This week I received the following email from the National Library of Australia (NLA) notifying me that from 1 October the NLA will cease adding Dewey classification numbers to the new records they create. See following for a copy of the text. While this is unfortunate, given the state of library budgets and funding I’m not surprised. Actually, I’m always amazed that the NLA and Libraries Australia do as much as they do on the resources at their disposal.

Given the NLA creates approximately 26,000 new catalogue records each year, and that as a legal deposit library these are often the first records created, AND therefore lots of other libraries depend on this work, this change may have a significant impact on many libraries, particularly the smaller libraries lacking in strong in house cataloguing.

So what to do, especially if you’re a smaller library that doesn’t have a copy of Dewey Decimal Classification, DDC 23, or like the National Library of Australia for publications not in their Reference Collection (see following email), you don’t have the staff resources?

On quick work around is to use OCLC very nifty free classification look up service located at Type in the ISBN and you can see what DDC, and if applicable LCC, other libraries are using (See the following screen shot for details). The cataloguers out there no doubt know about this service, but I suspect there are a lots of people working in libraries who don’t know this exists.

If a library anywhere around the world has loaded their holdings into WorldCat, and there is a DDC or LCC call number the record details, it will appear in this service. If they are available from the record, the OCLC Classification look up even gives details of the FAST subject headings and VIAFs. In some circles OCLC is seen as a huge all consuming leviathan, but it is because OCLC is so large and global that these sort of services can exist in the first place. It is also good to see that, as a not-for-profit organisation owned by the world’s libraries, this service is free. Does this make OCLC a candidate for library sainthood?

So, if you’re not aware of the OCLC classify look up, and you work in a library, by the time you’ve read this sentence you have of course already bookmarked



Transcript of the National Library of Australia announcement.

Dear library colleagues

I am emailing to let you know that the NLA has made an operational decision to cease adding Dewey Decimal Classification numbers to new catalogue records created by staff. The change will become effective on 1 October 2016.

Staff will no longer allocate Dewey Classification numbers to the 082 field in originally created monograph catalogue records.  This includes records created for Cataloguing in Publication and International Standard Music Number requests.

The Library ceased using Dewey Decimal numbers to derive call numbers for Library collections in 2010, and no longer has a practical use for the number, which is contained within each catalogue record. The decision to cease allocation followed a review which indicated that creation of the classification number was one of the more time consuming and costly components of original cataloguing, and discontinuing it offers advantages in the use of staff time, cost reduction and overall efficiency.

Each year National Library cataloguers create approximately 26,000 new catalogue records for Australian, overseas and Asian language works.  They are added to the Australian National Bibliographic Database where they are available for reuse.  Making this change to descriptive practice will enable to the NLA to maintain this output with fewer staff numbers.

New works received will continue to be catalogued and records added to the ANBD. Dewey Decimal numbers will still be added to catalogue records for works shelved in the Library’s Reference Collection and for new serial titles.

Questions or comments are welcome, and should be directed to Alex Philp ( or Elizabeth Baillie, Ag. Manager, Standards and Training (


Amelia McKenzie
Assistant Director-General, Collections Management
National Library of Australia


Image credit:  Katelyn Hansen @