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Subject Access in British Library Bibliographic Records

Library of Congress Subject Headings

The British Library has applied Library of Congress Subject Headings to records created for the BNB from 1971-1987 and from 1995 onwards. The headings also appear on many of the records created for the Library's collections and on some, but not all, of the BNB records created between 1988-1994.

Current application of LCSH at the British Library follows the principles, policies and guidelines given in the Library of Congress publication Subject Cataloging Manual: Subject Headings.

The authority file of Library of Congress Subject Headings is maintained and edited by the Library of Congress. However, the file has become an increasingly international standard in recent years due to the contribution of new subject headings proposals from libraries across the world through the Subject Authorities Cooperative Program (SACO) component of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging. The British Library is a major contributor to this Program.

Further documentation on LCSH is available at Working with LCSH: the cost of cooperation and the achievement of access: a perspective from the British Library.

Fiction Indexing

Since 1997 the British Library has adopted a policy for providing enhanced subject access to individual works of fiction catalogued for the British National Bibliography. Genre headings are applied where appropriate in accordance with the Guidelines on Subject Access to Individual Works of Fiction, Drama, Etc. (Chicago : American Library Association, 1990. ISBN 0 8389 3386 6).

In 1998 the British Library proposed a number of recommendations to the ALA and the Library of Congress on The Application of Form Data to Works of Fiction.

Dewey Decimal Classification

Classification organises knowledge into logical categories. In libraries document classification enables ordering of material in a helpful way on open shelves; browsing and retrieval of related items in catalogues; meaningful arrangement in subject indexes and bibliographies; analysis of the collections, and provides structural tools for mapping and organising Web resources. Classification systems are either general, covering all knowledge, or specific, concentrating on one area such as Mathematics.

The Dewey Decimal Classification system (DDC) is one of the oldest general knowledge classification schemes in the world (conceived by Melvil Dewey in 1873), and the most widely used. It has been adopted internationally and is used by over 200,000 libraries in 135 countries and has been translated into over thirty languages. The numerical notation provides a common language for information exchange and bibliographic control.

DDC is published by Forest Press, a division of OCLC (Online Computer Library Center, Inc.) The scheme is systematically revised and reviewed — the current edition, DDC23, was published in 2011. DDC is available electronically as WebDewey and is also available in print.

The scheme is called Decimal because it divides knowledge into ten main classes which are further divided into ten divisions, which are each then divided into ten sections (giving a thousand sections altogether). Each section can be further subdivided using the same decimal base and thus the Classification can be expanded indefinitely for new subjects. A strength of DDC is in the use of pure numerical notation to express hierarchies. The scheme thus subdivides knowledge into disciplines (whether main classes, divisions or sections) and uses techniques of number building to provide precise notation for subjects beyond those printed in the schedules.

DDC and the UK

DDC is used extensively in the UK, and many library users are familiar with the scheme. It is used in the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, most UK public libraries, school libraries, further education colleges and in a significant number of universities.

The views of UK users are channelled through the UK DDC User Forum, which has a representative on the DDC ten-member international board (the Editorial Policy Committee (EPC)) which advises the Editors on the development of the scheme.

If you would like to participate in the development of Dewey, please contact:

Emma Rogoz
CA&D Training & Documentation Manager
Collection Acquisition and Description (CA&D)
British Library
Boston Spa, Wetherby
West Yorkshire, LS23 7BQ
United Kingdom
Email: emma.rogoz@bl.uk
Tel. + 44 (0)1937 546709

DDC and the British Library

The British Library has been the largest user of DDC in Britain since the British National Bibliography (BNB) became part of the Library's Bibliographic Services Division in 1974, and has played a significant role in its development. BNB adopted standard DDC in 1970 to replace the modified version previously used, influencing others to follow the standard. DDC is part of the core data for the British National Bibliography and Dewey numbers are extensively used in British Library products, services and catalogues.

The British Library is a member of the UK DDC User Forum and is currently the United Kingdom's representative on the EPC. The British Library is also an institutional member of the European DDC Users Group (EDUG).


For further information please contact:

The British Library
Metadata Services
Boston Spa, Wetherby
West Yorkshire
LS23 7BQ
United Kingdom

Email: metadata@bl.uk