Open Journal Systems

World Libraries | Volume 20 | Issue 1 | Barman

Classification of Library Documents by Using the Web
Badan Barman


This paper describes different online tools that can be used to obtain a Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) number for a publication. The emergence of the World Wide Web and the merging of databases from different libraries have paved a new means for finding classification numbers. The use of such web tools for classifying library materials can be a time–saving mechanism. This paper only includes Web tools that can be used for free.


A library classification system provides a means for organizing the knowledge embodied in books, CDs, Web sites, and other resources. It supplies a notation (in case of DDC, it is Arabic numerals) to the document. The Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system is a general knowledge organization tool that is continuously revised to keep pace with the development of knowledge. It is the most widely used classification scheme in the world. Libraries in more than 135 countries use the DDC to organize their collection. It is also used for organizing Web resources for the purpose of browsing.

The DDC scheme was conceived by Melvil Dewey in 1873 to arrange the documents in the Amherst College Library. The first edition, entitled A Classification and Subject Index for Cataloguing and Arranging the Books and Pamphlets of a Library, was published in 1876. It appeared in the form of a small book of forty–two pages. The Decimal Classification Editorial Policy Committee (EPC) was established in 1937 to serve as an advisory body to the DDC. In 1988, the Online Computer Library Center, Inc. (OCLC) acquired the DDC. The editorial headquarters is located at the Library of Congress in the Decimal Classification Division. There, the editors prepare proposed schedule revisions and expansions, and forward the proposals to EPC for review and recommended action. DDC is published by OCLC in both full and abridged editions. The abridged edition targets general libraries having less than 20,000 titles. Both the full and abridged editions are available in print as well as in an electronic version.

Classification of Documents by Using the Web

The cost of purchasing DDC is very high. Many libraries in India and in other developing countries cannot afford to have their own set of DDC. Classification of materials in a library, however, is a must. To meet this end, librarians can use some tools and techniques to obtain a class number for an item they have procured for their library. There are some excellent tools over the Web that share class numbers. Some of these tools and techniques are discussed below. They will provide a readymade class number for a publication, thus saving the time of the classifier.

What follows are some options available to libraries that do not own a set of DDC. Libraries that own DDC do not need to use the following resources, though they may be used to verify class numbers they have created themselves.

Classify: An Experimental Classification Web Service.

OCLC Research offers Classify, an “experimental classification service” (, which is targeted to support the assignment of class numbers and subject heading by using the Web. The interface can be used both by a machine as well as by human beings. It provides access to more than 36 million collectively built records from a large pool of related resources in OCLC’s WorldCat. Each record in the database contains Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) numbers, Library of Congress Classification (LCC) numbers, or National Library of Medicine (NLM) Classification numbers, and subject headings from the Faceted Application of Subject Terminology (FAST).

A class number or subject heading can be obtained from Classify by inputting any one or a combination of elements related to the item. These options include the following search types:

  1. International Standard Book Number (ISBN): The classifier can use the 10– or 13–digit ISBN. The ISBN should be used without hyphens. One can find more about the ISBN by referring to:
  2. OCLC number: Each bibliographic record in WorldCat has a unique identifying number. The classifier can also use this number to find the bibliographic record from the database. More about the OCLC number is available at:
  3. Barcode or Universal Product Code (UPC): The classifier can use the 12–digit UPC number that may accompany the document. One can learn more about the barcode at:
  4. International Standard Serial Number (ISSN): The classifier can use the eight–digit ISSN, with or without hyphen (as it appears in the document). One can know more about ISSN at:
  5. Title and/or Author: The classifier can also use the full title of the document or some portion of it or its author’s name or both as a combined search.
  6. Fast: The classifier can also use the FAST controlled vocabulary that is based on the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). One can collect more information about FAST at:

If one goes to the Classify Web address and enters a standard number correctly in the interface it sometimes responds “No data found for the input argument.” This happens probably because those fields may not be entered in the records of the database. Entering some portion of the title and the first author’s surname (or sometimes the forename) usually leads to the relevant document and class number. The classifier can use this option as the first approach to obtain the class number of the document or its subject heading.


Figure 1: Home page of Classify of OCLC
Figure 1: Home page of Classify of OCLC.



DeweyBrowser ( provides access to approximately 2.5 million records from the OCLC Worldcat database. The classifier can also use this interface to obtain a ready–made class number for the item by entering the complete title of the document in the site’s search box.


