Garside classification

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The Garside Classification Scheme[1] is a library classification system used in most of the libraries of University College London (UCL). It was devised by Kenneth Garside while he was deputy librarian there.[2] Intellectually, it was based on the close relationship between the library and the teaching departments. The library at UCL rejected the major published classification schemes because "none of them would generally acceptable to the teaching departments without such major modifications as would have destroyed its essential character."[2] Instead, it was modeled around the "subject reading rooms" into which the collection had been divided. The intent was to utilise the expertise of the departments, and their teaching needs in drawing up the divisions within the scheme.

Main outline[edit]

The principles of the scheme were "To provide the optimum arrangement of books in each subject; to permit the revision of the classification to meet a changing academic approach to a subject without disturbing in any way other parts of the scheme; and to provide as simple a shelf mark as possible to help the reader find the book he wants with the minimum mental effort."[3]

In his article The basic principles of the new library classification at University College London[2] Garside set out the generic structure of the system. The library would be divided into subject-based reading rooms such as, in the example nelow, a dedicated space for biology-related materials. These would then be subdivided according to the below table, using alphabetical characters:

A The subject generally
B–W Main sections of the subject
X–Y Subsidiary works studied in conjunction with the main topic
Z Works not properly belonging to the subject but required to be shelved with it

The alphabetical sub-divisions were designed in consultation with the teaching department.[3] These subsections would then be divided by numbers:

1 Bibliographies
2 Reference works
3 Periodicals and series
4 Sources
5 Textbooks
6 Miscellanies
7 Monographs
8 History of the subject
9 Methodology
10 > Special topics

The completed shelf mark would then include the first three letters of the author's surname.


A Biological studies generally
B Ecology and biogeography (including biological control)
C Microbiology
D Physiology and biophysics *
E Biophysics *
F Histology *
G Cytology and cells *
H Genetics, heredity, eugenics (genetic engineering)
J Evolution
* = Basic texts only, use Medical Sciences for all other texts

E.g. Basic Concepts in Population, Quantitative, and Evolutionary Genetics by James F. Crow is shelved at BIOLOGY H 5 CRO.[4]

Subject sequence[edit]

In order to provide for a single subject card catalogue, Garside added a further table to which the top reading room divisions could be mapped.

100 Scholarship generally
200 Philology (language/literature) generally
300 The Arts
400 History
500 Law
600 Social sciences
700 Geography
800 Science (generally)
900 Biological sciences


The scheme is used at UCL. An adapted version is used by the Folklore Society.[3] Garside instituted a similar scheme in his time at Leeds University.[5]


  1. ^ "Garside classification scheme". UCL Library Services. UCL Library Services. 2007. Archived from the original on 2 September 2013. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Garside, Kenneth (1955). "The basic principles of the new library classification at University College London". Journal of Documentation. 10 (4): 169–192. doi:10.1108/eb026207. ISSN 0022-0418.
  3. ^ a b c Bonser, Wilfrid; Garside, Kenneth (1955). "The Classification of the Library of the Folk-Lore Society". Folklore. 66 (2): 267–281. doi:10.1080/0015587x.1955.9717469. JSTOR 1258268.
  4. ^ "Classification scheme -- biology". UCL Library Services. 2004. Archived from the original on 14 December 2004. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  5. ^ John Salter (2008). "Leeds University Library classification scheme". Leeds University Library. Leeds University Library. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 8 December 2010.