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Abstract:
Explanation of the expanded filing scheme for Baha'i topics used at the Baha'i World Centre Library, and outlines of two other classification schemes which could be adopted by private Baha'i archives.
Notes:

Bahá'í Classification Schemes

by William P. Collins

2001
Contents
  1. Library of Congress classification
          1a. Schedule
          1b. Detailed overview
  2. Dewey Decimal Classification
          2a. Schedule
          2b. Detailed overview
  3. Phoenix Schedule
          3a. Schedule

1. BP300-399: Based upon Library of Congress Classification

The Library of Congress Classification system assigned to the Bahá'í Faith a range of numbers at BP300-395. The numbers assigned to the Bahá'í Faith in the Library of Congress scheme were not adequate. The staff of the Bahá'í World Centre Library therefore developed an expanded classification for the Bahá'í Faith based on BP300-395. The Bahá'í World Centre Library retained the rough outline of the Library of Congress organization, causing only a small amount of disturbance to the original arrangement of numbers by the Library of Congress. The Bahá'í World Centre Library decided, after testing, to adopt the Library of Congress Classification as the general classification scheme for the Library, and to maintain a special expanded "Bahá'í World Centre version" of the section on the Bahá'í Faith, using the number BP300-399 (see cover page of this publication). For detailed information visit the International Bahá'í Library Web site.

1a. Download schedule:


"Classification Schedule for the Bahá'í Faith BP300-399
Developed for the Bahá’í World Centre Library
" [PDF]

1b. Detailed overview

The intent of this introduction is to provide to the novice Bahá'í librarian a basic knowledge of how to apply, in his/her own library, the classification for Bahá'í publications that is in use at the Bahá'í World Centre.  Because most Bahá'ís who are placed in charge of a Bahá'í library are not trained in librarianship, and have no experience in classification, the introduction has been made as simple and clear as possible, while covering all aspects of classification that the Bahá'í librarian may face.

HISTORY OF THE MAJOR GENERAL LIBRARY CLASSIFICATIONS

Library classification schedules provide a means for library materials to be organized in subject order.  This facilitates physical browsing as well as computer access.  Since the time of the Library of Alexandria during the Hellenic period, some logical order has been imposed upon library collections.  It is only in the last century and a half that a number of modern notations for library classification have been developed.  Such classifications contain letters, numbers, or a combination of the two, to indicate subjects and subtopics; and additional marks to aid alphabetical shelving within the subject.  Perhaps the best known is Melvil Dewey's Decimal Classification, first published in 1876.  It is composed of ten large classes:

General works (000)
Philosophy (100)
Religion (200)
Social sciences (300)
Philology (400)
Pure science (500)
Useful arts/applied science (600)
Fine arts (700)
Literature (800)
History/biography (900)

A modified version of Dewey's Decimal Classification, called the Universal Decimal Classification, was prepared by the Institut International de Bibliographie (Brussels) in 1899-1905.  It is used widely in Europe, and has a more minute identification of subjects than the Dewey classification, as well as incorporating symbols to express the interrelationship of subjects.

Alphanumeric classification schemes were developed about the same time as those that were solely numeric.  Charles Ammi Cutter, librarian of the Boston Athenaeum, published his Expansive Classification in 1891.  The best features of this scheme were adapted to the Library of Congress Classification.  The Library of Congress collections, founded in 1800, were destroyed in 1814 with the burning of the Capitol Building by the British in the War of 1812.  In 1815 Congress obtained the library of Thomas Jefferson, and adopted his classification, which was an adaptation of Francis Bacon's scheme for the classification of knowledge.  In 1897, the Library of Congress realized that it needed a new classification scheme, and set about to create a pragmatic organization of books that was never expected to be used by other libraries.  The outline of the main classes is as follows:

A                     Polygraphy
B-BJ                Philosophy
BL-BX Religion
C-D                 History (except American), Genealogy
E-F                  American history
G                     Geography, anthropology
H-J                  Social, economic and political science
K                     Law
L                      Education
M                     Music
N                     Fine Arts
P                      Language and literature
PZ                    Fiction and juvenile literature in English
Q                     Science
R                      Medicine
S                      Agriculture
T                      Technology
U                     Military science
V                     Naval science
Z                      Bibliography, librarianship

The Library of Congress Classification has been adopted by most university and college libraries in North America, as well as many large public libraries.

