Dewey for Windows Guide: Records, Searching, and Number Building

Keith V. Trickey (Senior Lecturer, Liverpool Business School)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 1 June 2000




Trickey, K.V. (2000), "Dewey for Windows Guide: Records, Searching, and Number Building", Library Review, Vol. 49 No. 4, pp. 197-206.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

If you were wondering what was going on with Dewey this flurry of publications provide some interesting answers. All works focussed on making the revered classification more readily available to the person who classifies, and this successfully achieved, the user.

This is the second edition of Subject headings for children (SHFC) and continues to carry out the vital job of linking classification to Library of Congress Subject headings (LCSH). We live in a changed world as those once despised headings are now ubiquitous. Any guidance for the small library on how to link topic to number has to be welcome. I was pleased to see that there had been UK input to this volume: the excellent Susi Woodhouse had been involved in the revision process (a mark of quality if one was required). The headings have a clear American orientation (which is to be expected) in terms of delineation of States etc. Unlike Sear’s List this volume does not contain template headings which you can use to build local variants. It would take just a little local initiative to build relevant headings based on the formats given.

Volume 1 is slim and easily to handle which belies the fact that the 179 pages of the volume contain about 20,000 separate headings to make the task of the librarian working with material for children or young people far more secure. Volume 2 provides a keyword index, which allows you to review a term, when both a lead term and a term which occurs in a string, for example:

Actors Actors and actresses Actors and actresses –Fiction Child actors

This allows for a rapid review of the possible contexts in which a selected term can be presented and enables a more informed selection of appropriate subject headings to occur.

There are problems and inconsistencies with this list; I accept them as being a function of the source for the headings rather than poor editorship on the part of Lois Winkel in preparing this volume. Unlike the parent (LCSH) this volume is presented as a straight list of headings rather than attempting to ape a thesaurus in its structure. Some of the headings link to a range of DDC numbers which reflects the subject / discipline approach of Dewey, leaving to the classifier to sort which is the appropriate classification for the item to hand.

I find such lists fascinating because of the range and variety of the terminology used, I offer the following examples:

Human anatomy – Miscellanea 611

Nine (the number) 513.2

Women’s rights – Fiction Fic

The list contains certain foibles, and cannot be up to date ( Lady Di and Frank Sinatra lack dates of death). These limitations accepted, this makes a very useful contribution to the informed use of LCSH for children and young people. These volumes should be working tools for all those involved in using LCSH or in‐house headings in contexts were DDC or Abridged is being used for classification. This will take some of the strain out of formulating appropriate headings for materials.

The Abridged 13 workbook is an immensely practical “how to” guide which can safely be given to a junior (or not so junior) professional or an able assistant to work through to develop a basic understanding and competence in the use of the abridged classification. The opening chapters deal with the origin of the abridged edition, the layout of the volume itself, before moving on to review the process of classification. The chapters then review number building from the classification and the tables.

The text makes a very persuasive argument for the use of the Abridged edition. I cite some of the examples to illustrate what can be done:

  • Ancient Persian coins minted in Asia Minor;

  • Dutch 20th century poetry;

  • Exercises for percussion instruments;

  • Education of blind gifted women;

  • State administration of public welfare; and

  • Canadian elementary school libraries.

In many contexts even this amount of detail is far beyond what is actually required to classify the collection.

This is a very slim volume with 40 pages of text and 31 of answer‐rich appendix, yet manages to provide a very useful – if brief – introduction which is linked to a series of exercises which allow the reader to make the skills and knowledge their own and improve the services they provide for their users. The examples are well thought out, carefully presented and clear answers are provided in the appendix at the end of the volume. The volume is spiral bound, which again makes its use easier. This volume is the answer to many solo librarians who need to use DDC but have not got a clue where to start. It works out far cheaper than a training course, and will remain available to inform others on what to do. Davis, New and Forest Press have done the profession a favour by producing this workbook.

Dewey for Windows guide (DWG) I found more of a challenge: there seemed to be a logic error in producing a book about a CD with a help facility and the lavish provision of sample screens from the disc itself seemed to make matters worse. Was this Forest Press owning up to the CD version being less than perfect – what was going on? When I overcame my prejudices in such matters I started to look more closely at what we had here.

My assumption was that the people who use DDC know and enjoy using it in all its fullness and variety. This is my cat and class lecturer fantasy – when I put my training hat on and reviewed the comments I had been given by course participants and other interested parties over the last ten years I realised that the level of skill in the use of DDC in the UK at least is not that high and many those doing it are not that confident in their level of competence.

This is where this practical spiral bound volume really comes into its own. It walks you through a vast range of DDC activities providing you with a secure instruction set every step of the way. The second sentence of the introduction is an epic of understatement:

It provides additional help in mastering Dewey for Windows so that you may classify productively.

Section 3 on number building contains the details on the more professionally demanding aspects of classification with DDC, allowing you to securely follow the process this allows understanding to develop. You need to know how to do this before you can work with it on screen.

As always in the learning situation the computer works faster than the mind and serves to engender uncertainty rather than enlightenment. Having the steps and screens printed out in front of you allows for keyboard errors to occur and steps to be re‐traced so that learning can occur.

It would be pious to take the professional high ground and claim this item is unnecessary as we can all learn software now. The use of Dewey for Windows assumes a knowledge of both DDC and Windows. A knowledge of Windows is a reasonable expectation, a knowledge of DDC sadly is not. This work plugs a gaping hole by encouraging user of the electronic DDC to hone and build their classification skills while using the classification. Another very useful volume from Forest Press.

The three volumes to hand each make a specific contribution to helping the professional carry out their professional work more easily. If these volumes represent the current thinking at Forest Press then the classification is clearly in good heart, which has to be to the benefit of librarians and that vast audience we serve through the effective use of the Dewey Decimal Classification.

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