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Way back when, I posted a question about cataloging the 800s in a high school 
library.  I've finally gotten it together enough to compile the responses.  I 
received many more requests to share information than responses to my questions, 
but the responses I received for the most part were thorough and extremely helpful. 
 Thank you to all who shared your expertise and experience.

Also, I ended up purchasing _Dewey Decimal Classification: Principles and 
Application_ from OCLC which has helpful explanations and exercises based on DDC 
22.  In addition, for those of you in California (this message is being 
cross-posted), Tom Kaun has provided numerous cataloging links in the November CSLA 
Newsletter.  Happy cataloging to all.

My original question:

The 800s in our library haven't been touched for years (I might even venture to say 
decades), and I've decided this (my third) is the year to tackle the overburdened, 
dusty shelves.  My biggest problem has been in reclassifying the books--a book by a 
particular author may be classified by time period, others may not--and trying to 
understand how the 800 Dewey numbers work beyond the three main numbers.

After wrapping my brain around my DDC 22 and Abridged DDC 13, I'm still left in the 
dark.  If anyone can explain a couple of things to me, or point me to a resource 
that can help clarify my muddled mind, I'd appreciate it.  OCLC used to have a kind 
of a Dewey workbook for sale, but I don't see it listed anymore. So . . .

What is the difference between 821.008 and 821.08 and 821.8? Or 821.009 and 821.09?
What goes in numbers such as 810 and 820?  Comprehensive works, I know.  Does that 
mean anthologies of various authors and forms?  But if a book is by a single author 
with different forms, it goes in something like 828?  And what about a number like 
820.81?  What's that about?

Responses I received:

I only have Abridged DDC 13, but if you go to Table 3, page 882+ it tells you how 
to build these numbers. You probably already tried that.

I have to tell you though, with the online catalog today, and our ability to add 
any number of subject headings or use categories pertaining to our local sites, I 
don't think it matters so much how specific a classification no. we build. We use 
abridged nos. here and rely on subjects, keywords and categories to find books, not 
the nuances of the Dewey classification. I was a cataloger for nearly 15 years at 
CSULB before I was a high school librarian and now my biggest goal with cataloging 
is access for the students and teachers here at the HS. I try to get them to use 
the OPAC effectively and treat the no. as an address. It does feel like one is 
violating the catalogers' code or something, but the specific numbers aren't so 
important to me anymore.

It sounds like maybe you need to weed this section too. Are the teachers using any 
of the books? These can be hard things to decide sometimes. I need to weed our 
800s. I don't think that anyone uses large anthologies from this library. The most 
heavily used sections are literary criticism, poetry and the Shakespeare section, 
both plays and commentary. I could probably get rid of a lot of the rest. I have 
all the literature in the fiction collection, but drama is in an 800, as is poetry 
so I really could remove a lot of it. We have a big short story collection and no 
one uses that anymore either. Authors in the fiction collection (Hemingway, Poe, 
etc.) have their short stories in the fiction collection as well.

We have a very strong English dept., but they just don't ask the students to use 
these materials anymore. If I can't make it part of a research lesson or get a 
teacher to require the use of things like short stories, I feel that I need to 
consider moving that stuff out of the library. I don't have room for it anymore, 
even if it is good material.

In my experience one of the most difficult areas of Dewey to understand is the 800 
area with all it's special and specific rules. Here's what I would ask: How 
specific do I need to be in order to provide my patrons with the info they need to 
find materials on the shelf and allow them to browse efficiently.

What is the difference between 821.008 and 821.08 and 821.8?
[821.8 refers to English poetry of the Victorian period by a single author. 821.008 
would be for a collection of English poetry from more than one period (a general 
collection). The reason .08 is not used is that it is the form number for 
"ephemeral and light" verse according to Table 3-B. Thus 821.08 would be used for a 
collection of English light verse. BTW, 821.808 would be a collection of Victorian 
era poetry.]

Or 821.009 and 821.09?
[821.009 is history, description, critical appraisal of more than one period of 
English poetry. 821.09 doesn't seem to have any meaning any longer. BTW, 821.9 
would probably not be used by itself since it applies to books by a single author 
active from 1900 on. In practice, you would subdivide those authors by a more 
specific period, e.g. 821.912 (pre-WWII), etc.]

