need is your user name and password. We [Classification Web's Product Support staff] maintain and update both the software and the data, and can have these changes "in your hands" instantaneously.
Indeed, the Classification Web site is updated with the latest Library of Congress bibliographic, classification, and subject data once a week, eliminating the wait for production and shipment of updated volumes, loose-leaf pages, or CD-ROMs.
Classification Web also offers catalogers a wonderful array of useful features, including:
Classification Web provides a self-paced "Quick Start Tutorial" for users. The eight sections thoroughly introduce the user to the product and its special features. The tutorial is clearly written and thoroughly illustrated by clear screen shots of the functions and features that are described. Because of the number and variety of features found in Classification Web, using the tutorial is essential for those who wish to use it most efficiently and effectively. However, even though the tutorial is thorough, each section is concise, so completing the entire tutorial took me less than one hour.
In addition to the tutorial, an extensive, context-sensitive help system is available from each screen of Classification Web. Like the tutorial, these help pages are thorough and easy to use and understand. Finally, a Classification Web e-mail discussion list exists. The volume of traffic ebbs and flows on this list, but is certainly is not overwhelming. However, Classification Web's Product Support staff is quite responsive to ideas or problems that surface on the list, so subscribing to the list is worthwhile.
The Classification Web menu gives access to the following four functions:
I will briefly discuss each function below.
Nearly all of the classification schedules are available in Classification Web. Because the Classification Web schedules are updated weekly, they are the most up-to-date version of the Library of Congress classification schedules. Users may choose to browse the classification schedules for a specific classification number (for example, KF3775) or they may browse within a specific schedule (K), a specific subclass (KF), or even a specific table (KF6).
Classification Web allows users to choose how to view the results of these classification schedule browse searches. The Enhanced Browser is one of my favorite features of Classification Web. This browser setting automatically combines schedule and table numbers to generate a display of fully calculated classification numbers together with their corresponding captions. Because I set my preferences to automatically use this feature, I no longer use tables to calculate numbers myself — a wonderful time (and aggravation) saver! The one caveat to relying on this feature is that the schedules contain some situations where normal table provisions do not apply (think of those times you have seen a table reference in a paper version of the schedules, followed by the word "modified"). Luckily, the Library of Congress is working to either eliminate some of these exceptions or provide alternative solutions, such as providing full breakdowns directly in the schedules in situations where normal table provisions do not apply. Until these changes are made, however, Classification Web identifies these potentially problematic classification numbers and their captions by displaying them on a yellow background, indicating the need for caution in their use.
The Hierarchy Browser feature displays a linearly-arranged outline of the entire classification schedule being browsed. This display appears in a small frame above the browse result screen. Because each caption in this hierarchical outline is hotlinked, a succession of clicks will display a more specific breakdown of that particular schedule. Because I like to know where I am within a schedule's hierarchy, I set my preferences to automatically show me this information each time I browse the classification schedules.
The second function on Classification Web's menu is the "Classification Search." This feature is the electronic equivalent of the indexes found in paper versions of the schedules, but because of the powerful search options available, it is much more effective. The tutorial provides details of the most effective search strategies to use.
The third function allows one to search or browse the complete Library of Congress subject headings. These headings can be browsed alphabetically or searched, using powerful search options similar to those used in a classification search. Although access to the Library of Congress Subject Headings is important to catalogers, I failed to anticipate this tool's usefulness at the reference desk. One afternoon, a patron explained to the reference librarian that he could not find any information in our catalog on "attorney negligence." The reference librarian asked me what subject heading we would use for this concept, and a quick search for "negligence" in this section of Classification Web told me that "malpractice" is the term to use. Both the reference librarian and patron were happy with this quick and accurate answer.
The final function offered on Classification Web's menu — "Subject Heading and Classification Number Correlations" — is also among my favorite and most frequently used features. One of my pet peeves is OCLC records that do not contain Library of Congress classification numbers. However, assigning classification numbers to these records, as well as original records, is much less time consuming and frustrating when I use Classification Web's correlation function. To find the classification numbers most frequently used with a specific subject heading or subject heading string in the Library of Congress database, I simply enter the heading into the proper field on this screen. A list of possible classification numbers appears, in descending order by frequency of use. The number of bibliographic records that use a classification number is displayed in parentheses following the classification number. The classification numbers are hotlinked to allow the user to go directly to that number in the classification schedules. This correlation feature also works in reverse: to find the subject headings most frequently used with a specific classification number, enter the classification number into the appropriate field on the screen.
As you may have guessed from this article, I like Classification Web very much and highly recommend that other catalogers try it. My only hesitation in recommending Classification Web applies to newer catalogers or cataloging students. Despite the Hierarchy Browser feature, the electronic version of the classification schedules cannot replicate the context one gains from viewing a two-page spread of a classification schedule in print format. Experienced catalogers are familiar with applying classification schedules and using tables realize when they need to "go deeper" into a schedule's or table's hierarchy. For this reason, these catalogers will be able to use Classification Web most effectively with the least investment of time or potential frustration. I realize that I am advocating that cataloging students learn how to use the "tools of our trade" (classification schedules, etc.) in paper format before being introduced to electronic formats, and the irony of this view is not lost on me. Perhaps my many years of experience in academic law libraries, where first year law students are taught how to do legal research by using print resources (reporters, Shepard's, etc.) before being introduced to electronic resources (Lexis, Westlaw, etc.), is beginning to show.
In summary, Classification Web is a sophisticated, user-friendly, and versatile tool that is easy to learn and use. In addition to its immediate applications for cataloging, Classification Web is even useful for performing reference work. I know many of us who participated in the pilot test are anxiously awaiting the announcement of the pricing structure, and hope it is reasonable enough to justify continued access.
1. Library of Congress, Classification Web (visited May 23, 2001) (http://classweb.loc.gov/).
2. E-mail from Cheryl C. Cook, Classification Web Pilot Coordinator, Library of Congress, Cataloging Distribution Service, to Karen Selden, Catalog Librarian, University of Colorado Law Library (Jan. 5, 2001, 16:05:35 EST) (on file with author).
3. Posting of "ClassWeb Support," firstname.lastname@example.org, to "Class Web User Group," email@example.com (Feb. 2, 2001) (copy on file with author).
4. Posting of "ClassWeb Support," firstname.lastname@example.org, to "Class Web User Group," email@example.com (Feb. 13, 2001) (copy on file with author).
5. "Classification schedules BL-BQ, D-DR, G, KL-KWX and KB (except KBR and KBU) have not been approved for distribution by the Library of Congress and are provided for illustrative purposes only." Library of Congress, Classification Web Main Menu (visited May 23, 2001) (http://classweb.loc.gov/Menu/).
6. These situations are particularly prevalent in the H and P schedules. Library of Congress, Classification Web Quick Start Tutorial, Using the Enhanced Browser to Calculate Numbers (visited May 23, 2001) (http://lcweb.loc.gov/catdir/cpso/classwebtutorial/4enhance.html#caution).
7. Library of Congress, Classification Web Quick Start Tutorial, Using the Enhanced Browser to Calculate Numbers (visited May 23, 2001) (http://lcweb.loc.gov/catdir/cpso/classwebtutorial/4enhance.html#caution.