Figure 2: Home page of DeweyBrowser
Figure 2: Home page of DeweyBrowser. ( is a database of books that is built by taking data from hundreds of libraries across the world. It is developed by Andrew Maltsev, who is the owner of a company named Ejelta LLC (, based in San Gabriel, California. The classifier can enter the keywords, book title, author, publisher, topic or ISBN of the document in its search box to retrieve its class number. After the result is displayed, the searcher can click on the most relevant title under the heading of “Books Matching [your title]”, and then consult the Dewey Class number under “Classification” heading. This will provide the classification number of the document he is looking for.

If the classifier cannot find the heading “Classification”, or the heading “Classification” does not provide a Dewey Class number, then he should move to the appropriate title under “Libraries this book has an entry in” and select a library. Now under the “MARC Record” he should consult the number at 082 or 092. This will be the classification number of the publication he is looking for.


Figure 3: Home page of
Figure 3: Home page of


Library of Congress Online Catalogue

To classify an item by using the Library of Congress Online Catalogue, the classifier should enter in the address bar of the browser, and then click on “Alternative Interface to the LC Online Catalog (Z39.50).” This will lead the classifier to a new screen, where he can opt for “Advanced Search (multiple terms using Boolean operators).” In the resulting page, the classifier can search for class numbers by entering different details about the item. The search term may be the name of the author, title, series, ISBN, ISSN, publisher, and many others to choose from. After entering the details in the interface one clicks on “Submit Query” and then navigates to “More on this record”. Now, across from the line reading “Dewey No.:”, one will find the class number of the document he is searching for. Please note that for some titles one will not be able to find DDC number in this database, as it was mainly designed by using the Library of Congress Classification number.


Figure 4: Home page of Library of Congress Online Catalogue
Figure 4: Home page of Library of Congress Online Catalogue.


IndCat: Online Union Catalogue of Indian Universities

IndCat: Online Union Catalogue of Indian Universities ( is a unified online library catalogue of books, theses and journals available in major university libraries in India. The union database contains bibliographic description, location and holdings information for items in all subject areas available in more than 118 university libraries across the country. A Web–based interface is designed to provide easy access to the merged catalogues. IndCat is a major source of bibliographic information that can be used for inter–library loan, collections development, copy cataloguing, and retrospective conversion of bibliographic records. The IndCat books database contains 62.4 lakhs (6,240,000) unique records. User can search over the platform to obtain the DDC numbers by using title, author, ISBN, and such other fields.


Figure 5: Home page of IndCat
Figure 5: Home page of IndCat.



Figure 6: Home page of IndCat Book Database
Figure 6: Home Page of IndCat Book Database.


Besides the above methods, one can also obtain DDC numbers from MARC records. MARC tag 082 contains the DDC number. It also specifies the DDC edition used for assigning that number. For example, the title “Medical terminology: a word–building approach” has the MARC tag 082 00 |a 610.1 |2 22. Here, “610.1” is the DDC number of the document and “22” stands for the DDC edition.


The above paragraphs discuss how to classify a document by using different online tools and techniques. Each of these resources has been demonstrated to give an idea about the use of the Web for classification.

Sometimes a book itself may contain the classification number. In such cases, one can simply copy down that classification number from Cataloguing in Publication (CIP) data. The CIP will provide classification number, subject headings, and notes. This type of data is very common in the verso of the title page of many books published from the United States, Australia, Great Britain, and Canada.


This article first appeared in the Indian Journal of Information Sources and Services (ISSN: 2231–6094) 1, no. 1 (January–June 2011): 50–55. Reprinted by permission.


Barman, Badan. “‘Classify: An experimental classification web service’ from OCLC: My Experience”. Message posted July 1, 2010 to LIS Links: Library and Information Science Links. (accessed April 21, 2012)

Dewey, Melvil. Dewey decimal classification and relative index, 22d ed. Ohio: OCLC Online Computer Library Center, 2003.

Classify: An experimental classification web service. (accessed April 21, 2012).

About the author

Badan Barman is an academic consultant in library and information science at Krishna Kanta Handiqui State Open University, Guwahati, Assam, India. He has more than five years of professional experience in library and information science. He can be contacted via email: badanbarman [at] gmail [dot] com, or at

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