Church Library Classification and Cataloging

Red dots, blue dots, green dots, yellow dots! No dots! No numbers! Thank you, Mevil Dewey, for providing librarians with a practical way to keep libraries organized! According to OCLC (Online Computer Library Center), in the United States the Dewey Decimal Classification System is used by 95 percent of all public and K-12 school libraries, 25 percent of college and university libraries and 20 percent of special libraries. In fact, more than 200,000 libraries worldwide in 135 countries depend on Dewey to keep their collections organized.

Those statistics alone should be enough to convince church libraries to organize with Dewey. In our mobile society it makes it easier for library users to communicate with media wherever they go.

Classification has been referred to as "putting on the numbers" using Dewey. Cataloging is the process which makes the media easily located. Minnie Sears helped make that job easier with Sears subject headings. The majority of church librarians are not trained to perform the classification and cataloging tasks necessary for the efficient operation of the church library. Helps are available.

    The Church Library Ministry Information Service has shrink-wrapped pages designed to be placed in a notebook so that additional information may be added under each area of library work. One area is devoted to complete information on classification. Also included on pages 51-90 are instructions for handling various types of media such as kits, bound-withs, books with special formats and many others. Two pages outline each step in the classification process in determining the complete call number to be placed on the spine label. The call number is the address of the media and the more complete it is will facilitate its shelving and retrieval.

    A Classification System for Church Libraries, Second Edition is based on the Dewey Decimal Classification system. It is an excellent tool for small libraries as well as librarians inexperienced in classification. A fraction of the cost of the Abridged Dewey, it is as up-to-date as the latest Dewey. Table 1 is built into the text which also includes the numbers from the tables for states and countries. Containing the classification numbers most used in church libraries, it also includes the changes recommended in the unabridged 200 numbers.

    Dewey is published every seven years with the next one scheduled for 2018. Between publications, the website lists the changes and additions to be made in the next edition. is available to find articles on classification as well as various mediagraphies to aid in selection and classification.

    The Church Librarians Network gives church librarians an opportunity to connect with each other, share ideas, ask and answer questions, and share collection suggestions. All church librarians are encouraged to join at

    Not every team member can do classification. It can be an enjoyable process for those who like detail work. Ideally two people could work together to be sure that one is always available. Tools are necessary to get the job done correctly. Along with the necessary books on Dewey, a dictionary is most helpful for word substitutes. The same people who assign the classification number should also assign the proper subject headings using Sears Subject Headings because the same process is used by both. This tool is published every four years and is scheduled for another in 2012. The cost is about the same as the Abridged Dewey; however, the resource Church Library Ministry Information Service gives an abbreviated list which could be used in smaller libraries.

    Church libraries deviate from Dewey in several different circumstances. Instead of the 813 number for fiction, church libraries use an F. Dewey never uses a letter in front of the classification number whereas church libraries use C, J, or Y to designate the various age groups and shelve the media accordingly.

    Earlier books were the only types of media to be classified. It is now recommended that all types of media be classified using the same classification tools. The first line in a call number is designated for the type of media. It might be LP for large print, CD or DVD for the appropriate media as well as other abbreviations. More recently, another form of media has entered the picture as Blu Ray DVDs. Because they cannot be played on a DVD player, they need a different designation from that of a regular DVD. A suggestion is to use BR-DVD which will shelve them before the regular DVDs. This will prevent confusion by the customer who might not notice that it is Blu Ray if it were listed as DVD-BR.

    Automation makes easier the process of classification and cataloging. With the internet, it is possible to pull into the data base the information from the Library of Congress (LC) or other libraries. Most of them will use the LC subject headings of which Sears is an abbreviated form. Since customers no longer browse a hard copy of the catalog, so it is considered to be permissible to use the downloaded form instead of taking the time to make the conversions.

    Enjoy the process of classification and cataloging! Use all of the helps available! It's a great way to provide a service to customers as well as team members!

    Eva Nell Hunter is the church library ministry team leader for Central Baptist Church, Decatur, Alabama; a leader in the Alabama church library ministry group; and a church library ministry multiplier for LifeWay Christian Resources.

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