Colon classification

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Colon classification (CC) is a system of library classification developed by S. R. Ranganathan. It was the first ever faceted (or analytico-synthetic) classification. The first edition was published in 1933. Since then six more editions have been published. It is especially used in libraries in India.

Its name "colon classification" comes from the use of colons to separate facets in class numbers. However, many other classification schemes, some of which are completely unrelated, also use colons and other punctuation in various functions.

In CC, facets describe "personality" (the most specific subject), matter, energy, space, and time (PMEST). These facets are generally associated with every item in a library, and so form a reasonably universal sorting system.[1]

As an example, the subject "research in the cure of tuberculosis of lungs by x-ray conducted in India in 1950" would be categorized as:

Medicine,Lungs;Tuberculosis:Treatment;X-ray:Research.India'1950

This is summarized in a specific call number:

L,45;421:6;253:f.44'N5

Organization[edit]

The colon classification uses 42 main classes that are combined with other letters, numbers and marks in a manner resembling the Library of Congress Classification to sort a publication.

Facets[edit]

CC uses five primary categories, or facets, to further specify the sorting of a publication. Collectively, they are called PMEST:

, Personality, the most specific or focal subject.
; Matter or property, the substance, properties or materials of the subject.
: Energy, including the processes, operations and activities.
. Space, which relates to the geographic location of the subject.
' Time, which refers to the dates or seasons of the subject.

Classes[edit]

The following are the main classes of CC, with some subclasses, the main method used to sort the subclass using the PMEST scheme and examples showing application of PMEST.


z Generalia
1 Universe of Knowledge
2 Library Science
3 Book science
4 Journalism
A Natural science
B Mathematics
B2 Algebra
C Physics
D Engineering
E Chemistry
F Technology
G Biology
H Geology
HX Mining
I Botany
J Agriculture
J1 Horticulture
J2 Feed
J3 Food
J4 Stimulant
J5 Oil
J6 Drug
J7 Fabric
J8 Dye
K Zoology
KZ Animal Husbandry
L Medicine
LZ3 Pharmacology
LZ5 Pharmacopoeia
M Useful arts
M7 Textiles [material]:[work]
Δ Spiritual experience and mysticism [religion],[entity]:[problem]
N Fine arts
ND Sculpture
NN Engraving
NQ Painting
NR Music
O Literature
P Linguistics
Q Religion
R Philosophy
S Psychology
T Education
U Geography
V History
W Political science
X Economics
Y Sociology
YZ Social Work
Z Law

Example[edit]

A common example of the colon classification is:

  • "Research in the cure of the tuberculosis of lungs by x-ray conducted in India in 1950s":
  • Main classification is Medicine
    • (Medicine)
  • Within Medicine, the Lungs are the main concern
    • (Medicine,Lungs)
  • The property of the Lungs is that they are afflicted with Tuberculosis
    • (Medicine,Lungs;Tuberculosis)
  • The Tuberculosis is being performed (:) on, that is the intent is to cure (Treatment)
    • (Medicine,Lungs;Tuberculosis:Treatment)
  • The matter that we are treating the Tuberculosis with are X-Rays
    • (Medicine,Lungs;Tuberculosis:Treatment;X-ray)
  • And this discussion of treatment is regarding the Research phase
    • (Medicine,Lungs;Tuberculosis:Treatment;X-ray:Research)
  • This Research is performed within a geographical space (.) namely India
    • (Medicine,Lungs;Tuberculosis:Treatment;X-ray:Research.India)
  • During the time (') of 1950
    • (Medicine,Lungs;Tuberculosis:Treatment;X-ray:Research.India'1950)
  • And translating into the codes listed for each subject and facet the classification becomes
    • L,45;421:6;253:f.44'N5

See also[edit]

Colon classification (CC) is a system of library classification developed by S. R. Ranganathan. It was the first ever faceted (or analytico-synthetic) classification. The first edition was published in 1933. Since then six more editions have been published. It is especially used in libraries in India.

Its name "colon classification" comes from the use of colons to separate facets in class numbers. However, many other classification schemes, some of which are completely unrelated, also use colons and other punctuation in various functions.

In CC, facets describe "personality" (the most specific subject), matter, energy, space, and time (PMEST). These facets are generally associated with every item in a library, and so form a reasonably universal sorting system.[2]

As an example, the subject "research in the cure of tuberculosis of lungs by x-ray conducted in India in 1950" would be categorized as:

Medicine,Lungs;Tuberculosis:Treatment;X-ray:Research.India'1950

This is summarized in a specific call number:

L,45;421:6;253:f.44'N5

History[edit]

