Advanced search

Theory and practice in faceted classification schemes

organised by the Bliss Classification Association
and the School of Library Archive and Information Studies, University College London

Impressions of the BC2 course, from a novice classifier

First of all, this 2-day event at UCL was a real treat, not only because it offered a rare chance to see just what this BC2 was about for those of us outside the BCA orbit but also to experience this knowledge gain from a tutor who laid on a thoroughly enjoyable and substantial feast, aided by other practitioners in the field.

The substance of the course led from a swift introduction to the history of, and problems with categorising & classifying knowledge, by way of the use of a small mechanical rabbit and its many possible locations across a range of academic disciplines. As a teaching aid, this was an inspired idea - just the thing to take back for slightly recalcitrant, 1st-year undergraduates wondering why on earth they should be doing a module called ‘Knowledge Representation’.

Meanwhile, the session on faceted schemes per se, and where BC2 fits into the historical development of formal schemes was especially useful for those of us who have only tinkered at the edges of the idea of faceted classification.

Interspersed with the lecture sessions were practical, group-based exercises which started off with the reassuringly straightforward and moved inexorably to the challenging - at least for this attendee.

Challenging also, at this stage, was the idea of schedule inversion but again, the tutor reassured all that the idea would grow and become a matter of no concern at all.

Using BC2 to construct thesauri was very useful and worked well as a ‘prequel’ to Steve Pollitt’s contribution at the last BCA AGM. (We do tell students at Brighton that there’s money in them thar’ thesauri, based on his work. For the more financially ambitious this usually generates an extra sparkle of interest!).

On day 2 of the course, the content worked to satisfy the extra influx of more experienced classifiers, via the later exercises. The practitioner-helpers sat within the groups and provided discreet guidance based on real-life illustrations of classification problems. It is unusual to have the benefit of a group of practitioners on hand in this way and it certainly added to the substance of the course.

This attendee wasn’t, at this stage, the most willing group member because it was hot, it was sticky, she had sustained a bit of an injury and she was feeling a bit like not playing any more. Apologies to the rest of the group, who behaved themselves impeccably.

As a novice in the field, the course was an excellent introduction and should be run at regular intervals. Again, for those new to the scheme, a follow-up course to consolidate the first tranche would be very welcome, not least to provide another chance to be educated in such a pleasant and entertaining manner.

Linda Armitage
School of Information Management
University of Brighton