The role of classification schemes in Internet resource description and discovery
Work Package 3 of Telematics for Research project DESIRE (RE 1004)
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2. Current use of classification schemes in existing search services

2.4. National general schemes

2.4.1. Nederlandse Basisclassificatie (BC)

The Nederlandse Basisclassificatie (Dutch Basic Classification) is a national scheme designed for use within the Shared Cataloguing System of Pica. Pica, the Dutch Centre for Library Automation, is a non-profit organisation providing systems and services for the majority of Dutch academic and public libraries and for a number of library networks in Germany (Die Deutsche Bibliothek, Gemeinsamer Bibliotheksverbund, and Hessisches Bibliotheksinformationssystem). The BC has two objectives: The first is to make shared subject indexing possible by the use of the same classification scheme by all Pica libraries. Secondly, to enable co-ordination of collection development in the different libraries in a project based on the Conspectus system developed by the Research Libraries Group (RLG) in the USA.

The BC consists of 48 main hierarchies grouped in five clusters (General; Humanities; Sciences; Engineering; Social sciences). Usage

The BC is a relatively new scheme, developed in the period 1986-1991, for use in an OPAC.

Circa 200 libraries use Pica's Shared Cataloguing System (GGC), but only 18 of them actually add BC notations to their records. Among those 18 are the most important academic (university) libraries, which means that in fact a very high percentage of the records in the GGC is covered. The BC was translated in German for use by a number of German libraries which adopted the Pica cataloguing system (Facharbeitsgruppe Sacherschliessung 1995).

There is some unofficial use of the BC outside the Pica system. The publisher's database NESTOR uses the BC for recently published books, and it is used by the Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst for the classification of Dutch posters.

Use of the BC in NBW

In NBW (Nederlandse Basisclassificatie Web) <URL:> the BC is used for the classification of Internet resources. NBW is a subject service of quality resources, maintained by the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB) in co-operation with a number of Dutch academic libraries. Each resource is given a simple catalogue entry containing title, URL, descriptive note in English and selection signature (identifying the library and the subject specialist who selected the resource). The descriptions of the resources are searchable via a WAIS-index. The BC notation is added to the record of the resource with the corresponding heading in English and in Dutch so it is possible to search the BC on both English and Dutch BC corresponding headings, while the descriptive notes are only available in English. In NBW the BC serves also as a navigation tool for browsing the descriptions of resources. Multilingual capability

As a numerical notation the BC is not dependent on language. The corresponding headings of the 'original' BC are in Dutch. At the present time translations in English and German are available. Strengths and weaknesses

Division in the BC of the disciplines the DESIRE test-beds focus on:

Art: divided in 2 main hierarchies: art (20) and art forms (21).

Engineering: 9 main hierarchies: technical sciences (50); materials science (51); mechanical engineering (52); electro-technology (53); computer science (54); traffic and transport technology (55); civil engineering (56); mining engineering (57); and process technology (58).

Social Sciences: divided in 14 main hierarchies: social sciences (70); sociology (71); cultural anthropology (73); geography (74); recreation, leisure (76); psychology (77); welfare, social assistance, theory of adult education, personnel management (79); pedagogics (80); education (81); economics (83); business administration and management, organisational science (85); law (86); science of social and public administration (88); political science (89).


Having been developed quite recently the division of disciplines is in accordance with modern developments. For instance, there are separate hierarchies for environmental science and computer science.

Disadvantages Integration between classification scheme and controlled subject headings

The Nederlandse Basisclassificatie is a numeric root-classification. Classification of the main content (on title level) indicates the discipline the subject belongs to. For more specific subject indexing an additional thesaurus was developed, derived from the thesaurus used by the University of Amsterdam. This GTT (GOO Trefwoorden Thesaurus = Shared Thesaurus of Subject Headings) consists of: general subject headings, geographical descriptors, corporations as subject, titles/name of works (of art), form descriptors and genre descriptors. There is no pre-established relation between BC notation and GOO subject heading, a subject heading can be combined with any BC notation. The subject headings form an open system, maintained in the GOO thesaurus, part of the Shared Cataloguing System, with a record for each subject heading. There is a separate thesaurus for names of persons. The classification scheme (BC), subject headings (GTT) and, if applicable, a historical period, together constitute what is called the Gemeenschappelijke Onderwerpsontsluiting (GOO), or Shared Subject Indexing.

The GOO-subject headings, which in Pica are used together with the BC to allow more specific indexing are not used in NBW, because it would present problems to use the subject headings outside the Pica system. For instance it is doubtful whether new subject headings can be added that are not used in the Cataloguing System, but (only) in the Internet environment. Furthermore participation in NBW by non-Pica libraries would pose a problem, because the GTT is incorporated in the Pica system. Instead of using the subject headings the intention is to extend indexing and retrieval facilities of the NBW in other ways, following new developments in indexing on the Internet. Linking to third party classification data

There is no linking to other classification data. Publication in digital form

The online BC-thesaurus is part of the Pica System, with a record for every class. The first printed edition of the BC appeared in 1989, an amended working edition in 1991, and a second edition in 1992.

The Nederlandse Basisclassificatie is also available on the Internet:

Dutch version: <URL:>

English version: <URL:> Copyright issues

The owner of the copyright for the printed edition of the BC is the Stuurgroep GOO (Steering Committee GOO). The BC may be used freely outside the Pica System; no costs are involved. Use of the GOO-thesaurus is much more tied up with participation in the Pica System. For a search of the c. 40,000 subject headings access to the Pica cataloguing system is necessary. Mutations and additions can only be made by Pica participants and are subject to formal approval by the Beheerscommissie GOO (Maintenance Committee). Extensibility and development effort provided by the authoritative body that controls the scheme

Main hierarchies consist of a two digit number, so that classes 00 to 99 are available. Only 48 of them are actually allocated. Subdivisions consist of another two digits, added to the main hierarchy and separated by a dot, so 08 is 'philosophy'; 08.23 is 'renaissance philosophy.' Each main hierarchy can be divided in 100 classes. The number of allocated subclasses is different for every main class.