DEVELOPMENT OF THE BAHA'I CLASSIFICATION BASED ON THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS SYSTEM

The Universal House of Justice decided in 1977 to set up a professionaly-organized Library at the Bahá'í World Centre.  Up to 1977 the library resources had consisted of books sent to the Bahá'í World Centre as deposits from Bahá'í publishers. For these deposits, a single hand-written card was made showing the accession numbers assigned to each volume.  It was essential that a properly organized classification scheme be developed that could handle the range of topics covered by the rising number of publications.  Planning also required that a general classification be chosen for the large number of general reference works and non-Bahá'í publications.  The Dewey Decimal Classification assigned only a single number to the Bahá'í Faith (297.92). The Library of Congress system, on the other hand, assigned a range of numbers at BP300-395.  The Library of Congress Classification had more space to expand, and more flexibility for creating specific numbers.  However, the numbers assigned to the Bahá'í Faith in the Library of Congress scheme were not adequate.  The staff of the Bahá'í World Centre Library therefore developed an expanded classification for the Bahá'í Faith based on BP300-395. The Bahá'í World Centre Library retained the rough outline of the Library of Congress organization, causing only a small amount of disturbance to the original arrangement of numbers by the Library of Congress.  The Bahá'í World Centre Library decided, after testing, to adopt the Library of Congress Classification as the general classification scheme for the Library, and to maintain a special expanded Bahá'í World Centre version of the section on the Bahá'í Faith, using the numbers BP300-399.

WHERE TO BEGIN

To understand how to assign a classification number, it is important to analyze the contents of the work being classified.  Always assign the narrowest classification number that fits the contents.  For example, you have a book that covers Bahá'í history of the Baghdad period of Bahá'u'lláh's ministry.  Look in the index for history; there you will find reference to BP330-358.   These numbers are arranged from general to specific periods, chronologically; there are also numbers for history of the Faith in particular countries.  You will find that history of the period of Bahá'u'lláh's ministry is BP331.2.  This is not the correct number to assign to the book.  Since the book is about Bahá'í history during the Baghdad period, the correct number is BP331.21.  This number exactly and most closely matches the content of the volume.  Suppose you have in hand Will van den Hoonaard's The Origins of the Bahá'í Community of Canada, 1898-1948 (Waterloo, Ont. : Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1996).  Because the book covers a period that is mostly the twentieth century, you might be inclined to classify it under BP332 for the twentieth century.  This is incorrect; the narrowest topic is that it is history of the Faith in Canada.  Therefore it should be BP355, history by country, with a special addition to the classification number to indicate Canada (to be discussed later).

The contents may be about a specific topic, in a specific format, or be a specific work of scripture.  It is important to recognize that there are a few simple principles that will help you to differentiate what has precedence.

If a book is by one or more of the Central Figures or the Guardian, it belongs in the appropriate number within BP360-364.  If you are classifying God Passes By, even though it is a history it belongs in BP364 in order to keep the original works of sacred texts and interpretations together. 

If a book is a compilation on a specific subject from among the writings of the Central Figures, Guardian and Universal House of Justice, the work should be classified with the specific subject.

If a book is a message of the Universal House of Justice, or is a collection of messages from the Universal House of Justice, classify the book in BP382.12.

If you are classifying a periodical (magazine, newsletter, etc.), it is automatically classified in BP300, no matter what the subject.

All other items are classified with subject.

As you use the index, you may find that more than one classification number is listed for an idea or topic.  The classification contains notes to explain under what circumstances to use each number.  A typical example would be a book of statistics from the Three Year Plan (1993-1996).  "Three Year Plan" in the index gives two numbers, BP373.916 and BP332.323.  At each of these numbers is a note explaining how that number is to be used.  Both notes state that statistics for plans belong in BP302.

BUILDING COMPLETE CLASSIFICATION NUMBERS

Each classification number must be a unique identifier for the item in hand.  This is because each library maintains a shelflist inventory, in classification number order, indicating the number of volumes and the number of copies of each volume retained in the library.  The Library of Congress Classification has basic classification numbers that may consist of BP, a number, and in some cases an additional prescribed decimalized alphanumeric designator called a "cutter number."  A good example of such a classification number would be the number for a book on love, which is listed in the index as BP366.437 .L65.  The ".L65" is a cutter number added to the classification to extend the organization of a class area when further decimalization would create extremely lengthy numbers.

Beyond these basic classification numbers, every work also receives an additional cutter number that stands for the "main entry" of the work according to accepted cataloging rules. The "main entry" is usually an author but can also be a title.  Each classification number also receives at the end of the number a date for the year of publication of the first volume of the edition of the work being classified.  If the work is a translation, the classification number also receives an alphabetic code for the language of the translation.  The order, therefore is as follows:

Note: it appears that the following table was originally in four columns, but the formatting has been lost.[-J.W., 2012]

