The Brammlemuir Library Classification System (BLCS)

This page is an introduction to the Brammlemuir Library Classification System (BLCS) . I have long struggled to find a simple system to classify my books. I wanted one that did not have too high a level of detail, as it is not a large library, had memorable main class codes, was flexible enough to handle the specific "demographics" of the books in my library, and each classification had to have the same number of characters. I have discovered, however, that this is no easy task. After all, the Dewey Decimal system and the Library of Congress system have taken decades to develop rather than days.

Initially, I had a very simple system, involving a class letter followed by a sequence number. For example, a book on transport had the simple class code W.5, which just meant it was the fifth book in the class. This system soon became inadequate, however, and it was at this point that I turned to the Library of Congress (LOC) system. The main reason for this was that, at the time (around the late 1990s) the Library of Congress was the only place with a comprehensive online search, which was also free to use. So, all my books were renumbered in this system. The aforementioned book now bore the code TJ619.P52 L6 1986.

The problem with this system is, as can be seen, the number is rather lengthy for the size of the library, and I have long sought a better system, with a fixed number of say five or six characters. The system I have devised is based upon the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system. This is because of the need to have a system that was largely ready-made, due to the time and the technical abilities required to devise one's own system. I also needed to base it on a system that was a little more tight-knit and more logical, as the DDC system is. Each digit in the DDC number is hierarchical, unlike the LOC, and each subject only has one class number that can be resolved down to whatever level is required. Apart from all this, the numbers are much shorter than their LOC equivalents in most cases, and the DDC numbers can now be searched for online as well.

The BLCS, however, is not exactly the same as DDC, it is merely based on it. First of all, I wanted letters to denote the main and secondary classes, not numbers. I also wanted to be able to expand certain classes to be more specific than others, e.g. the outdoor sports class, which has a high proportion of titles in my library. IN my library, there is a high proportion of books on soccer, which in DDC is denoted by the number 796.334. As I only want a five digit number, this would have meant having the same number for all ball games, as it would only be resolved down to the fifth Dewey number, i.e. 796.33. So, although the system used is that, for most classes, the two-letter code represents the first two digits of the DDC code, for the 790 to 799 classes the two-letter code represents the first three Dewey numbers. In this way, one particular sub class in Dewey is resolved to a greater resolution because my library has a higher proportion of titles in that sub class. This could be done with any other sub classes depending on their demographic within the particular library.

Another advantage of this system is that it is open to flexibility than DDC itself, as there are more than 10 letters available for the main classes and the sub classes and different letters can even be used for sub classes that fall within the same main class in Dewey. For instance, although geography falls within the same main class as history in Dewey, it can be given its own main class letter such as 'G', instead of having to be classed under 'H'.

As mentioned above, the main subject codes have been limited to five characters, which suits the small library and is easily fitted onto the spine of the books. However, expansion is allowed for by the addition of further codes, which provide further information in the index itself and a level of uniquness for different works on the same subject. This is can be done in one of three ways:

  1. A cutter code. This is a very flexible way of adding further information to the classification, requiring no lengthy special tables and is easy to devise.These are most often used for titles or author's names, e.g. HE308;C2 for "Twentieth Century Germany" by Brian Catchpole, where the cutter number denotes the author's name. This method is characterised by a single letter followed by one or more digits in the range 2-9.
  2. Standard subdivisions. Additional information can be added using tables of standard subdivisions, e.g. 09421 denoting area treatment plus area code for Greater London. These notations are prefixed by 'T', so the book The Story of London's Undergoround by John R Day could be classified as ST842; T09421; D2. This method is characterised by the code 'T0' followed by one or more digits in the range 1-9.
  3. Secondary classification. Some titles will have a secondary subject and this is denoted purely by adding that subject classification following the main one. For example, London Railway Atlas has the main class GM421 for a map or atlas of Greater London, followed by the secondary class ST500 for railways. The full code is GM421;ST500;B7. This method is characterised by two letters followed by three digits in the range 0-9.

