CODOC to LC: The Long and Winding Road

This session began with music from The Beatles, The Long and Winding Road. This song was appropriate considering the age of the CODOC classification system for government documents. The University of Western Ontario has nearly finished its core move to switch the CODOC call numbers (including all the labels on the books) to Library of Congress (LC) classification numbers. The scale of the task was shrunk a bit by a thorough weeding beforehand, and voluminous material such as microform and the holdings of several special collections was not changed.
While the CODOC system has a good logical basis in organizing the collection by government department, it still meant another classification system people had to be trained to use. With retirements pending, moving to a standardized system made sense. It also meant the workflow could be rationalized, and it would also lead to better collection management since usage statistics would be derived from a combined collection of government and non-government resources. Books on the same topic, regardless of source, could now be on the shelf together. Less-used material, as determined more accurately over time, would be moved out of the browsing collection and put into storage.
Fortunately, LC classification did not represent a major problem in accommodating government documents. A modified form of LC classification was used that retained the jurisdictional and departmental order of the government documents. In some cases, the use of a code to cover issues like "women’s studies" was an extra benefit since related publications that would otherwise be spread across different departments could be brought together. This type of arrangement that still resembled CODOC would be much more difficult to use with Dewey since Dewey Decimal Classification is tightly linked to subject headings and topical subdivisions.
CODOC originally referred to an entire set of cataloguing rules that covered the descriptive record. These records can be recognized by the exclusive use of capital letters. Most libraries have since moved on to AACR2 records. This means that government documents are integrated with other publications in the catalogue, with only the shelf order being determined by different classification systems.
This session was particularly useful in that it highlighted how standardized cataloguing rules, classification systems, workflow patterns, and usage statistics relate to each other in complex ways. Forecasting how a particular system or change to that system will affect the overall library is a challenge, and it was a pleasure to listen to some seasoned veterans (one of whom had retired just days previously) present this session on CODOC to LC.
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