Many patrons ask me, “So, this unique classification system – is it easier to use than the Dewey Decimal System?”
I’m always hesitant to answer because it does take time to become accustomed to the system and I haven’t figured out a shortened/summarized version yet. In all honesty, I’m still learning the ins and outs of Borden’s classification system. I don’t want to overwhelm anyone…
The books are shelved by class and sub-class and from there by order of acquisition. This means that books by the same author may or may not be next to each other on the shelf, nor are the books put in alphabetical order by author.
Also, if the acquisition number is 1145, does not mean that it the 1145th book on the shelf in that subclass….Take a look at J6 (which is Fine Arts – Painting & Decoration) – the acquisition numbers are in chronological order, but there are numbers missing. This is because when a books is deaccessioned (taken out of circulation) – its acquisition number is retired forever. For a library that has been around since 1826, there are thousands of books that have been taken from the shelves to make way for other (not necessarily new) books.
So where do these deaccessioned books disappear to? Mostly – to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books (located on the 3rd and 4th floors of the library).
This is the 4th floor cemetery – thousands of books fill the plastic bags. Over the past year or so, the library’s Book Committee has been busy going through all of these forgotten books. They have a specific criteria for which ones will be kept, the ones to be sold at the next book sale, and the ones to be recycled.
The books that will be kept will be put back into circulation. HOPEFULLY – all of these books will still have their book plates, indicating their classification and acquisition codes. Unfortunately, there has been some misunderstanding of the classification system since the 1930s (example: Far Eastern Asian History is currently classified as European History due to WWII). This will undoubtedly create some more confusion.
I will explain the growth intentions of library classification systems and what happened to the Institute Library’s classification system after William Borden left the library in Part III.