The Colon Classification (CC), conceived and initially developed from 1924 to 1928, and initially applied in the Madras University Library, was first published in 1933 (Ranganathan 1933) by the Madras Library Association (founded by Ranganathan in 1928). The latest edition, and the first published after the death of Ranganathan, was the seventh (Ranganathan 1987). Being a mathematician and a close student of an inspiring teacher W.C.B. Sayers (1881-1960) in the School of Librarianship, University College London, Ranganathan was most attracted to classification studies. In his later work, he perceived many similarities between classification and mathematics (Ranganathan 1939b). At the same time, practical classification by the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) did not satisfy his orderly mind. That being a "mark and park system" without any professed theory, he could assign more than one class number to a document, especially those dealing with compound and complex subjects. For example, "Anatomy of flowering plants" could either be given the class number of "Plant anatomy" or "Botany of flowering plants". It was a problematic option by default for all such compound subjects. In his view, this defeated the purpose of classification itself. Besides this, Ranganathan also found only a nominal representation of Indian subjects in the scheme. WASPish (White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant) bias in Dewey's system, as it is in other western systems, is well-known, even today (Comaromi and Satija 1985). Indeed all KO systems are cultural and temporal in their making (Judge 1983); we shall return to this principal cultural bias in the conclusion (Section 5.3).
First, Ranganathan realized that the aftermath of World War I, 1914-1919, had brought in the emergence of specialized, micro, and interdisciplinary subjects, which the existing classifications failed to cope with. He diagnosed that DDC, because of its enumerative nature and 17th century roots, was a classification suited to the nineteenth century linear, mono-dimensional kind of literature (cf., Ranganathan 1961, 81-83). An enumerative classification by default is not able to assign coextensive class numbers to most compound and complex subjects except to some by coincidence (Parrochia and Neuville 2013, 14).
Knowing the malady, the remedy could not have been far away. The problem occupied his mind relentlessly. In 1924, Ranganathan happened to visit Selfridge's department store in London, and accidentally stumbled on a demonstration of a Meccano toy kit. The salesman was making different toys from the same kit by permutation and combination of the blocks, strips, nuts, and bolts. That triggered his mind to adopt a similar technique to design different class numbers from the same subject concepts to suit individual documents (Indian Statistical Institute 2012) [2]. This idea later brought a paradigm shift in classification theory, practice, and research. He visualized that all knowledge is composed of some basic and discrete concepts (call these building blocks of the universe of knowledge), which could be combined to construct class numbers to specifically suit a document, instead of assigning it a predetermined ready-made sort of pigeonhole class number. Connecting symbols in the form of punctuation marks served as his nuts and bolts to string together discrete concepts. Sayers at once commended the idea of the new technique, but warned him of the labour and patience required for the huge task ahead (Maltby 1975, 191).
Back home in 1925, as the first trained librarian of Madras University, he developed and applied his scheme to that library, and gained long and first-hand experience of its applications and problems, including comments from the library's users. As already stated, CC was first published in 1933.
The second edition (Ranganathan 1939a), was important as it clearly laid down the theory and methods of CC as already published in his magnum opus, the Prolegomena to library classification (Ranganathan 1937). The third edition of CC (Ranganathan 1950) came out when Ranganathan had moved to Delhi University and was in the second phase of his writing career. In Delhi, he attracted a band of young and faithful follower librarians and organized them into a formal group named Library Research Circle; they considerably advanced research in classification, and applied his KO systems and methods in their libraries (Parthasarthy 1952). Colon Classification was widely adopted in Delhi libraries. This led him to delve into his classification theory at a somewhat more abstract level with his colleagues, disciples and students. New advances were published in conference volumes and serials of the Indian Library Association of which he was the president (1944-1953).
After long experience and a constant quest to generalize the various facets, in 1952 he came out with his famous, although debatable, theory of "five and only five fundamental categories" in the universe of knowledge. In the earlier editions, the facets were named variously in different main classes, e.g., problem facet, institution facet, substance facet, etc. (Ranganathan 1939, 1.85-1.151). In the fourth edition (Ranganathan 1952) these were highly generalized by an intuitive process of abstraction, and named as personality, matter, energy, space, and time, famously known as PMEST [3]. It was a masterstroke in generalizing myriads of facets to a few seminal categories [4]. Five is considered as the least number of categories for any bibliographic classification postulated so far. The fifth edition (Ranganathan 1957a) was proposed as two volumes of basic and depth versions, but only the basic version was published. Later Ranganathan realized the non-viability of publishing depth schedules in book form (Indian Statistical Institute 2012).
By the time the sixth edition was published (Ranganathan 1960), CC had reached its pinnacle of glory, exemplified by the International Study Conference on Classification Study and Information Retrieval, held at Dorking, England in 1957, which exclusively discussed his theories with wide approval. The Classification Research Group (CRG, London, formed in 1952) declared its manifesto of faceted classification as the basis of all future information retrieval systems. Ranganathan's philosophy and method of facet analysis achieved wide acceptance, though only a few believed the doctrine of five fundamental categories. The term facet was used differently by different scholars and classification schemes, and it still continues so.
The sixth edition, later issued with amendments (Ranganathan 1963), remains the most popular, used and stable edition. It is the one taught in all Indian library schools. The seventh edition (Ranganathan 1987), which was published posthumously and edited by his long time research assistant, Professor M.A. Gopinath (1940-2013), was considered by many to be confused and inconsistent in structure and notation. On the whole, this edition has been discarded by the Indian library profession (Satija 1990). Nevertheless, it brought many metamorphic changes to aspects such as basic subjects, categories, common isolates, and notation, though to no avail.

References[edit]

  1. ^ GOPINATH (M A). Colon classification: Its theory and practice. Library Herald . 26, 1 - 2; 1987; 1 - 3.
  2. ^ GOPINATH (M A). Colon classification: Its theory and practice. Library Herald . 26, 1 - 2; 1987; 1 - 3.
  • Colon Classification (6th Edition) by Dr. S.R. Ranganathan, published by Ess Ess Publications, Delhi, India
  • Chan, Lois Mai. Cataloging and Classification: An Introduction. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, c1994. ISBN 0-07-010506-5.

External links[edit]