CLASSIFICATION NUMBER [INCLUDING ANY PRESCRIBED CUTTER NUMBERS]
CUTTER NUMBER(S) FOR THE MAIN ENTRY (USUALLY AUTHOR)
ALPHABETIC CODE FOR TRANSLATION IF APPLICABLE
DATE OF FIRST VOLUME OF THE EDITION IN HAND
Example 1A:
A fortress for well-being : Bahá'í teachings on marriage. -- 1974 ed.-- Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1974.
BP368.2
.F67
1974
Example 1B:
Translation of 1A into French, published in 1992.
BP368.2
.F67
FRE
1992
Example 2A:
To move the world : Louis G. Gregory and the advancement of racial unity in America / by Gayle Morrison. -- Wilmette, Ill. : Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1982.
BP395
.G73
M67
1982
Example 2B:
Same as 2A in Spanish, published in 1988.
BP395
.G73
M67
SPA
1988

CUTTER NUMBERS

Table V in the classification is to be used for building cutter numbers for authors, titles, countries, etc. as needed or directed.  The cuttering table for Library of Congress numbers is built on a relative system rather than a prescribed system.  New cutter numbers are based loosely on the table, but must be created to fit into the order of books that are already classified and on the shelves of your library.

Table V shows four paths to build a cutter number, depending upon the first letter of the author's last name: after the initial letter S, after the initial letters Qu, after other initial consonants, and after initial vowels.  Look at the example of 2A above - a book about Louis G. Gregory by Gayle Morrison.  The classification number BP395 .G73 gives you the number for biography of Louis G. Gregory.  However, there will be many biographies of Louis Gregory written.  This one by Gayle Morrison must be distinguished from the others so that it will reside alphabetically by author's last name among the other biographies of this distinguished believer.  The name "Morrison" begins with an initial consonant other than S or Qu.  Therefore you would use "After other initial consonants" as the method for building the cutter number.  M is the first letter, followed by O.  Under O you find the number 6.  The cutter number for MO is ".M6".  The next letter is R.  The number to stand for R will be found under "Additional letters" at the bottom of Table V.  The letter R gives you the number 7.  Therefore a good cutter number for Morrison would be ".M67".

Suppose, however, that you have another biography of Louis Gregory by an author named Motley.  Following through the same process as above, you note that the cutter up through two digits turns out also to be .M67.  You must then go on to a third letter to get a unique cutter number under  this subject.  Going out to the next letter, you will get a cutter number of .M674.  These techniques of creating "relative" relationships on the shelf, are more an art than a science.  The intent is to keep all books under a single topic in some logical alphabetical order.  The decimalized cutter number is a way to do this.

Remember that a cutter number is treated like a decimal.  Thus BP365 .E56 is shelved before BP365 .E6, because .56 comes before .6.

Tables I, III and IV contain prescribed cutter numbers that have already been prepared for  prayerbooks, countries, and continental areas.  The classification contains specific instructions at certain numbers telling when to use these tables.  Do not create your own cutter numbers for these.  If no prescribed number exists, it is best to consult the World Centre Library for additions that may be needed.

In some parts of the classification, you may be instructed to arrange volumes in a certain way.  Under BP361. A1, BP362 .A1 and BP363 .A1 for example, selections are to be arranged "A-Z by title."  This means that cutter numbers are to be assigned for the title of the work, because the author is the same for all of the books in this classification number.

WORKS OF SCRIPTURE AND INTERPRETATION

Individual works by the Central Figures have been assigned a range of cutter numbers.  For instance, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas is BP362 .K6-695.  What this means is that there is a range of cutter numbers for the Aqdas from .K6 through .K695.  Each such range of cutter numbers for a specific work is broken down in Table II.  Table II uses the convention of .x to stand for the initial cutter number in the series.  Thus, the following table:

.x         Original texts, by date
.x A1    Partial editions or selections, by language, then by date
.x A2    Translations by language and then by date
.x1       General works
.x2       Authorship
.x3       Method and nature of revelation
.x4       Concordances, indexes, dictionaries
.x5       Hermeneutics
.x6       Commentaries; textual studies
.x7       Treatises on special subjects
.x8       Study and teaching
.x9       History
.x95                 History of translations
would translate for the Aqdas into BP362:
.K6      Original texts, by date
.K6 A1            Partial editions or selections, by language, then by date
.K6 A2            Translations, by language and then by date
.K61    General works
.K62    Authorship
.K63    Method and nature of revelation
.K64    Concordances, indexes, dictionaries
.K65    Hermeneutics
.K66    Commentaries; textual studies
.K67    Treatises on special subjects
.K68    Study and teaching
.K69    History
.K695              History of translations

Using this table, all texts of the works, their translations, and books about them, are arranged together.

DATES

Occasionally, the same work is published twice in a single year.  In order to distinguish such publications from one another, a device is used with the date portion of the classification number.  Suppose you have three different editions of Esslemont's Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era, all published in 1997.  To differentiate, the first one classified will be BP365 .E8 1997. The second will have the date 1997a, and the third will be 1997b.

