January 28, 2022

Conference Paper: “UDC in Action” (Universal Decimal Classification)

The following paper (accepted for publication) was posted on the arXiv site last week.


UDC in Action


Richard Smiraglia
School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, USA

Andrea Scharnhorst
Data Archiving and Networked Services, Royal Netherlands Academy of Art and Sciences

Almila Akdag Salah
University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam

Cheng Gao
Dalian, China


via arXiv
This paper has been accepted for delivery at the International UDCC Seminar 2013 


The UDC (Universal Decimal Classification) is not only a classification language with a long history; it also presents a complex cognitive system worthy of the attention of complexity theory. The elements of the UDC: classes, auxiliaries, and operations are combined into symbolic strings, which in essence represent a complex networks of concepts. This network forms a backbone of ordering of knowledge and at the same time allows expression of different perspectives on various products of human knowledge production. In this paper we look at UDC strings derived from the holdings of libraries. In particular we analyse the subject headings of holdings of the university library in Leuven, and an extraction of UDC numbers from the OCLC WorldCat. Comparing those sets with the Master Reference File, we look into the length of strings, the occurrence of different auxiliary signs, and the resulting connections between UDC classes. We apply methods and representations from complexity theory. Mapping out basic statistics on UDC classes as used in libraries from a point of view of complexity theory bears different benefits. Deploying its structure could serve as an overview and basic information for users among the nature and focus of specific collections. A closer view into combined UDC numbers reveals the complex nature of the UDC as an example for a knowledge ordering system, which deserves future exploration from a complexity theoretical perspective.

Direct to Full Text Paper (14 pages; PDF)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.