Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Bliss bibliographic classification

Bliss bibliographic classification

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Bliss bibliographic classification'
Start a new discussion about 'Bliss bibliographic classification'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
The Bliss bibliographic classification (BC) is a library classification
Library classification
A library classification is a system of coding and organizing documents or library materials according to their subject and allocating a call number to that information resource...

 system that was created by Henry E. Bliss
Henry E. Bliss
Henry E. Bliss was the author of a classification system he called Bibliographic Classification which is often abbreviated to BC and is sometimes called Bliss Classification...

 (1870–1955), published in four volumes between 1940 and 1953. Although originally devised in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, it was more commonly adopted by British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 libraries than by American ones. A second edition of the system (BC2) has been developed in Britain since 1977.

Origins of the system


Bliss was born in New York in 1870 and in 1891 began work in the library
Library
In a traditional sense, a library is a large collection of books, and can refer to the place in which the collection is housed. Today, the term can refer to any collection, including digital sources, resources, and services...

 of the College of the City of New York
City College of New York
The City College of the City University of New York is a senior college of the City University of New York , in New York City. It is also the oldest of the City University's twenty-three institutions of higher learning...

 (now City College
City College of New York
The City College of the City University of New York is a senior college of the City University of New York , in New York City. It is also the oldest of the City University's twenty-three institutions of higher learning...

 of the City University of New York
City University of New York
The City University of New York is the public university system of New York City, with its administrative offices in Yorkville in Manhattan. It is the largest urban university in the United States, consisting of 23 institutions: 11 senior colleges, six community colleges, the William E...

).

Bliss had a lifelong interest in the organization, structure and philosophy of knowledge and was very critical of the library classification systems that were available to him. He believed that because the popular Library of Congress system
Library of Congress Classification
The Library of Congress Classification is a system of library classification developed by the Library of Congress. It is used by most research and academic libraries in the U.S. and several other countries; for example, Australia and Taiwan, R.O.C. It is not to be confused with the Library of...

 had been designed for a specific library (the Library of Congress
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

) it had no use as a standard system outside that library. He also greatly disliked the Dewey Decimal system
Dewey Decimal Classification
Dewey Decimal Classification, is a proprietary system of library classification developed by Melvil Dewey in 1876.It has been greatly modified and expanded through 23 major revisions, the most recent in 2011...

.

Bliss wanted a classification system that would provide distinct rules yet still be adaptable to whatever kind of collection a library might have, as different libraries have different needs. His solution was the concept of “alternative location,” in which a particular subject could be put in more than one place, as long as the library made a specific choice and used it consistently.

In 1908 Bliss reclassified 60,000 of his library’s books, and in 1910 he published an article with a rough scheme of his general ideas. But as he continued to develop his system he realized that it was going to be a much larger project than he had anticipated. The first of his four volumes appeared in 1940 (the year he retired) and the last in 1953, two years before his death.

Some of the underlying policies of the BC system were:
  • alternative location
  • brief, concise notation
  • organizing knowledge according to academic expertise
  • subjects moving gradually from topic to topic as they naturally related to one another.

Examples


Bliss deliberately avoided the use of the decimal point
Decimal separator
Different symbols have been and are used for the decimal mark. The choice of symbol for the decimal mark affects the choice of symbol for the thousands separator used in digit grouping. Consequently the latter is treated in this article as well....

 because of his objection to Dewey's
Melvil Dewey
Melville Louis Kossuth Dewey was an American librarian and educator, inventor of the Dewey Decimal system of library classification, and a founder of the Lake Placid Club....

 system. Instead he used capital and lower-case letters, numerals, and every typographical symbol available on his extensive and somewhat eccentric typewriter
Typewriter
A typewriter is a mechanical or electromechanical device with keys that, when pressed, cause characters to be printed on a medium, usually paper. Typically one character is printed per keypress, and the machine prints the characters by making ink impressions of type elements similar to the pieces...

.

