Rangeview (CO) library system 1st system to abandon Dewey

I sort of knew about this for a while but the Rangeview Library District is ditching Dewey in favor of a self-created WordThink system which more closely mimics bookstore categories. No word on whether they’ll ditch that horrible catalog though. They’ve only implemented the switch at one branch so far which means the systemwide catalog returns results with both WordThink and Dewey codes. Press coverage is the predictable “uptight librarians forced into uncomfortable situations by open minded knowledge workers!” and I have the same old twitch when I see libraries referring to patrons as customers.

That said, it will be interesting to see now just how this works in the new library but how it makes that library play with other libraries who use other systems Is ILL affected? How do you locate a book on the shelves (by author?) What are vendors saying about this and what are the ramifications for all the copy-cataloging that happens? I’m definitely just barely able to understand the longer range implications, but pretty much happy to see people trying things. More discussion on MetaFilter where someone included this terrific poem.

Dewey took Manila
and soon after invented the decimal system
that keeps libraries from collapsing even unto this day.
A lot of mothers immediately started naming their male offspring ‘Dewey’
which made him queasy. He was already having second thoughts about imperialism.
In his dreams he saw library books with milky numbers
on their spines floating in Manila Bay.
Soon even words like ‘vanilla’ or ‘mantilla’ would cause him to vomit.
The sight of a manila envelope precipitated him
into his study, where all day, with the blinds drawn,
he would press fingers against temples, muttering ‘What have I done?’
all the while. Then, gradually, he began feeling a bit better.
The world hadn’t ended. He’d go for walks in his old neighborhood,
marveling at the changes there, or at the lack of them. ‘If one is
to go down in history, it is better to do so for two things
rather than one,’ he would stammer, none too meaningfully.

One day his wife took him aside
in her boudoir, pulling the black lace mantilla from her head
and across her bare breasts until his head was entangled in it.
‘Honey, what am I supposed to say?’ ‘Say nothing, you big boob.
Just be glad you got away with it and are famous.’ ‘Speaking of
boobs ..’ ‘Now you’re getting the idea. Go file those books
on those shelves over there. Come back only when you’re finished.’
(John Ashbery, ‘Memories of Imperialism’, listen to it here)

taxonomy vs. ontology vs. folksonomy

One library student tells it like it is: “If librarianship seems buzzwordy now, it’s because the Web has made enough people aware of the problem of classifying and finding information that it seems like our field has sprung up overnight.”

Paul Otlet and classification

Meet Paul Otlet, the forgotten forefather of information architecture and co-creator of the Mundaneum.

[Otlet] wanted to penetrate the boundaries of the books themselves, to unearth the “substance, sources and conclusions” inside. Taking the Dewey Decimal system as his starting point, Otlet began developing what came to be known as the Universal Decimal Classification, now widely recognized as the first—and one of the only—full implementations of a faceted classification system. While Ranganathan rightly receives credit as the philosophical forbear of facets, Otlet was the first to put them to practical use.

fall in love with classification all over again

The Collier Classification System for Very Small Objects, by artist Brian Collier [amanda]

Ontology is Overrated, or, why DDC is not good for organizing the web

Please go read this very long article about classification: Ontology is Overrated: Categories, Links, and Tags. I know it looks like it’s about computers, but it is also about libraries and tags, and sense-making and why you can’t gracefully take library classification schemes and slap them on to web pages. Go. Go now and read and learn.

It’s tempting to think that the classification schemes that libraries have optimized for in the past can be extended in an uncomplicated way into the digital world. This badly underestimates, in my view, the degree to which what libraries have historically been managing an entirely different problem.

It comes down ultimately to a question of philosophy. Does the world make sense or do we make sense of the world? If you believe the world makes sense, then anyone who tries to make sense of the world differently than you is presenting you with a situation that needs to be reconciled formally, because if you get it wrong, you’re getting it wrong about the real world…. If, on the other hand, you believe that we make sense of the world, if we are, from a bunch of different points of view, applying some kind of sense to the world, then you don’t privilege one top level of sense-making over the other.

[thanks adam]