A conversion project

Some years ago, my library began exploring the possibility of converting our collection from Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) to Library of Congress Classification (LCC). Our physical collection is somewhere around 600,000 vols., so you can imagine that such a project would be enormous as well as expensive. Portions of our collections are already in LCC, such as the Evangelism and Missions Collection. This collection was part of what used to be known as the Billy Graham Center Library, a research-level collection evangelism and missions that became part of Buswell Library in about 2004. Although not part of the library organizationally, the collections in the Wade Center for the study of C.S. Lewis and related authors are also already classified in LCC.

Most people who aren’t familiar with libraries may wonder what the big deal is, and why we would want to make such a move. While DDC is still heavily used in public and school libraries, it went out of favor for most North American academic libraries many years ago. There’s a whole set of reasons why this is the case and those who work in or study librarianship know that these have been written about and debated extensively. A suitable method for organizing the vast amounts of information contained in libraries is a really important consideration. Some of the reasons for academic libraries preferring LCC over DDC include:

  • Dewey is inherently restrictive in many places within its call number ranges, making it ok for small collections but unwieldy for larger ones.
  • Dewey has well known biases in how it classifies certain topics (as does LC, but they are different).
  • There is opportunity for more efficient cataloging since the majority of academic libraries use LCC, making it possible for others to build on or reuse LCC numbers. Building and selecting call numbers from scratch can otherwise be a time-consuming part of the cataloging process.
For us, LCC is particularly desirable because of improvements in classifying works in biblical criticism, music, theology, and evangelicalism.
Late last week, we received word that senior administration at the college decided in favor of funding this conversion as well as setup of a remote storage facility. The remote storage facility will make use of space in an existing, campus-owned building, but requires HVAC and other prep work to make it suitable. It’s likely that our bound journals will be relocated to this space. That’s necessary in order to free up collection space for the DDC to LC conversion and for overall growth needs for the next several years until we build a new library facility or complete an expansion and renovation of the existing one. This latter project is in its initial stages after receiving a green light from the Board of Trustees.

We plan for the conversion to be completed by Fall 2019, and the remote storage project to be done in the early part of the Spring 2019 semester. We will rely heavily on third party vendors to help do most of the physical work of relabelling as well as moving the tens of thousands of bound vols. into remote storage.

These are exciting and demanding projects, with lots of work ahead for many people. We are pretty fortunate, however, to have an administration that places such a high value on its library that it is willing to fund them.

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