Saturday, August 26, 2006

WebDewey: Keeping Users Uninformed

I was looking for a Dewey Decimal number to accompany a topic in an article I'm working on, and learned, although perhaps I should have known, that DDC is not available for open access. I wandered around OCLC's Dewey site, and came across the license that controls use of the WebDewey product. Some aspects of it surprised me.

The first was the definition of "Subscriber" in the WebDewey contract: "Subscriber means a library or not-for-profit information agency..." So does this mean that a corporate library cannot get a license to use the DDC? Or is it just that they must work only with the hard copy? What would be the purpose of limiting use to non-profits?

The next is from the grant of license. First, you are granted a license to use WebDewey to create bibliographic records, but "Such bibliographic records and metadata may display DDC numbers, but shall not display DDC captions." This basically eliminates the possibility of creating a rich classified display for a library. I find that it isn't enough to browse the shelf viewing only the classification number and the book titles, since the book titles alone do not reveal what the classification number means. I'd love to have a virtual shelflist that lets me know where I am, topically, and then shows me the titles in that area. But, no, you are not allowed to do that with the Dewey Classification... at least not unless you limit your display to "the DDC22 summaries," that is the first three digits of the Dewey classification number. Since modern topics have necessitated a great lengthening of the Dewey numbers (such as: Disaster relief efforts for earthquakes are classed in 363.3495095982, according to the Dewey Blog), being limited to the three digit topics is nearly useless.

I realize that the DDC is business, but the business of libraries is to inform, to help users find what they need, not to obscure our shelf order. Sheesh!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the blogworld, Karen! Yes, weirdly, Dewey isn't free.

There's a hotel in NY that uses the Dewey system to classify its floors. They have books on each floor arranged by subject. The erotica section is the most popular.

Anyway, to the surprise of many, the hotel was sued a couple of years ago by OCLC for trademark infringement! The suit settled; the hotel gave money to promote reading and it acknowledged OCLC as the official trademark owner.

-Mary Minow

From Dec 1, 2003:

The Online Computer Library Center, Inc. (OCLC) and the Library Hotel, a boutique hotel located near the New York Public Library's iconic Humanities and Social Sciences library, have reached a settlement agreement regarding the hotel's use of the Dewey Decimal Classification system trademarks. In one of the year's odder stories, OCLC filed a trademark infringement complaint against The Library Hotel in September. Under the settlement terms, The Library Hotel will receive permission from OCLC to use the Dewey Decimal Classification trademarks in its hotel and in its marketing materials, acknowledging that OCLC is the owner of the Dewey trademarks.

In return, the Library Hotel will make a financial donation to a non-profit organization that promotes reading by children. Jay Jordan, OCLC President and CEO, said the agreement was a good outcome for both parties. The hotel's owner, Henry Kallan, echoed those thoughts, but remained defiant. "We do not believe that our use of the Dewey system...infringes OCLC's Dewey trademarks," said Kallan, "but acknowledging OCLC's Dewey trademarks and making a charitable contribution to promote reading by children, rather than spending money litigating, seems to be a reasonable way to resolve this matter." News of the suit had librarians buzzing this fall, with many criticizing OCLC. Of course, OCLC attorneys argue, the entire matter could have been resolved more reasonably had Kallan simply dealt with OCLC.