National Library of Australia

Editorial Policy Committee Meeting May 2013

The Ediitorial Policy Committee held Meeting 136 in Dublin, Ohio at OCLC, 13-14 May 2013


Meeting 136 could be described as something of a watershed in the history of the Dewey Decimal Classification. After almost 20 years as Editor in Chief, Joan Mitchell retired in January. 

Michael Panzer who replaced her, is the first Editor-in Chief from outside the United States, having first joined OCLC in 2007 as Global Product Manager of Taxonomy Services, becoming an Assistant Editor of the DDC in March 2009. Prior to this he headed the technical team that translated Dewey into German, and was the first member of a Dewey translation team to be appointed Assistant Editor. 

Inevitably all Editors-in-Chief bring their own perspectives and ideas to the development of the Classification and we expect Michael will draw on his considerable technical skills and well honed experience as an Assistant Editor to manage the inevitable changes as the emphasis in Dewey moves even more into automated on-line world in which we now function. 

UK DDC User Forum 

As a result of various changes at CILIP, which originally selected the United Kingdom representative on the Editorial Policy Committee, the future of Dewey Decimal Classification representation in the United Kingdom was problematic for a time, with the Chair of the Editorial Policy Committee technically without a formal constituency. The members of the former committee confirmed a commitment to continue representation of the UK within the Dewey family. Following confirmation with Dewey Decimal Classification Editorial Policy Committee, the UK Committee will now be hosted by the British Library, fully independent and self funded, with a British Library nominated representative to the Editorial Policy Committee. The committee will now be called “UK DDC User Forum”. 

Editorial Work Plan: Exhibit 136-2a 

In the past the Editors developed and presented to the Committee a seven year work plan after the publication of the full and abridged editions of the DDC and traditionally this included a review of every schedule and table within that seven year cycle, although some parts of the schedules may have been given greater priority, depending on a variety of factors. An updated version was subsequently provided to the Committee at each meeting. This traditional scheduling was a matter raised at Meeting 135, where discussion centred on whether or not this was necessarily the best model for development in the future.  

As noted in this Exhibit: “The primary driver behind ... editorial work is the question, how do we create value in the DDC—in the basic system, in mappings and links, in translations, in authorized derivative works, in different forms of representation of the system—to facilitate organization and discovery in the current and future information environment?“ 

This Exhibit was more a strategy document than a formal work plan in the traditional sense, building on possibilities explored by the editors in an example of such aspects as data-driven development using information mined from WorldCat.

It is expected that high priority will be given to scientific and technical areas, social issues, media, law, education, peoples, languages, geographic areas, historical periods, and terminology throughout the DDC. Taxonomic classifications in the life sciences and special notation for archaeology have already been identified by our users as key areas of disciplinary review and Exhibits concerning these matters were included on the Agenda for this Meeting. Although the Editors recommended pulling back from a review of every schedule, they do expect to review Tables 1-6 and corresponding T1-T6 provisions in the schedules (including in internal tables) on a continuing basis. 

Possibilities for making it easier for input from constituencies such as the classifiers at the Library of Congress, the British Library and other users of the Classification were discussed by the Committee. The idea of an on-line form was suggested by Caroline Saccucci, head of the Dewey Classification Section at Library of Congress.

It was noted during the discussions that quite a surprising number of users were hesitant to contact the editors with suggestions or were unaware of how to do so. This is unfortunate as suggestions are welcomed, by any means, either through members of the committee, Dewey staff listed on the Dewey Blog or any of the methods suggested on the OCLC and Dewey Web pages.  

Dewey Editions 

The seven year editorial work plan has been primarily based around the production of the ‘full’ printed edition, and the costs of its production offset by the sales of this edition. Classifiers have always been aware that this edition constitutes a snapshot of the classification at a particular moment in time, with revisions constantly being done, although the issuing of these changes has altered quite radically since the advent of the Internet, and the possibilities for virtually instant updating in Web based products. The implications of these developments have been discussed at length over the course of the EPC meetings for several years. 

