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Meccano, molecules and the organization of knowledge: the continuing contribution of S. R. Ranganathan

Vanda, lecturer at SLAIS and ISKOUK Chairperson, provided an account of the origins of faceted classification in the work of the eminent Indian scholar and librarian S. R. Ranganathan in the 1930s and described how its influence persists today. Ranganathan himself derived inspiration for his Colon Classification from Meccano, which he came across in a London toy shop whilst studying at UCL in 1924. Vanda, on the other hand, proposed that the molecular model is perhaps a better representation.

The principles of faceted classification continue to contribute to an increasing degree to knowledge organization frameworks, not only in the Library and Information Science (LIS) domain, but also in the domain of digital information. After presenting examples from several e-commerce Web sites, Vanda went on to demonstrate how simple faceted structures commonly occur in general classification schemes such as the DDC (Dewey Decimal Classification) and LCC (Library of Congress Classification), and of course in UDC (Universal Decimal Classification) which is highly faceted.

Ranganathan's five fundamental categories (PMEST) were extended in the 1970s and 1980s by the Classification Research Group (CRG) to 13, but of the major classification schemes, only the second edition of the Bliss Classification (BC2) makes extensive use of them. However, the understanding of faceted classification and the ways in which it is used, can differ greatly among different communities.

The formal principles work best with science & technology, i.e. the 'hard' disciplines, whereas 'soft disciplines' and other areas of application can be problematic. Vanda concluded with a description of how faceted classification techniques were applied in the FATKS project carried out at UCL {JDoc 63(5), 2007, 727-754}.

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