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61st IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 20-25, 1995

Translation and Expansion of Classification Systems in the Arab Countries and Iran

Poori Soltani, Senior Research Librarian, National Library of Iran, Tehran


This paper discusses the necessity for expanding the two most commonly used classification systems: the Library of Congress Classification (LC) and the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC), to meet ver nacular needs. It attempts to provide the historical background of each expansion and translation into Arabic and Persian, with emphasis on expansion and translation in Iran.



This paper concentrates on the two most commonly used classification systems: the Library of Congress Classification (LC) and the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC). It discusses the necessity for their expansion and translation in developing countries. Both LC and DDC, were initially designed for collections in American libraries. Both classification systems were expanded to meet collection growth in these libraries. Naturally, the collections were mainly in the English language and covered Western Hemisphere material. Material in non-Roman scripts was rare in these libraries. Obvio usly, there was little need to pay much attention to literature in non-Roman scripts.

Problems do not occur in all fields. In the fields of sciences, technology and even social sciences, classification is the same everywhere in the world. One may not agree with the hierarchy or the listing of topics in this or that classification, but one cannot say that mathematics in one country differs from mathematics in another country. Even though classification of sciences: pure, appli ed and social is more developed in western countries, developing countries and those with non-Roman scripts have no difficulty in using either LC or DDC to classify sciences. If LC or DDC can meet t he classification needs of enormous

collections of library materials in the western countries, there is no reason why they cannot be equally useful for libraries in other parts of the world. Language barriers will be addressed later. For the time being, the paper concentrates on the concept of classification.

However, deficiencies arise when topics are specifically related to literature, history, language, religion, etc., of individual countries. Libraries in the United States, England, France and Ger many, disregarding some exceptions, do not feel the need for collecting vast holdings in Persian literature or Persian language. But, Iranian literature is the major portion of Iranian library colle ctions. This is also true for non-western languages in other countries: Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, etc. The same problems occur with the history of countries because histories are not treated equa lly. In LC, two letters, E and F are allocated for American history, a history only three hundred year old. The letter D is used for the history of all other countries. DS is used for Asian countr ies: China, India, Japan and Iran, ones with long histories, while E is used only for the United States. It should not be considered a shortcoming of the classification system because the initial o bjectives of DDC, and especially LC, were to meet the needs of American libraries. It is the duty of classifiers in other countries to think about their own problems and adjust classification system s to best meet their needs. Both LC and DDC have envisaged ways and means for expansion. In LC, expansion is by the use of yet unassigned letters. The National Library of Medicine Classification (NLM) in the United States follows this pattern. The letter W, which had not been allocated by LC, was used for medical sciences. Three letters can be assigned, instead of the usual two, to provide sufficient numbers. For example, DS is for the history of all the Asian countries, while DSP can be assigned to the history of Pakistan with 1-9999 numbers for expansion.

In DDC's introduction, instructions are given to add the initial letter of the language or the country for the purpose of expansion, e.g., the letter C for Canadian English literature. Thus, C821 i s for Canadian English poetry, while 821 is for British English poetry.

One thing to bear in mind, is that the main points of the classification should not be disrupted to meet vernacular needs. This is against the universality of librarianship. It even impedes the pr ogress of IFLA's Universal Bibliographic Control and International MARC

(UBCIM) programmes. This also hinders the idea of central cataloguing. If records for material on English and Persian poetry are obtained on MARC tapes, the English poetry number is untouched, onl y the number for Persian poetry is changed. Libraries in one country cannot close their eyes to classification problems in other countries. So if 821, the number for English poetry, is allocated to Chinese poetry, for the sake of expansion and 895.11 remains for English poetry, each time a record is received from an international database the classification number and also the vernacular poetr y number need to be changed. Whereas, if the original allocation is left untouched and only vernacular needs are addressed, a classifier has only to cope with one familiar, and, therefore, easy to s olve aspect. Also, there will not be clashes in notations in international databases. I do not agree with some of DDC's misleading optional notes, e.g., under 821-890 when it says: (Option A: Class in 810 where full instruction appears...). But I agree with the second note that states: "give preferred treatment by placing before 810 through use of a letter or other symbol, e.g., literature of Arabic language 8A0, for which the base number is 8A." Unfortunately, some countries have chosen the first solution because it is ready-made and takes less thinking and care.