Production of the printed editions is extremely costly, and it is in the context of fewer sales of the full print edition and increased sales of WebDewey 2.0 and the ability to update the classification and the indexes almost instantaneously that changes in the emphasis of revision and production have been taken by the parent organisation. Organisations that once purchased multiple copies of the print edition, as well as subscribing to WebDewey are more and more buying one or two print copies and relying on the Web versions as their main classification resource.

The 200 Religion Class paper edition is quite successfully printed ‘on demand’ in-house, and while paper will not disappear, production of the ‘full’ print edition in its current form is no longer a given, however monthly PDFs of changes will still be available. 

Abridged WebDewey is no longer a separate product: it is now a particular ‘view’ of the full WebDewey 2.0. This concept of particular versions of the on-line product, in various languages for instance, depending on a particular library’s requirements, is of great interest to a number of libraries, including many of our European colleagues. 

While members of the EPC have reservations about this change in emphasis, it has not been an entirely unexpected development. While it is possible to update extremely quickly in the Web based product, workflows would be highly unlikely to require anyone to change a number applied to a work instantaneously. It is also important for classifiers to identify exactly when a number may have changed.  Dewey has revised schedules quite radically over the course of its long history, and particularly in libraries which do not reclassify everything, or find works on the same subject at different numbers, it is necessary for classifiers to understand that something published in say, 1986, may well have a different classification number from a work dated 2012. This was relatively simple when an edition could be indicated in a MARC 082 field and EPC consensus was that this facility is still needed. A full discussion on paper on annotation of changes will be presented at a future electronic meeting.

Libraries which do not currently use WebDewey 2.0 will need to think seriously about the implications for them of the post paper based production cycle. Smaller libraries may well find it advantageous to negotiate group subscriptions to the on-line product. Libbie Crawford, the Product Manager is quite willing to negotiate on a variety of group, or individual subscriptions with libraries of all kinds. 

Editorial Rules: Exhibits 7-1, 7-1.1 

These two exhibits, for information only, presented firstly the rules DDC editors use in creating 765 fields, while the second paper  documents the few places where editorial practices deviate from the published 765 field specifications in the published MARC Authority format. 

Notation in internal add tables: Exhibit 136-7.2 

This proposed a revision to the editorial rules for References to and from tables, to clarify some confusion in the instructions for Tables1-6, and added instructions to cover references to and from internal tables, not just external tables. These are revisions which apply to editors and translators. While the outcomes are reflected in the schedules they do not directly affect classifiers. 

Special notation for archaeology: Exhibit 136-8.1 

While this is still labelled a Discussion Paper, it does in fact contain detailed proposals that have met with widespread approval. The developments are generally welcome, although it was pointed out that there was some room for confusion with the different patterns of zero usage, and that while there has been a concerted effort to remove double zeros within the classification, no better solution is available in this part of the Schedules. The paper will be return as a formal proposal to the EPC for a final vote during an electronic meeting later in the year. 

The Exhibits concerning St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; Table 5: Notes about national groups and thirdly Modern Assyrians were straightforward and approved without a great deal of discussion. 

004-006 Computer science 

This particular area of the schedules is subject to continuous change as developments within the area are in an almost never-ending state of innovation and alteration. It is noted as a major area which will require considerable ’catch-up’, as anyone following the information on the Dewey Blog would be well aware.

004-006 Computer science: Updates: Exhibit 136-12.1

As part of the continuous updating of this area of the schedules, this exhibit proposed the addition of several topics to 004-006 and allied schedules, based on an analysis of recently created Library of Congress Subject Headings, newly published works in 004-006 with the subject heading assigned to them and a survey of articles on current computer trends. Not all topics were included here as they are covered in other exhibits.

Natural Computing: Exhibit 136-12.2

The proposed expansions for natural computing, which evidently has considerable literary warrant (although it is not a term all of us have come across much) but has previously received scattered treatment in the application of numbers are outlined here. The structure proposed has been recommended to the editors by experts in the field. No doubt we can expect more revisions as the field itself gains more clarity and literary warrant.

