Cataloguing Question: Classification of Collection in K and KF Range Instead of A – JZ and L – Z

All questions and answers will remain anonymous.


“I have had a request from our Reference Department, to classify as much of our collection as possible, in the K and KF range, instead of A-JZ and L-Z. This would make our collection more browser friendly.

I’d like to know how many, if any of you, do something similar, and why or why not?

Thank you for your time and opinions.”


“While it is easy to see that our library is almost exclusively K and KF, that is more because of collection development than it is from recataloging. We have 10 staffed libraries and one of them wanted nothing outside of K-KFZ in the main Stacks area — it all had to be in the Reference section if it was outside that range. For the rest of the libraries it was solved by putting A-JZ before the K section and L-Z after the KFZ. This way it still browses correctly and I can more easily enforce that all 10 libraries use the same call number for the same title. I’ve had a few requests over the years to recatalog some items into KF, but I’ve resisted unless there was some possible sense to do it.”


“We did this at a library I once worked in. We called it “forcing the K.” I remember classifying a medical dictionary in KF 156–disturbing! I suppose it worked okay. Because you have to sometimes really “twist” the numbers to make them work, it’s a good idea to document every informal policy you develop.”

“As an example–if you “force the K” on works about drug abuse, you’ll need to decide whether they fit in best with the KF 3885’s or the KF 9452’s. If you make up some criteria for where to fit them–document it. That way you’ll likely be more consistent otherwise you’re not helping the patrons at all, really.”
” I have worked in libraries that did force almost everything into K – KF.
They always made an exception for the reference collection, which would include directories, dictionaries etc. Often they put materials in reference just so it would have the LC number.

In another case where there was a healthcare practice, they also properly classed medical materials.
Currently I keep everything as close to LC as possible. There are standards for a reason and it takes far more man hours to maintain a customized class system.

As mentioned before the biggest problem is documenting the revised classification.
I once worked for a firm where other office libraries used a home grown class system and it was extremely time consuming to work on their collection.

A law firm library is quite different than a university library, but the principle remains the same. A cataloger trained in LC only has to learn local cuttering practices.

We also have libraries in other countries that benefit from the LC standard.”


“… [Our] Library is not a large, research collection. Rather it is a practice-oriented collection, and as such, probably operates much more like a law firm library. The preponderance of our users are self-represented litigants, so they do not have that much familiarity with law, legal topics or law libraries in general.

We use the non-KF LC classification numbers sparingly for reasons elaborated below by Jason Eiseman. Unless we have a collection of non-KF titles that is significantly large enough to merit it, most items are forced into KF for the ease, convenience and browsability of our patrons, most of whom do not use the OPAC.

I think the decision about doing this depends mostly on: 1) the size of your collection, 2) the composition of the collection, and 3) the needs of the user population”


“I recommend for academic law libraries to “force” with caution. Another word for forcing, is “deviating” from LC practice. This means, if you have copy catalogers on your staff, they must constantly be on watch for any editions… that they must not accept the DLC/DLC 050 call number if it’s NOT in the K schedule. That process will slow down your processing time some. I would go slow with a decision to wholesale force all materials into K. You’ll be challenged where to put certain topics for which the K schedule is inadequate to handle. Then you’re spending time fussing over how to force things. You may not gain as much advantage on the public service end that they and you may have hoped for….

I force K internally to keep certain sets together, such as the restatements. We do not classify a lot of our collection because they are already pretty organized by themselves (periodicals, state codes, state reports, Nat’l reporter system, Shepards, ALR, CJS, etc.). Everyone knows where they are if they’ve been in the library for 30 minutes and checked out the collection.

Your job as a tech services librarian is to educate the public services staff and administration to the pros and cons of deviating from LC practice. My experience tells me that the more you deviate, the more potential for future problems you’ll have, in whatever form they rear their ugly heads. Example, you force all your ethics materials into KF… later you merge the collections with the main library who was able to secure special funding for a new library wing dedicated to the Center for Applied Ethics. Now, someone has to determine which titles get reclassed, and then those get reclassed, and relabelled. Perhaps your library joins a state-wide consortium and all the databases are combined into a unifed ILS and you have all these K materials that don’t match up with the same titles held by the other libraries.

That kind of thing.

Documenting your deviations may get tricky depending on how you do it. Once begun, you can’t get careless with it, or you’ll have split materials that will need reclassing eventually. More work that you don’t want…. ”


” I think that “forced classing” is ill-advised for all the reasons
mentioned thus far: staff time, documentation, potential necessity of
undoing everything.

There is another reason that it think that such a policy appears to
be helpful, but really doesn’t accomplish what its proponents claim when
one thinks about it. Books are physical objects; they can only go one
place (at least in the 3-dimensional world as we know it today … but,
that’s a thread for another conversation). But really, if you wanted
to take this policy to the extreme, why stop with just forcing into
law? Why don’t we force everything into 1 class? After all, right now
we have titles scattered all over the K schedules and it doesn’t seem to
bother the user. Let’s take taxation, for example. Some would like to
force all of HJ into K somewhere. Well, how is it that we don’t find
it an issue if our patron has a company in Missouri with a plant in
Florida, and does business in Canada and Germany?

Taxation, hmmmmmmmmm
Periodicals: K1-K30 Missouri: KFM State to state comparisons: KF Federal: KF (a different place)
US & Canada: KDZ US & Germany: K
In this example, we have everything in “Law”, and we’ve just sent
the patron to 6 different places! So all of a sudden we’re shocked and
appalled about the inconvenience of HJ? Since all these books on
taxation deal with the US, why not just put them all in KF and called it
a day? It does give a person a pause to wonder why the other 6 places
never seemed to be an issue, doesn’t it?

What your reference folks really want is _*collocation*_ … and
that’s why God created the ability to have multiple subject headings and
a browseable catalog.”

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