CLASSIFICATION AND CATALOGING

Cataloging is related to classification.  Those unfamiliar with bibliographic description of publications should consult The Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, professional librarians, or the Bahá'í World Centre Library and its Web page for additional information.

2. BP200: Based upon Dewey Decimal Classification

The Bahá'í World Centre Library developed two adaptations of the standard classifications, one of which was based upon the Dewey Decimal Classification, patterned after the M200 schedule for Mormonism developed by the Utah Library Association.

The development of a Dewey-Decimal-based classification scheme for Bahá'í publications was halted in 1979, when the Bahá'í World Centre Library made the choice to use the Library of Congress classification. The author, however, completed a draft of a Dewey-based classification for Bahá'í works. The development of the Bahá'í classification schedule based upon the Dewey Decimal Classification was not intended merely as an intellectual exercise. Many Bahá'í libraries have been established in schools and communities where there is little experience with the Library of Congress system. The Dewey-based classification for Bahá'í materials can serve as an alternative that offers a more familiar style to those institutions and communities. For detailed information visit the International Bahá'í Library Web site.

2a. Download schedule:


"Classification for Materials on the Bahá'í Religion: A B200
Schedule Based on the Dewey Decimal Classification System
" [PDF]

2b. Detailed overview

Introduction to the Bahá'í World Centre's Draft Classification for the Bahá'í Faith Based on the Dewey Decimal System

The Bahá'í World Centre Library in Haifa, Israel holds the best collection of published materials on the Bahá'í religion. Bahá'í publishing has burgeoned, with over 30 publishing trusts, other private publishing firms, and large numbers of institutions issuing publications. In addition, non-Bahá'í commercial and academic publishers provide scholarly, introductory and polemical literature.

In the early 1980s, the Bahá'í World Centre Library developed draft Bahá'í classification systems adapted from the Library of Congress and Dewey classification schemes. The Library of Congress version was adapted from BP300-395 in that library's classification, and was ultimately chosen as the organizational method for the books in the Bahá'í World Centre Library.

The Dewey Decimal System has a single number for the Bahá'í Faith, 297.93, to which may be added additional decimal numbers to refine the subject. This is inadequate to a collection focused solely on Bahá'í materials. The draft classification based upon Dewey was patterned after the M200 classification for Mormonism developed by the Utah Library Association. It has been refined over the years and was published: "Classification for Materials on the Bahá'í Religion: A B200' Schedule Based on the Dewey Decimal Classification - Part 1," Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, v.16 no.4 (1993), pp. 103-121; "Classification for Materials on the Bahá'í Religion: A B200' Schedule Based on the Dewey Decimal Classification - Part 2," Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, v.18 no.2 (1993), pp. 71-86.

This most recent version of the Dewey-based classification employs many of the standard Dewey devices, such as geographical tables [DDC table 2], ethnic groups [DDC table 5], languages [DDC table 6], and groups of person [DDC table 7]. The classification also permits borrowing of decimals from elsewhere in the classification to create numbers, as in B290-299. There is a complete treatment of Bahá'í Scriptures, similar to that used in the Bahá'í Classification based upon Library of Congress, as well as a reasonably full coverage of the many areas of concern covered in Bahá'í scriptures and interpretation.

For those familiar with Dewey classification, the system should be self-explanatory. Every book cataloged must include the number in this classification schedule, and a "cutter" number (book number) that is based upon the main entry (usually author, sometimes title, according to established cataloguing codes) of the cataloguing record. The cutter number/book number is the first letter of the main entry followed by a number that collocates the book alphabetically among the other books on the same subject. In libraries using the Dewey Decimal Classification, there are usually books of standard assigned cutter numbers that match most American/English last names.

This classification was not developed merely as an exercise. Some parts of the world are quite unfamiliar with the Library of Congress classification. Those Bahá'í libraries that are more comfortable with Dewey may well find this classification useful.

3. Phoenix Schedule for Dewey Decimal Classification 200

Mr. Paul Gerard in Australia has developed a completely revised schedule for Dewey Decimal Classification 200 (Religion), which gives a more equal weight to all religions, and provides adequate space for a full treatment of the Bahá'í Faith. The B200 draft created at the World Centre, was intended to provide a separate treatment of the Bahá'í Faith, while leaving the rest of Dewey 200 intact. Mr. Gerard's draft schedule is a complete replacement or "phoenix" schedule for Dewey 200, intended to counterbalance the current Dewey bias toward Christianity. Mr. Gerard's DDC 200 Phoenix schedule is a work in progress. Revised versions will be posted from time to time. The current version is for July 2001. Comments are welcome to the network coordinator.

3a. Schedule:


View "A Phoenix Schedule for the Dewey 200s suggested in particular for Bahá’í Libraries and
for other Dewey libraries needing a modern and unbiased schedule for religion
" (offsite)

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