What goes in numbers such as 810 and 820?
[These general numbers are probably not going to be used much. I don't have any in 
my collection.]

Comprehensive works, I know. Does that mean anthologies of various authors and 
[General anthologies would be 810.8 or 820.8]

But if a book is by a single author with different forms, it goes in something like 
{That's correct.]

And what about a number like 820.81? What's that about?
[I don't think that number has any meaning since 820.8 would be a general 
collection of English literature.]

What is the difference between 821.008 and 821.08 and 821.8? Or 821.009 and 821.09?
Some time in the past, a version of Dewey many years ago used .08 as the collection 
number, and .09 for collections of criticism.  That number is no longer used.  Now 
it is .008 and .009.

Certainly you will have many technical responses, but 800s deal with both genre 
(poetry, rhetoric, drama, etc.) as well as country of origin.  Therefore, 811 is 
American poetry and 821 is British poetry.  I believe it corresponds with the 400s 
in terms of language.  This is the short, simple answer.  I'll leave it to the 
experts to give you the fine points.  Good luck!

I did some searching in a couple of databases we have by Dewey number to see if I 
could understand the numbers you were asking about.  A lot of them appear to be 
older numbers that were from either Edition 19 or 20 and I am guessing most likely 
19.  I have tried to list the numbers and what they mean or where I think they come 
from below.  Please let me know if you need more information and I can do
some more searching for you.  Good luck sounds like a big project.

821.008 = English poetry--collections.
821.08 = Invalid number. Looks to be last used in the 19th edition of DDC.
821.8 = English poetry--1837-1899
820.81 = Appears to be an invalid number now. Last used in the 19th edition of DDC.
820.09 = Invalid number. Looks to be last used in the 19th edition of DDC.
820.009 = English poetry--history and criticism
810 and 820 = from what I can tell by doing a Dewey search for these numbers it 
looks like they are mainly used for serials in the English literature field.  I 
could not find any books really in just those numbers.  It might be an older number 
that has since now been changed.  Usually for collections of one language we would 
now use 828 or 818 instead of just the general number.

I tackled my 800's a couple of years ago and did my own "illegal cataloging."  I 
stuck with the numbers pretty closely (813 for criticisms of American fiction, then 
.1 for Colonial period, 1607-1867; .2 for 1776-1830; .3 for 1030-1861; .52 for 
1900-1945; .54 for 1945- etc. as Dewey says), BUT then I cuttered by the author 
covered, NOT the editor or main entry.  I have rather large 813.52 and 813.54 
sections, and I was finding that my Hemingway books would be scattered all over 
creation when we used the editor's name or title of the book.  By using the author 
DISCUSSED in the call number, it forced the books together, so all my Hemingway 
criticism is 813.52 HEM, and all my Toni Morrison criticism is 813.54 MOR.  There 
was a long discussion from others who are doing the same thing here a year or so 
ago.... it made me feel much less guilty to know others are doing the same things 
in their libraries, so I'm not completely off-base. I also "straightened out" my 
Shakespeare sectio!
 n by using 822.33 SHA for everything written BY Shakespeare, but using 822.33 and 
the editor's/author's first three letters for books written ABOUT Shakespeare (thus 
being inconsistent with what I did in the 813's,  sigh.)  But it WORKS when kids 
are at the shelves, and that is what is most important. But please share what I 
SHOULD be doing.... I need to learn the right way for the other sections of my 
800's! Good luck.. this is a nightmare task!

I'm probably in a much smaller library than you (225 students in grades 7-12), but 
I have moved all works of fiction / literature from the 800's to Fiction.  The only 
thing left in my 800 section is literary criticism. Makes life much simpler.

I have to admit that I "cheat" when it comes to figuring out the DDC numbers and 
what should go where. The way I cheat is that I refer to my city's public library's 
catalog. If it's good enough for the public library, I figure it's good enough for 
my library.

Lisa Kooi, Librarian
North High School
Torrance, CA

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