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Use of the Universal Decimal Classification: A world‐wide survey

Aida Slavic (UDC Consortium Advisory Board, London, UK)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 7 March 2008




The purpose of this paper is to present a general overview with up‐to‐date information on the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC) use worldwide.


The research combined e‐mail interviews with LIS professionals in 208 countries, literature research and information obtained from UDC distributors/publishers (AENOR, BSI, UDC Consortium). The following categorisation of UDC use was offered: A – dominant system; B – used in some kind of libraries only; or C – rarely used.


The paper finds that, of the 208 countries contacted and researched through the literature in 2004‐2006, the UDC was found to be used in 124 (60 per cent) of these. In 34 (28 per cent) of the countries researched (in Europe, Asia and Africa), UDC is the main classification system used across national information networks. In 45 (36 per cent) of the countries it is used in certain kinds of libraries. In the remaining 45 (36 per cent) of the countries it is used rarely, in only a few libraries or information centres.

Research limitations/implications

It was beyond the scope of this research to provide any information regarding the actual number of institutions using UDC in a given country or to give an estimate of the size and number of document collections organised by it. Although a decline in UDC use since the 1980s was reported from a number of countries, it was not possible to measure this accurately.

Practical implications

The interest shown for using UDC in the organisation of digital collections, information exchange and cross domain and cross collection resource discovery depends on accurate knowledge of its actual usage worldwide. This gives a measure of its global importance and verifies its credentials as an indexing standard. This research, which attempted wider and more systematic coverage than previous surveys, should help clarify the status of UDC and its potential use in the networked environment.


The paper provides up‐to‐date information on the presence of the UDC system across countries and languages.



Slavic, A. (2008), "Use of the Universal Decimal Classification: A world‐wide survey", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 64 No. 2, pp. 211-228.



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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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