Digital Media: Exhibit 136-12.3

This particular exhibit is an investigation of the treatment of digital media throughout the schedules to ensure that they are up-to-date and internally consistent, as warranted by the literature and in keeping with current and emerging trends. While this Exhibit deals with a specific area of the schedules which could be said to be in a state of flux, it is a normal habit of the editorial staff to examine the effects of what appear to be quite simple decisions in one part of the schedules, for any unexpected and unwanted effects throughout the classification as a whole. It occasionally happens that decisions may be withdrawn or changed because the ‘ripple effect’ leads to unacceptable changes elsewhere in the schedules.  

Religion: 200

211 Concepts of God: Exhibit 136-13.1

As Michael Panzer briefly states in his summary of this particular topic:

“The development under 211 and 212 has a long history of tinkering, in the course of       which a useful distinction made in the past has been lost.” 

The distinctions between concepts of God and viewpoints on the concept of God was present in DDC 17 and DDC 18, but dropped from DDC 19 with the disappearance of the dual role of theism, which had previously been both a specific concept of God and a general viewpoint on the concept of God. The proposed clarification of the present structure of 211 by proposing a slightly different distinction—between religious concepts of God and nonreligious viewpoints on the concept of God—was approved as being the best way to cope with the topics, given the current development of the schedule, and the somewhat complex history of terminology and meaning in this topic.

289.3 Latter Day Saints (Mormons) Exhibit 136-13.2

There are some terminological issues surrounding churches of Latter Day Saint movement origin, and the solutions proposed in this exhibit with related expansions seemed appropriate and were approved.

299.675 Voodoo Exhibit 136-13.2

This rather interesting proposal advises that we adopt the spelling preferred by its adherents (vodou) and recognises a split between vodou, the religion, and hoodoo, the occult practice. This difference was recently implemented in the Library of Congress Subject Headings. The proposal was approved, as there is clearly a distinction between the two, but whether the distinction made , while technically correct is likely to be generally adopted in the literature is doubtful. Indexing, see references and careful scrutiny of the work should make the distinction clear enough for classifiers.

Other Exhibits:

EPC dealt with a number of Exhibits addressing certain ambiguities and omissions or numbers inadvertently dropped from the schedules in the production of revisions and new editions e.g. Preference order in 302-307,  Parallel orders of preference in marriage and partnerships in both 306.84 and 346.016, bringing maternity leave and parental leave taken by mothers together with other parental leave, classification of collections of recipes from specific restaurants, correction of errors in add instructions for Latin miscellaneous writings and Classical Greek miscellaneous writings, and concertos; keyboards versus accompaniment.

Major issues for discussion and/or recommendations

Classification issues involving relocation or revision on a rather more substantial scale were the subject of both Discussion papers and   some EPC decisions on proposed changes. These included continuation of discussions involving the classification of Angiosperms (flowering plants ) raised at Meeting 135, Weapons and how they are treated in 623.4, 355.8 and 683.4 and a Discussion paper on Military engineering which arose from internal discussions of EPC Exhibit 136-17 Weapons ,when it was realised that the use of the phrase ‘military engineering’ in the DDC is not entirely standard.

583-584 Angiosperms:  Exhibits 136-19.1; 19.2; 19.2.1

With papers 19.1 and 19.2.1 as background papers on recent developments in taxonomic classification practices and the need to revise 583-584 Angiosperms somehow to reflect these developments EPC had a lively discussion based on the proposals in 19.2 to implement the revision strategy proposed in 19.1. Issues covered included whether or not to go with the minimalist proposition to expand the current classification to a certain extent, avoiding reuse of numbers within the normal time lapse period, how to handle the usage of Latin names as the main terminology, which is difficult for non-specialists at the best of times, or whether to go with the option of a more thorough revision, rather than the minimalist proposal.

After a lively discussion of the pros and cons of the preferred  path to follow, which also noted that without specialist knowledge it is difficult for the average classifier to identify the Latin term for accurate classification, the EPC recommended that our preferred option was to ask the editors to follow the non-minimalist path, and bring back a complete revision of the area including extensive indexing of the common terms for the plants. This indexing will make it far easier for the non-specialist libraries to accurately classify in this area. One member of the committee remarked that when implementing the last revision of the area they had needed to bring in a botanist to get that part of their collection accurately classified. The requested proposal will be presented to the European Dewey Users Group at IFLA for consideration prior to its return to the EPC for examination and/or approval.

