Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

The Contracting World of Cutter's Expansive Classification

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

The Contracting World of Cutter's Expansive Classification

Article excerpt

At the centenary of Charles Ammi Cutter's death, his Expansive Classification (EC) is still the primary scheme used in four libraries, while twenty-three others continue to maintain some portion of their collections in EC. In this study, fifty-seven libraries in the United States, Canada, and England have been identified as past or present EC users. Dates of their adoption and, if applicable, abandonment of the scheme are provided. Of the libraries where EC is a legacy scheme, the reasons for abandonment were sought, as well as determining the type of classification to which the library had moved to and whether EC was still employed for certain materials, or whether reclassification had been completed. Librarians at the four libraries still using EC as their primary scheme were interviewed about how revisions are made to the schedules and the practicality of remaining an EC institution.

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Library pioneer Charles Ammi Cutter (1837-1903) has cast a long shadow on the field of cataloging and classification. (1) Born in Boston, Massachusetts, March 14, 1837, he graduated from Harvard College in 1855 and from Harvard Divinity School in 1859. While attending the latter institution, he was appointed school librarian. During his time there, he participated in the preparation of a new manuscript catalog of the school's collection, while also undertaking the rearrangement and reclassification of the collection. After graduation, he decided not to be ordained and instead was appointed assistant librarian in the Harvard libraries, where he assisted the head cataloger from 1860 to 1868. His greatest accomplishment while at Harvard was developing a proposal for a new catalog that was to be based on cards rather than printed books. The catalog was to be divided into two sections, an author file and an alphabetically classed file. This project provided the experience for his later work with dictionary catalogs.

In 1868, Cutter was elected librarian of the Boston Athenaeum where he was again confronted with the need to prepare a new library catalog. This was issued in book form between 1874 and 188'2 and represents the first major modern dictionary catalog and, as such, was the first of Cutter's major contributions to library science. In order to prepare this catalog, Cutter wrote his Rules for a Printed Dictionary Catalogue. (2) This publication was incorporated into the United States Bureau of Education's Public Libraries in the United States of America: Their History, Condition, and Management the following year. (3) It was later reissued in three revised editions, the fourth edition of which was made applicable to card as well as printed-book format. The rules include sections on the choice and form of catalog entries, descriptive cataloging, and subject entries. This code, Cutter's second major contribution, has influenced all subsequent modern codes and also served as the basis for development of two major American subject thesauri--the Library, of Congress Subject Headings and the Sear's List of Subject Headings. During his time at the Boston Athenaeum, Cutter developed what was to become his third major contribution, his Expansive Classification (EC), the topic of this paper.

In 1893, Cutter resigned from the Athenaeum to accept a position at the newly founded Forbes Library in Northampton, Massachusetts. In this position, Cutter experimented with his own theories of public library administration and service. He endeavored to create a library that circulated, to the broadest audience possible, not only books, but music and pictures as well. While there, he also developed innovative extension and exchange programs. In addition to these accomplishments, Cutter was the author of numerous articles dealing with library science, the editor of a number of professional journals, and one of the original founders of the American Library Association in 1876. He passed away while on a trip with his wife on September 6, 1903, in Walpole, New Hampshire. …

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