What is it with these tags?!?

Update: I have greatly simplified my life and I am moving further away from digital tools. More on that later, but know that the tags are removed and we keep only Technology, Humanity, Storytelling, and History. All by author save History that is by year. 

To your right you will see a word cloud entitled Luggage Tags. These are the tags I use to provide paths through the content here. I call it the Dewey-Gibson system. I started it when I decided to catalog my library.

I have moved a lot in my life. Every time we move houses my books are packed up and when we arrive it is a mess to put them on the shelves in some sensible order. Then finding the particular book one might want is also a challenge. So, I did what librarians have done for centuries. I cataloged them. I first put them in LibraryThing, but I’ve since moved to Evernote where I can multi-tag a book even if its primary tag indicates shelf position.

view of the built-in bookcase in David's library
David’s built-in bookcases at Crooked House.

The catalog started with the Dewey Decimal Classification system originally developed in the late nineteenth century by Melvil Dewey. If I had it to do over, I’d probably use the BISAC system as I ran into many of the challenges that has led to some legitimate criticism of the Dewey system. Dewey was, utterly unsurprisingly, a man of his time and place. The system is a bit nationalistic, androcratic, and christianist. I’ve washed some of this out by the variations that make it the Dewey-Gibson Decimal Classification.

First, I cannot justify paying the OCLC for access to the current catalog, so I’ve improvised off the available information. In addition, I immediately found the national pattern to be ridiculous for literature and biography. Is it American literature if the author was born in the United States of America? What if the author has lived in Ireland for all their formative years? What if the author lived most of their adult life in Ireland, but formative in the US? And how does this help us understand anything of interest about the book or make it easier to find on the shelf? So, the Gibson method looks to an objective fact to order the shelving of the artifact and the subsequent indexing of related writing or materials.

Below I have a simplified list to give a sense of what I’ve developed.

  • 000 Information Science (includes computing)
  • 100 Philosophy
  • 200 Religion
  • 300 Social Science
  • 400 Language
  • 500 Discrete Science
  • 600 Technology
  • 700 Arts and Recreation
  • 800 Literature
    • 800.YYYY all works originally published in the year YYYY, shelved alpha by author surname
    • For the shelf, books Before the Common Era are 800.-0400 for 400 BCE.
    • For the catalog, grouping by 800.00 ancient literature, 800.13 for thirteenth century literature
  • 900 History
    • 901 Historiography
    • 909 History Topics
    • 910 Geography and Travel
      • This is organized using Wikipedia lists to number by alpha
      • 910.1 Europe
      • 910.2 US and Canada
        • 910.201 Alabama
        • 910.247 Washington
        • 910.251 District of Columbia
        • 910.262 British Columbia
      • 910.3 LATAM
      • 910.4 Asia-Pacific
      • 910.5 Africa
    • 920.YYYY for all biography or history
      • Autobiography by date of publication.
      • Biography by the date of death or publication if subject was not dead at publication.
      • History by first relevant date addressed in the work.

One Reply to “What is it with these tags?!?”

  1. David Post author

    Revision of my POV. I have done a bit more digging at BISAC. I was looking for a place to file a work that would land either in 100 Philosophy or 200 Religion. In the process, I once again was reminded how ridiculous the whole religion taxonomy is. I may exercise a Gibson-Dewey revision to it. What I noticed, however, is that BISAC also suffers from the desire to categorize history and literature by subject, which creates huge problems. History should be categorized by date. Likewise, I think we do better to categorize literary works by date as well. I could see having some topical cross-tag for finding “all works by minority artists” or something of that nature but shelving by anything other than date does not make sense to me.


What do you think?