Peeking inside the Dewey Decimal System's history
September 11, 2012 3:57 PM   Subscribe

[Dewey Decimal Filter] Looking for information about the Dewey Decimal System and its history of revisions. In particular: When and why did Mormonism get moved from Dewey Decimal classification 290 (non-Christian religions) to 289 (other Christian denominations)?

Where can an ordinary citizen (a non-librarian) find info on the history of DDS changes? (The Googles, they didn't help.) Admittedly, peeking into the history of the DDS is pretty arcane, but... it is possible, isn't it? (I'm asking for a friend) Note: Not interested in answers about Mormonism.
posted by exphysicist345 to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
This Dewey ALA newsletter says the The Decimal Classification Editorial Policy Committee met In sept 2010 to discuss the 200's. And apparently in late 2011 the new addition of standards was released and in that, it makes the change.

From my knowledge of LOC procedures. Basically librarians petition for changes in the classification system and then the librarians fight over all this and then towards the end, the committee decides and then publishes the changes that are made in different classifications.
posted by couchdive at 4:45 PM on September 11, 2012

I cannot answer your main question, but for current things DDC, see 025.431: The Dewey Blog. You could email some of the folks on the Dewey Editorial Policy Committee (I think that is their blog) and they could probably point you to an index of their New and Revised Entries newsletters - or other sources that would register these sorts of changes.

If you feel like diving in deep, there are several retrospective histories of DDC - the only one I've ever looked at is Comaromi's The eighteen editions of the Dewey Decimal Classification which is from the 70s.
posted by gyusan at 4:46 PM on September 11, 2012

Best answer: You could also ask the reference desk at the Library of Congress.
posted by mareli at 4:55 PM on September 11, 2012

I'm a cataloger with no time to research this, but I wanted to drop in to suggest a Google search term you might not have tried. I notice you refer to DDS, when catalogers actually refer to it as DDC -- so if you tried DDS and not DDC, you might want to go back and try that in Google. Also, for instance we would refer to the 23rd edition as DDC23 (no space usually). Good luck.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 5:01 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm still searching for a definitive answer, but I can say that the change was made prior to 1972 per the following quote:

"On the other hand, when changed viewpoints and new knowledge required that arrangements be revised, revised they were; e.g. The Latter-Day Saints were transferred from 290 under non-Christian religions to 280 under Christian denominations..."

From the 1972 publication Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science: Volume 7 by Allen Kent, Harold Lancour.
posted by ReginaHart at 6:00 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The  1927 12th edition of Dewey's Decimal Classification and Relative Index classifies Mormonism under 289.3.
The 1922 11th edition assigns it to 298 and also helpfully refers the user to 173.2 (Polygamy).

I didn't read the text of the 1927 edition to see if it includes any commentary on changes, but it may.
posted by ReginaHart at 7:13 PM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I couldn't walk away from this one. According to this the DDC 12 published in 1927 was the edition that changed Mormonism from 298 (other religions) to 289.3.
posted by teleri025 at 7:30 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Three damn minutes late.
posted by teleri025 at 7:36 PM on September 11, 2012

You could ask at the Library of Congress, but they don't use the Dewey Decimal Classification (they use the Library of Congress Classification, conveniently enough), so I'm not sure how much help they'd be for this.
posted by unknowncommand at 9:14 PM on September 11, 2012

Response by poster: Oddly enough, the people in command of the Dewey Decimal System, the honchos who decide what and when to make changes, are a department of.... the Library of Congress!
posted by exphysicist345 at 11:21 PM on September 11, 2012

I do not believe that conclusion is correct. The Editorial Policy Committee is made up of representatives of various library organizations. The owner of the DDC is the OCLC system, a private non-profit. The Library of Congress nominates a member of this committee but does not run it. The Decimal Classification Division of the Library of Congress is simply an office that implements the system and assigns numbers to works that are filed with the LoC.
posted by dhartung at 12:43 AM on September 12, 2012

the honchos who decide what and when to make changes, are a department of.... the Library of Congress!

That is not true. They do determine Library of Congress Subject headings which seem like a similar thing but are, in fact quite different.
posted by jessamyn at 8:09 AM on September 12, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the correction. Not a librarian here, just an ordinary citizen.
posted by exphysicist345 at 10:40 AM on September 12, 2012

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