I was looking at an AquaBrowser installation of one of the regional library systems, using their administrative headquarters as my searching location. I entered the term “dinosaur” (I always use “dinosaur” when I do test searches). I was presented with a list of results, with a word cloud on the left of what AquaBrowser calls “related terms.” I selected from the word cloud the term “encyclopedia.” In the resulting list was the title Dewey decimal classification and relative index. . . . And I started with dinosaur . . . .
How do you classify knowledge? The Dewey Decimal system is the most widely used classification system in the world. According to OCLC, 70% of the holdings in WorldCat are classified by Dewey. It’s the perfect vehicle for shelf-browsers. You can even do virtual shelf-browsing, by entering the known Dewey number of an item and finding all the other items on the same subject shelved right next to it. OCLC’s DeweyBrowser beta v2.0 is fun (in a librariany sort of way.) The drill-down options are endless, through the Dewey numbers or subject headings.
For all the times I’ve been consulted or helped assign Dewey numbers to a collection (we called it Deweyization) — there’s a tool to use the vast WorldCat collection as a measuring stick to find the right classification. I’ve Deweyized special collections and private collections. One of my favorite projects was working with a couple late-teenagers who spent their summer break debating (often hotly) the correct placement for each of the items in a special collection. Often a neutral party (known as the experienced local librarian) was called in to settle Dewey disputes.
I was reminded of this nifty tool (that’s been around for a couple years) while reading the Hectic Pace post Dewey the Decimal Maker – a holiday parady. Read it while humming Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.
And Happy Holidays!