KF Modified Origins: Legal Classification by Subject (1)

2Dec2009 at 2:08 pm (History) (, , )

The Group of 5 decided to use the draft of the Library of Congress’s KF Classification for American federal law as the model to classify all common law jurisdictions. They preferred an arrangement that kept resources together in the common law subject areas. As Judy Ginsberg pointed out, this arrangement was “preferable, given the way the library is used in Canadian law schools.”[1] In other words, this decision reflected and supported the practice already at work in Canadian law libraries at the time. And this approach would also end up being the least disruptive when it came time to apply the classification to the existing collections in Canadian law libraries.

In addition to this basic philosophy of grouping resources by subject it was felt that some modifications were necessary to help control certain areas of a library’s collection. The primary modification made in the KF schedule was the addition of ‘Geographic Divisions’, also know as ‘G.D.s’, in selected subject areas. Generally speaking these G.D.s were used where the recognition of separate jurisdictions might be desirable (e.g. particular courts) or where the amount of published materials was expected to be extensive and a further subdivision was seen as a useful tool to refine the arrangement of things on the shelf (e.g. criminal law).

Each jurisdiction has been assigned its own G.D. cutter beginning with ‘Z’. So for example, Canada is ZA2, Ontario ZB3, Australia ZD2, etc. These G.D.s follow the main class number and will bring all of the materials together under the same G.D. For example, criminal law in Canada would be found at KF9220.ZA2 and in Australia at KF9220.ZD2.

You’ll find that most of the subject areas don’t use the G.D. and in these areas you will end up with the normal author/title ordering on the shelves. However, many smaller libraries, collecting mainly common law materials, have been known to apply the GD to subjects throughout the classification scheme. Nothing wrong with that as long as this suits the needs of your particular user group and a consistent policy is in place.

Responding in part to this practice and to requests from the KF Modified community the editorial committee introduced a number of optional G.D.s in 2005. This allowed an ‘official’ use of G.D.s in some additional areas, e.g. mining, copyright, patent law, trademarks, education and national defense/military law.

I’ll take a closer look at the application of G.D.s in some future posts.

[1] Ginsberg, Judy. “A Note on the KF Classification Modified for Use in Canadian Law Libraries” in Law Libraries in Canada (1988), p. 159.


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