Classify

It’s not often that I get to comment on online tools relating to my own profession of librarianship which can be of use to the general community. However, this new resource, Classify, is an exciting option for those who would like to classify their own collections along library lines, but lack the resources and the necessary experience to undertake professional cataloguing. This is close to my own heart because I am an old cataloguer. I started classifying and cataloging books back in the days when most cataloguing was done manually. It was a time-consuming if rewarding task that led to processing 20 books a day being considered a good return. Then the national libraries started taking over the process and copy cataloguing, where you simply copied another library’s catalogue record for a particular item, provided by the national library’s bibliographic service, for Australia that was first ABN, then Kinetica. There was still original cataloguing that needed to be done, but only for rare, obscure or unusual items. Then the outsourcing of cataloguing virtually removed cataloguing from the workload of all but the largest libraries, and the librarian-cataloguer became an endangered, now almost extinct species. Some of the skills of this particular branch of librarianship has migrated into the new field of digital archiving, but by and large I expect I will never again get the intellectual satisfaction I used to derive from constructing a catalogue record for a book and placing it in its proper place in the classification scheme. Classify does not offer this particular pleasure, but what it does do is offer simple, easy to use copy cataloguing in the hands of the layperson, who can now, if so inclined, catalogue thair own private collection exactly as a library would. provided OCLC, the giant world library co-operative, it enables the user to input an ISBN, title, author or subject heading, and it will provide a list of full catalogue records from libraries around the world, including basic  LC and Dewey classification numbers. It doesnt, however, offer access to full classification, for that subscrption to the Dewey and LC web services is needed  I have experimented with about a dozen books and so far have numerous records for each item. I shall continue to use it and will report on how it fares over longer-term use. So far though it seems to offer what it advertises, a simple web-based classification scheme, which can be used by the layperson to provide a basic, free cataloguing service.

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