agreed that subject headings in the catalog were more useful to the patron than shelf classification:

                42.7% agreed that the average patron could not “follow” close classification notation on the shelves.             (Source)

A study reported in 1982 comparing the 780 section (music schedule) of the 19th edition of Dewey to a proposed revision of that section “originating with the Library Association (United Kingdom) in 1973 and prepared in Great Britain under the supervision of Russell Sweeney and John Clews at the Leeds Polytechnic Institute,” based on how each organized a random sample of 400 ensemble music scores selected from the 1973-78 editions of the British Catalogue of Music, showed thatwhen each system of classification was compared to an ideal performance-oriented arrangement of materials the proposed revision was a better arrangement than the arrangement given by Dewey 19 although the difference was not statistically significant. Specifically, the number of matches between the ideal arrangement and Dewey 19 was 152 out of 400, while the number of matches between the proposed revision and the ideal arrangement was 164 out of 400.                     (Source)


Dr. David Kohl

 "Libraries in the digital age are experiencing the most profound transformation since ancient Mesopotamian scribes first began gathering and organizing cuneiform tablets."

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