Weapons: Exhibit 136-17

As a result of issues noted by Pauline de Graaf (New South Wales Police College), at Meeting 134 the placement of non-lethal weapons was raised. Since this meeting the question of weapons and where they should be located within the classification has been extensively reviewed as this paper shows. The distinctions between military and civilian weapons are not easy. In many cases the same weapons, manufactured by the same companies are distinguished for military or civilian use merely by the paint used, and non-lethal weaponry is not solely confined to civilian use.

The EPC was requested to take action (i.e. approve or disapprove) only the proposals in the first part of the Exhibit. The Committee approved the recommendation that nonlethal weapons be a class-here concept in relation to weapons, the clarification that the engineering of military weapons is classed at 623.4, that the ‘other weapons’ in the caption at 623.441 be changed to’ miscellaneous weapons’ and that ‘weapons’ is only one aspect of ordnance and should not be at 355.8 but at 355.82.

The second part of the exhibit discussing comprehensive and interdisciplinary numbers for weapons concluded after lengthy discussion of the pros and cons of options 1 & 2 that we did not wish to recommend exceptions to the usual practice of classing an object with its use, not with the manufacture of the object. This is a recommendation not a binding decision, which will not be made until the Committee receives an Exhibit for comment and decision. This is not a clear cut area considering the mixed usage of many weapons essentially identical for either military or civilian use as the comprehensively researched paper shows.

136.8 Military engineering: Discussion paper

This was produced because of certain differences in the treatment of military engineering is not entirely standard. The committee discussed the possible responses to this matter and awaits a paper with a proposal for approval. 

Other Matters

Dewey Decimal Classification/ Linked Data is an experimental space for linked DDC data. The intention of the prototype is to be a platform for Dewey data on the Web. It is an interesting place to follow continuing research and development on this quite topical subject, with links to both a general overview and a slightly more technical description. The data is reusable under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

The Dewey Blog

This remains an excellent resource for information about what is happening in Dewey, for topical advice on where to classify subjects, for information about changes and examples about topics such as using the new number building assistant in WebDewey, lists of current research projects and links to the on-line set of training modules which are freely available and can be found on OCLC Support & Training

Please note the Introduction to WebDewey providing an introduction to WebDewey, the online interface to the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) System on September 19.

 It is worthwhile exploring the training available for Dewey on the site. The modules are free, and indicate whether or not a trainer or experienced DDC user is necessary for the best understanding of the modules.

Deferred Subjects

Major changes to Queensland Administrative Districts have been deferred temporarily, as referenda since the election of the LNP Government have indicated that some devolutions may be legislated, although no amending legislation has yet formally occurred.

Any amendments to historical periods for Australian Historical periods have been deferred until after the next Federal election.

Future Meetings

Minor amendments typographical errors or uncontroversial changes will be handled via email vote. Relatively simple issues (although at times these are hard to define) will be dealt with via electronic meetings. Experiments with Webinars or their equivalent will be used to judge how effective they are in lieu of twice yearly face to face meetings.

The next Face to Face Meeting is currently scheduled for the week of 2nd June 2014 and while it has been suggested that ideally alternating such meetings between Dublin Ohio and Washington DC would allow the previous practice of the Dewey Section specialists to attend meetings, no decision to meet in Washington DC has been made. Like any other organisation, OCLC must work within its financial constrains in these decisions.


Despite the surprising loss of Joan Mitchell the meeting was a fruitful one. The emphasis from the print edition to the Web product was not entirely unexpected. The lack of certainty about a permanent National Library and Archive Canada representative is unfortunate but understandable considering they are still in the middle of a reorganisation, and the unexpected alteration in the body naming the UK Representative was unsettling, however the work of the Dewey team continues even with fewer Assistant Editors at the moment. There seems no reason for this to change in essence in the future.  

Anne M. Robertson
Australian EPC Representative
Australian Committee on Cataloguing