Daily Archives: February 21, 2013

Dewey (Eyed)

It’s the (foreseeable) end of an ERA! Finally, finally, finally! Music librarians and our esteemed music cataloger are working to eliminate the confusing two-types-of-call-numbers system we use for music books and scores. As our regular customers know all too well, we have both LC (Library of Congress) and Dewey call numbers on our shelves. LC call numbers for music look like this, for example: qM 1630.18 .M43 2010x, and Dewey numbers look like this: q 782.4 R19m2.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh adopted the LC numbering system waaaaay back in the dark ages of 1977. Any book or score that came into the library after that was given an LC number. At the time, it was deemed unrealistic to change the entire existing collection of Dewey to LC. Before computers, changing a call number required the music cataloger use a set of strict rules to get a new LC number for each item, and then change all of the cards in the card catalog. Multiply this by a few thousand and you’ll start to understand the predicament.

I started working in the music department in the 1990s, when roughly half the scores were in Dewey and half in LC. I can’t begin to relate how many times I’ve had to explain the numbering systems to customers! Welcome the Age of Information, where we have our entire catalog at our fingertips. It is now a relatively simple task to change the call numbers. Music librarians still evaluate items in question to decide if we should keep, replace, or repair a book or score. We have computers to help us research each item. Then we send them to the cataloger, where they get renumbered (or re-classed in library speak), and finally place them in their new positions on the shelves.

All I have to say is WHOOPIE! Mr. Dewey, your classification system is a fine one, but now I will bid you a fond(ish) adieu.

– Joelle


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