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Dewey Decimal Classification

The Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC, also called the Dewey Decimal
System) is a proprietary system of library classification developed by Melvil
Dewey in 1876; it has been greatly modified and expanded through 22 major
revisions, the most recent in 2003.[1] This system organizes books on library
shelves in a specific and repeatable order that makes it easy to find any book
and return it to its proper place. The system is used in 200,000 libraries in at
least 135 countries.

A designation such as Dewey 16 refers to the 16th edition of the DDC.


The DDC attempts to organize all knowledge into ten main classes. The ten main
classes are each further subdivided into ten divisions, and each division into ten
sections, giving ten main classes, 100 divisions and 1000 sections. DDC's
advantage in using decimals for its categories allows it to be both purely
numerical and infinitely hierarchical. It also uses some aspects of a faceted
classification scheme, combining elements from different parts of the structure to
construct a number representing the subject content (often combining two
subject elements with linking numbers and geographical and temporal elements)
and form of an item rather than drawing upon a list containing each class and its

Except for general works and fiction, works are classified principally by subject,
with extensions for subject relationships, place, time or type of material,
producing classification numbers of at least three digits but otherwise of
indeterminate length with a decimal point before the fourth digit, where present
(e.g. 330 for economics + .9 for geographic treatment + .04 for Europe = 330.94
European economy; 973 for United States + .05 form division for periodicals =
973.05 periodicals concerning the United States generally).

Books are placed on the shelf in increasing numerical order of the decimal
number, e.g. 050, 220, 330, 330.973, 331. When two books have the same
classification number the second line of the call number (usually the first letter or
letters of the author's last name, the title if there is no identifiable author) is
placed in alphabetical order.

The DDC has a number for all books, including fiction: American fiction is
classified in 813. Most libraries create a separate fiction section to allow shelving
in a more generalized fashion than Dewey provides for, or to avoid the space that
would be taken up in the 800s, or simply to allow readers to find preferred
authors by alphabetical order of surname.

Some parts of the classification offer options to accommodate different kinds of

libraries. An important feature of the scheme is the ability to assign multiple class
numbers to a bibliographical item and only use one of them for shelving. The
added numbers appear in the classified subject catalog (though this is not the
usual practice in North America). For the full benefit of the scheme the relative
index and the tables that form part of every edition must be understood and
consulted when required. The structure of the schedules is such that subjects
close to each other in a dictionary catalog are dispersed in the Dewey schedules
(e.g., architecture of Chicago quite separate from geography of Chicago).

Classes listed

Main article: List of Dewey Decimal classes

The system is made up of seven tables and ten main classes, each of which are
divided into ten secondary classes or subcategories, each of which contain ten

The tables are:

• standard subdivision
• areas
• subdivision of individual literatures
• subdivisions of individual languages
• racial, ethnic, national groups
• languages
• persons

The classes are:

• 000 – Computer science, information and general works

• 100 – Philosophy and psychology
• 200 – Religion
• 300 – Social sciences
• 400 – Language
• 500 – Science (including mathematics)
• 600 – Technology and applied Science
• 700 – Arts and recreation
• 800 – Literature
• 900 – History, geography, and biography

Administration and publication

While he lived, Melvil Dewey edited each edition himself: he was followed by
other editors who had been very much influenced by him. The earlier editions
were printed in the peculiar spelling that Dewey had devised: the number of
volumes in each edition increased to two, then three and now four.

The Online Computer Library Center of Dublin, Ohio, United States, acquired the
trademark and copyrights associated with the DDC when it bought Forest Press
in 1988. OCLC maintains the classification system and publishes new editions of
the system. The editorial staff responsible for updates is based partly at the
Library of Congress and partly at OCLC. Their work is reviewed by the Decimal
Classification Editorial Policy Committee (EPC), which is a ten-member
international board that meets twice each year. The four-volume unabridged
edition is published approximately every seven years, the most recent edition
(DDC 22) in mid 2003.[4] The web edition is updated on an ongoing basis, with
changes announced each month.[5]

The work of assigning a DDC number to each newly published book is performed
by a division of the Library of Congress, whose recommended assignments are
either accepted or rejected by the OCLC after review by an advisory board; to
date all have been accepted.

In September 2003, the OCLC sued the Library Hotel for trademark infringement.
The settlement was that the OCLC would allow the Library Hotel to use the
system in its hotel and marketing. In exchange, the Hotel would acknowledge the
Center's ownership of the trademark and make a donation to a nonprofit
organization promoting reading and literacy among children.

DDC's numbers formed the basis of the more expressive but complex Universal
Decimal Classification (UDC), which combines the basic Dewey numbers with
selected punctuation marks (comma, colon, parentheses, etc.). Adaptations of
DDC for specific regions outside the English-speaking world include the Korean
Decimal Classification, the New Classification Scheme for Chinese Libraries and
the Nippon Decimal Classification (Japanese).