In the revised edition (BC2), only capital letters are used, with numerals occasionally used for special purposes. Here is an extract:

HJ        Preventive medicine

. . .

HL        Curative medicine

HLK           Primary care; general practice

HLY           Secondary care, aftercare

Adoption and change


BC was not used by many North American libraries. The system was not without its flaws (the result of being largely a one-person project), and the layout of Bliss’s text was difficult to read. A few library schools sometimes taught the BC system to their students, but only in a minor way. The failure of the system to catch on in North America was partly because of its internal deficiencies but also because the Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress systems were already well established.

The City College library continued to use Bliss’s system until 1967, when it reluctantly switched to the Library of Congress system. It had become too expensive to train new staff members to use BC, and too expensive to maintain in general. Much of the Bliss stacks remain, however, as no-one has recatalogued the books.

The case was different, however, in Britain. BC proved more popular there and also spread to other English-speaking countries. Part of the reason for its success was that libraries in teachers’ colleges
Normal school
A normal school is a school created to train high school graduates to be teachers. Its purpose is to establish teaching standards or norms, hence its name...

 liked the way Bliss had organized the subject areas on teaching and education. By the mid-1950s the system was being used in at least sixty British libraries and in a hundred by the 1970s.

In 1967 the Bliss Classification Association was formed. Its first publication was the Abridged Bliss Classification (ABC), intended for school libraries. In 1977 it began to publish and maintain a much-improved, revised version of Bliss’s system, the Bliss Bibliographic Classification (Second Edition) or BC2. This retains only the broad outlines of Bliss's scheme, replacing most of the detailed notation with a new scheme based on the principles of faceted classification
Faceted classification
A faceted classification system allows the assignment of multiple classifications to an object, enabling the classifications to be ordered in multiple ways, rather than in a single, predetermined, taxonomic order. A facet comprises "clearly defined, mutually exclusive, and collectively exhaustive...

. 15 of approximately 28 volumes of schedules have so far been published.

The top level organisation is:
  • 2/9 - Generalia, Phenomena, Knowledge, Information science & technology
  • A/AL - Philosophy & Logic
  • AM/AX - Mathematics, Probability, Statistics
  • AY/B - General science, Physics
  • C - Chemistry
  • D - Astronomy and earth sciences
    • DG/DY - Earth sciences
  • E/GQ - Biological sciences
  • GR/GZ - Applied biological sciences: agriculture and ecology
  • H - Physical Anthropology, Human biology, Health sciences
  • I - Psychology & Psychiatry
  • J - Education
  • K - Society (includes Social sciences, sociology & social anthropology)
  • L/O - History (including area studies, travel and topography, and biography)
    • LA - Archaeology
  • P - Religion, Occult, Morals and ethics
  • Q - Social welfare & Criminology
  • R - Politics & Public administration
  • S - Law
  • T - Economics & Management of economic enterprises
  • U/V - Technology and useful arts (including household management and services)
  • W - The Arts
    • WV/WX - Music
  • X/Y - Language and literature
  • ZA/ZW - Museology

See also

  • Colon classification
    Colon classification
    Colon classification is a system of library classification developed by S. R. Ranganathan. It was the first ever faceted classification. The first edition was published in 1933. Since then six more editions have been published...

  • Dewey Decimal Classification
    Dewey Decimal Classification
    Dewey Decimal Classification, is a proprietary system of library classification developed by Melvil Dewey in 1876.It has been greatly modified and expanded through 23 major revisions, the most recent in 2011...

  • Library of Congress Classification
    Library of Congress Classification
    The Library of Congress Classification is a system of library classification developed by the Library of Congress. It is used by most research and academic libraries in the U.S. and several other countries; for example, Australia and Taiwan, R.O.C. It is not to be confused with the Library of...

  • Universal Decimal Classification
    Universal Decimal Classification
    The Universal Decimal Classification is a system of library classification developed by the Belgian bibliographers Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine at the end of the 19th century. It is based on the Dewey Decimal Classification, but uses auxiliary signs to indicate various special aspects of a...


External links