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Library Classification: Intro, Need and Purpose



Classification is the bed-rock of systematic library. It is the hyphen that joins and the buckle that fastens the reader and his document.


The word classification comes from the Latin word ˜classis. in the ancient Rome, the term classis was used to refer to a group of persons possessing certain qualities in common as well as belonging to the same class.


Ordinarily classification is a process of grouping, ideas or objects on the basis of certain qualities which its members posses.


To under stand the meaning of classification let us study a few definitions of classification given by some specialists:


1. Margaret Mann says. Classification is the act of arranging things according to their likeness and unlikeness. She further says, It is a sorting or grouping of things.


2. According to Richardson, Classification is putting together like things.


3. Berwick Sayers defines library Classification as The arrangement of books on shelves or description of them, in a manner which is the most useful to those who read.


4. New Encyclopaedia Britannica defines library classification as a system of arrangement adopted by a library to enable patrons to find its material quickly and easily.


From these definitions it becomes clear that the arrangement of documents in a systematic way is called classification. In library classification we deal with documents with the sole purpose of arranging them in the most helpful and   permanent sequence. Library classification thus aims at providing formal access to documents.

 A popular way of putting works about the same subject in roughly the same place on the shelf. Even if you don't find the book you were looking for, you'll be in the neighborhood of other books on related topics.  


Let us deliberate upon some points that elaborate the need and purpose of Library Classification.


Helpful Sequence:


The basic purpose of any library classification should be to arrange the documents in a method most convenient to the users and to the library staff. The documents should be arranged in classes, and based on the mutual relations between them. This would bring together closely related classes. In other words, related documents would be grouped in close proximity, the basic idea being that like classes are brought together and unlike classes are separated.


Correct Replacement:


Documents after being taken out from shelves by the users or by the library staff should, after being used, be replaced in their proper places.


It is essential that library classification should enable the correct replacement of documents, after these have been returned from use. This would require a mechanized arrangement, which has been discussed in the next section.


Mechanized Arrangement:


If it is decided that a particular arrangement is suitable then, ordinarily, it should not be changed. The sequence should be determined once for all, so that one does not have to re-determine the sequence of documents again when these are returned after being borrowed, or for the interpolation of new documents in their correct places. This is done by allocating notation, which expresses order. Thus, it becomes possible to easily insert or reinsert the various documents in their correct places. This is how we are able to mechanize the arrangement.


Addition of New Documents:


A library would acquire new documents from time to time. Therefore, library classification should help in finding the most helpful place for each of these among the existing collection of the library. There are two possibilities in this regard. The new books may be on a subject already provided for in the scheme of library classification, or it may be on a newly emerging subject, which may not have been provided for in the existing scheme. In the second case the scheme should have inbuilt qualities which may allow the fixing the position of the newly emerging subjects amidst another subject having literary warrant.


Withdrawal of Documents from Stock:


In case, the need arises to withdraw a document from the stock for some reason, the library classification should facilitate such a withdrawal.


Other Purposes:


Library Classification should also be able to serve the following purposes:


A)    Classification of pieces information: The classification should help us to classify even small pieces of information e.g. Articles of a journal etc.

B)    Classification of reference queries: The classification also helps the reference librarian to arrange the queries in a classified order, which makes their redressal quite fast and easy.

C)    Classification of suggestions received from the users

D)    Filing of non book materials such as correspondences, photographs, films and so on.

E)     Classification of statistics of various kinds, for instance the classification of statistics with regard to the issuance of books would reflect the pattern of demands on various subjects.

F)     Class number the derivative of classification is needed in the preparation of catalogue. It assists the user of a catalogue to refer to the location of the documents on the shelf and also helps in arranging the catalogue cards in a classified sequence; and

G)    Assist the library staff to prepare a subject wise list of documents for to cater to the demand of different departments associated with the library or for maintaining records of documents transferred to branch library or lending centre from the stock of the central library.

 The need and purpose of the library classification can be summarised as follows: 

From the points laid down above in support to the need of library classification in libraries the purposes of adhering to it are as under:


To serve as a key.


To facilitate the location of a particular document among the thousands of documents available in huge library collection.


To ensure optimum usage of books


To bring about elegance in the discharge of library services to all readers.


To save the time of library staff and users.


To overthrow burden from the minds of library staff by grouping together the identical documents at one place.

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