To discuss the organization of information and knowledge, we usually start with the epistemology of human knowledge. Epistemology is a branch of philosophy, which studies the nature of human knowledge and the way in which it is acquired. The objectivist epistemology believes in single and knowable truth. The subject is kept distance from the object, and is to study it through observation and reason. The ultimate goal for human experiences is objectivity. There are two streams in objectivist: 1) rationalism, for which knowledge is acquired mainly through reason and logic; 2) empiricism, for which knowledge is acquired mainly through perception and observation. The opposite of objectivist is the poststructural epistemology, which believes in multiple truths which are constantly changing, instead of universal and stable truths. Subject and object are intermingled. Realities are not just passive existence; they are constructed by discourses. What stands in the middle of the objectivist and poststructure is the standpoint view of knowledge, for which there is single and knowable truth. However, human knowledge is defined by the location of the subject. Subjects are situated in different contexts; knowledge differs according to various contexts or environments.
We are in an age of information explosion. Information is created in a continuous and exponential way, and it is the librarians’ role to properly organize and classify it and to make the information packages ready for access and consultation. In North America, information organization in the library setting is usually accomplished by using the Library of Congress Classification (LCC) or Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC).
LCC is highly enumerative. It employs mixed notation of letters and numbers. In the organization system of collections in libraries, LCC deals with a comprehensive range of knowledge system and divides all knowledge into twenty-one classes, each represented by one or two alphabetic letter. All these classes are further divided into various subclasses, which are identified by two or three letters. Further down the hierarchical structure are loosely arranged topics related to the pertinent subclass, sometimes with descriptions on places, time, medium, etc. Those topics together with various descriptions are usually represented by Arabic numbers or combination of letters and numbers. LCC provides detailed treatment of subjects, and is usually adopted by large research and academic libraries presently.
DDC is a purely numerical designation system. It organizes knowledge into ten classes. Each of the ten classes is further divided into ten divisions and each division into ten sections. Different facets of specific subject could also be addressed in this classification scheme by adding subsequent sections. This structure allows DDC to address topics in infinite hierarchical and to represent subjects on narrower area. Presently, DDC is commonly used in public libraries and some small specialized libraries.
Human knowledge relies largely on various epistemologies, and libraries, as knowledge depositories, need to try very hard to address needs from different users. As information classification systems, LCC and DCC have been working very effectively to organize and represent information in libraries. However, continuous efforts need to be made to make both of them more appealing to all library users.
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