Monday, February 9th, 2009

Open Shelves Classification Update

Hello! Well we have been busy since Tim announced the classify-this feature. The OSC group has been extremely active with over 300+ posts about the top level categories (not to mention insightful threads popping up to discuss second level categories). Thank you for your feedback! Meanwhile, at the Midwinter meeting of the American Library Association we were able to have a really valuable face-to-face conversation with LibraryThing users.

We have been processing all your feedback and working on version 2.0 of the top level categories. Before we get to that, we wanted to let everyone know that we do read all the posts in the Open Shelves Classification group. Because of the high quantity of posts (and our day jobs) we cannot comment or respond individually as often as we would like.

Some key points after discussion, feedback and analysis:

-The number of categories in the top level. As decided last summer, we will have more rather than fewer top level categories. The top levels are not supposed to represent an even distribution of all possible branches of knowledge. Instead, the OSC top levels should represent the largest categories that public libraries will want to use. [Similar to how Library of Congress classification was built to meet the needs of the Library of Congress, while Dewey's system tried to contain all recorded knowledge.]

-Complaints about specific topics in the top level. Remember, there is no value judgment in a topic being placed at the top level or underneath a broader topic. For now, topics like Pets, Gardening, and True Crime are present because of feedback from public librarians that these are heavily requested books that are often pulled out into their own sections. As a guiding principle, the OSC will be statistically tested, so some of our top level categories may change as actual libraries begin to reclassify their collections.

-The nature of classification. Any classification system forces us to choose one topic for the book, even though that book may be about more than one topic. This is not a flaw in the OSC categories but in the nature of classification. Libraries will still use multiple subject headings in the catalog to capture all the topical aspects of the work.

-Facets. As talked about a few months ago, we currently plan on the top level categories being only topical while other aspects of the work will be represented by facets. For example, format will be captured in a separate facet. [And to clear up any lingering confusion, Comics will be a format facet.] Another facet talked about was audience. This means children’s books will be tagged in the audience facet. We envision that these facets will be optional and libraries can use them if, for example, they want to pull out all the comics and shelve them in a unique section. Alternatively, the facet could be ignored and then graphic novels would be intershelved with other like topics. Here is a picture of what we are envisioning:
-Classification versus Signage. The top levels categories have nothing to do with
signage. This is particularly true with children’s books, which can be grouped/displayed as the library desires (e.g. picture books, infants, board books, etc.).

We will posting an updated version of the top levels very soon, so stay tuned!

Labels: Open Shelves Classification, OSC

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