The used and unused classes are distributed unevenly throughout the scheme. The following main classes are currently in use:

01 general works; 02 science and culture in general; 05 communication science; 06 documentary information; 08 philosophy; 10 humanities 11 theology; 15 history; 17 linguistics, literature 18 languages and literature per language area; 20 art sciences; 21 art forms; 24 theatre and music; 30 exact sciences; 31 mathematics; 33 physics; 35 chemistry; 38 earth sciences; 39 astronomy; 42 biology; 43 environmental science; 44 medicine; 45 veterinary medicine; 48 agricultural science; 49 domestic science; 50 engineering; 51 materials science; 52 mechanical engineering; 53 electrotechnology; 54 computer science; 55 traffic and transport technology; 56 civil engineering; 57 mining engineering; 58 process technology; 70 social sciences; 71 sociology; 73 cultural anthropology; 74 geography; 76 recreation, leisure; 77 psychology; 79 welfare, social assistance, theory of adult education, personnel management; 80 pedagogics; 81 education; 83 economics; 85 business administration and management, organisational science; 86 law; 88 science of social and public administration; 89 political science.

The body that controls the BC is the Beheerscommissie GOO (Maintenance Committee). The last edition of the BC (1992) has been fixed for a period of five years, expiring this year. At this moment proposals for revision may be sent to the Beheerscommissie. These proposals will be developed by committees of subject specialists in a given field.

When new classes are created, the first two positions of the code have to correspond with the German version, with the exception of 15 (history) and 86 (law). A new edition of the BC will follow, this new edition will again be 'definite' (not revisable) for a period of five years.

For NBW subdivisions of classes with to little specificity (e.g. 76.12) are considered, that won't necessarily follow these 'official' developments. Possibilities for conversion

A conversion was developed by Pica for titles that are delivered on tape to Pica by the Library of Congress. The LCC-classification code is automatically translated into a BC notation when the new titles are read into the Pica cataloguing system. Literature on BC

Nederlandse Basisclassificatie (1992),

Facharbeitsgruppe Sacherschliessung (1995)

Nederlandse Basisclassificatie Web (NBW). <URL:>

2.4.2. Sveriges Allmänna Biblioteksförening (SAB) Classification System

This is only a short review of the SAB system, for comparison with the broadly similar BC.

The SAB Classification System was published in 1921 and has been thoroughly modified twice since then, in 1956 and in 1984. The system is alphabetic and built on 25 main classes which are given the letters between A - Y (except W) and the additional Swedish letter Ä. Subdivisions are created through further addition of letters or combinations of letters. Many of the classes that could have been ordered hierarchically have, for various reasons (chiefly to avoid too long notations), been co-ordinated. Some of the classes are organised analogously, e.g. the principle of division for countries is the scheme for Geography (N) which is applied to the classes Archaeology (J), History (K) and Ethnography, Ethnology, Social Anthropology (M). The system has a few auxiliary tables that express different aspects of a subject. Some of these are general, used in many classes, others are specific for each main class. Usage

Projects on the Internet using SAB to classify resources:

Länkskafferiet, the Link Larder <URL:>

This service offers access to 1,022 (in January 1997) quality-assessed Internet resources. The classification is used to organise the browsing structure of the service in accordance with the classification scheme, which is done automatically. The notations are not shown to the user but lie hidden in every record which also contains subject headings. Notations are not searchable but the subject headings are. All main classes are covered but as in other Internet services not all subclasses are represented.

Internetkontakt <URL:>

Single page with links listed after the principles of SAB. Not searchable in any way and subject headings are not used at all. All main classes are covered but are applied at the second level selection very haphazardly and many subclasses in the system are not covered at all.

Systematisk internetkatalog <URL:>

Pages with links listed after the principles of SAB. All main classes are represented but at the second level the choice of resources is made randomly.

Informationskällor ordnade enligt Klassifikationssystem för svenska bibliotek (SAB) <URL:>

A service from Linköpings Universitetsbibliotek listing Internet links by SAB. All main classes are represented, although there are not links to all of them yet.

The latter three services only classify to the second level (i.e. Cj (KRISTENDOM) Christianity) and both show the notations to that level. From there the links are made to the sites. In the Link Larder though, both classification and notations are used as far down the schemes as possible but the notations are never shown to the user, not even on the very first level.

Browsing down the scheme structure takes the user as far as 6 steps along the scheme, e.g. <URL:> (the URL is the only way for the user to see the classification).

None of the three services have included the whole scheme, that is they do not have SAB headings without links behind them.

Usage in traditional library catalogues

The SAB system is used by almost all public libraries and most of the university libraries in Sweden. SAB is especially predominant amongst libraries specialising in the humanities and social sciences. Research libraries in the Engineering area do not use the scheme as much as those subjects are not covered well enough. Strengths and Weaknesses

Disadvantages Linking to third party classification data

There is no linking to other classification data. Publication in digital form

The classification system is not available in digital form but people having access to the Swedish national catalogue for public libraries, BURK, can get to a list with the subject headings. Copyright issues

The company BTJ (Bibliotekstjänst) owns the copyright for the SAB Classification System. Extensibility and development effort provided by the authoritative body that controls the scheme

To find newly added subject headings and other changes in the list there is a page at <URL:> hosted by the Kungl. biblioteket, Sveriges nationalbibliotek in Stockholm. Literature on SAB

Klassifikationssystem för svenska bibliotek, 1984.

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