So, to summarise, the benefits of the system that I have devised are:

The main classes in the BLCS are:

Class Subject
A The arts
B Literature & rhetoric
C Social sciences
E Religion
G Geography & travel
H History & biography
L Language & linguistics
P Philosophy & psychology
R Recreation & performing arts
S Natural sciences
T Technology (Applied sciences)
Y Generalities

Each class is subdivided as follows:

A The arts
AA The arts: general
AB Civic & landscape art
AD Drawing & decorative arts
AF Photography & photographs
AG Graphic arts
AM Music
AP Painting & paintings
AR Architecture
AS Sculpture
B Literature & rhetoric
BA Literature & rhetoric: general
BC Celtic & East Indo-European literatures
BE English & Old English literatures
BF Literature of Romance languages
BG Literatures of Germanic languages
BH Hellenic & classical Greek literatures
BL Italic & Latin literatures
BM American literature in English
BN Literature in native American languages
BP Spanish & Portuguese literatures
BR Italian, Romanian & Rhaeto-Romanic literatures
BS Literature in Semitic languages
BT Literature in Hamitic languages
BU Literature in Ural-Altaic, Dravidian languages
BV Literature in east nad south-east Asian languages
BW Literature in African languages
BX Literature in Austronesian & other languages
E Religion
EA Religion: general
EB Bible
EC Christianity
EH Indic religions
EJ Judaism
EM Islam, Bábism, Bahá'i faith
ET Natural theology
EY Other & comparative religions
EZ Zoroastrianism (Mazdaism, Parseeism)
G Geography & travel
GA Geography & travel : general
GH Historical geography
GM Maps, atlases, charts, plans
H History & geography
HA History & geography: general
HB Biography, genealogy, insignia
HC History of the ancient world
HE History of Europe
HF History of Africa
HN History of North America
HP History of South America
HS History of Asia
HY History of other areas
L Language
LA Language: general
LB Linguistics
LC Celtic & East Indo-European languages *
LE English & Old English
LF Romance languages; French
LG Germanic languages; German
LH Hellenic languages; Classical Greek
LL Italic languages; Latin
LN Native American languages *
LP Spanish; Portuguese *
LR Italian; Romanian; Rhaeto-Romanic
LS Semitic languages *
LT Hamitic languages *
LU Ural-Altaic, Paleosiberian, Dravidian languages *
LV East & South-east Asian languages *
LW African languages *
LX Austronesian & other languages *
LY Other languages
Not yet implemented
N Natural sciences & mathematics
NA Natural sciences & mathemeatics: general
NB Botanical sciences
NC Chemistry & allied sciences
NE Earth sciences
NF Physics
NL Life sciences
NM Mathematics
NP Palaeontology; Palaeozoology
NR Astronomy & allied sciences
NZ Zoological sciences
P Philosophy & psychology
PA Philosophy & psychology: general
PE Ethics
PH Epistemology, causation, humankind
PL Logic
PM Metaphysics
PP Paranormal phenomena
PS Specific philosophical schools
PV Ancient, medieval, Oriental philosophy
PW Modern Western philosophy
PY Psychology
R Recreation & performing arts
RA Recreation & performing arts: general
RC Games of chance
RD Stage presentations; Dance
RF Fishing, hunting & shooting
RG Indoor games & amusements
RK Indoor games of skill
RP Public performances
RQ Equestrian sports & animal racing
RS Athletic & outdoor sports & games
RW Water & air sports
S Social sciences
SA Social sciences: general
SD Education
SE Economics
SF Folklore, customs, etiquette
SG General statistics
SL Law
SM Public administration
SP Political science
SS Social services
ST Transport, communications, commerce
T Technology (Applied sciences)
TA Technology: general
TB Buildings
TC Chemical engineering
TE Engineering & allied operations
TF Manufacturing
TG Agriculture
TH Home economics & family living
TM Medical sciences; Medicine
TS Manufacture for specific purposes
TX Management & auxiliary services
Y Generalities
YA Generalities
YB Bibliography
YE General encyclopaedic works
YJ News media, journalism, publishing
YK Manuscripts & rare books
YL Library & information sciences
YM General organisation & muesology
YS General serials & their indexes
YY General collections

This is very much a "work in progress", and I am working on refining/expanding some of the classes to make them more specific. I am particularly unhappy with the LY class (equivalent to DDC 490-9), which I feel should have several classes of its own, in particular the 491 class, which includes the Celtic languages. I also feel that the computing classes should be more appropriately placed than in the Generalities area, e.g. under Technology and/or Mathematics. This page will be updated as and when I have modified any of the classes.

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© Alex Middleton 2010 (RP-28)

This system is copyright of the author. It may be used for private purposes and, if published in any form, electronic or otherwise, must include an appropriate reference to the source. Any use for public libraries or commercial purposes requries the specific permission of the author. The Dewey Decimal System is the copright of the OCLC.