The necessity for expansion and revision in most countries is not because more numbers are needed, but mainly because of topics unique to each country. For example, the history notation for a count ry is not applicable to other countries. The numbers assigned for Iranian history, literature, religion, etc., were too limited, and the diversity of topics was not recognized in the original edit ions.


Translation has nothing to do with developing or developed countries. It is a matter of different languages. Obviously, if the classification schedule is in the local language it is easier to use and its application does not require staff language expertise. DDC is translated into about thirty languages, many in use in developed countries. Language barriers necessitate translation. Most countries also expand related sections during the process of translation. This was done in Iran and the Arab countries while translating DDC.

Expansion of DDC in the Arab countries

DDC has been widely used in most Arab countries. The national bibliographies of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan illustrate that DDC is officially used in these countries. The thought of expansion b egan in the second half of the twentieth century.

The language and literature sections were the first to be expanded. During the 1960s, the Arab countries, in order to make materials in Arabic language and literature shelve first, used 410-419 for Arabic language and 810-819 for Arabic literature.

I have no proof that any of these expansions were officially published but expansion appears in the national bibliographies. Unfortunately, none of the Arab countries, except Kuwait and Beirut, ans wered the questionnaire. However, in the recent expansion, which appears in the Arabic translation of the DDC, abridged 11th edition, the allocation of numbers, almost everywhere, is the same as sta ted above. English and American numbers have been given to Arabic language and literature. 031, the number for American encyclopedias, is used for Arabic encyclopedias and 810, the number for Ameri can literature, is used for Arabic literature. The expansion of Islam in the Arab countries also started in the 1960s. The section on Islam in DDC, 16th edition, was not only too short, but also th e arrangement, the relation and the succession of topics were neither logical nor followed the tradition of Islamic classification. So, early in the '60s, expansions were developed in the Arab count ries. In Iraq in 1963, 'Abd al-Karim al-Amin published al-Tasnif wa al-Fahrasa Fi 'Ilm al-Maktabat, a classification for Islam. In Cairo, Egypt in 1970, Dr. Mahmud al-Shaniti published Mujaz al-Tas nif al-'Ashri.

In a recent Kuwait translation of a DDC abridged edition, which will be referred to later, the numbers 210-219 are again used for Islam. Also, in the history section, 956 has been used for Arab his tory. This number in the original edition was assigned for the entire Middle and Near East.

Expansion of DDC in Iran

Although the thought of expanding DDC's different sections on Iran began with the introduction of DDC there, the expansion only started officially late in the 1960's, with the establishment of the T ehran Book Processing Centre (TEBROC). The first expansion, published in 1971, was for Iranian languages. The number for the Persian language in the original DDC was 491.55. When Table 6 was added very long numbers resulted. So, following DDC's instruction, F for Farsi is chosen and stands for "91.55." Thus, 4F0 means Iranian languages. In the introduction to this expansion, librarians hav e been instructed to insert 4F0 before 420. This is according to the instruction explained in DDC's introduction. In the first expanded edition for Persian literature, published in 1972, again 8F0 stands for the original 891.55. Similarly, Iranian language numbers were expanded to meet local needs and provide for their peculiarities.

The expansion of Islamic religion was published in 1975, after a great deal of research and correspondence with many Islamic countries. It is actually a revamping and revision, as well as an expans ion. Traditionally, prior to publication, all expansions and revisions were sent to both the publisher of the DDC and the Editorial Department of the Library of Congress. The establishment of a com mittee of specialists from all the Islamic countries to reach general agreement on the Islam schedule was proposed to the Library of Congress, but was not accepted. Nevertheless, when the revision o f Islam in DDC was completed, as usual, a copy of it was sent to Forest Press and the Editorial Department of the Library of Congress for review and possible approval. On July 216, 1974, Mr. Richard Sealock, Executive Director of Forest Press, replied:

"...We have had some difficulty in reviewing the Classification material sent for the revision and expansion of the Islam Schedule. We had also been studying a proposal in the same field from anoth er country, therefore it was a case of coordinating these, also finding the person who could be of most assistance to us in coordination. We have now had a letter from Editor Custer which, in additi on to the studies made here, leads us to indicate our approval."

Here again the original number, 297, was retained for Islam and the notation was expanded by a decimal digit. A letter was not added to it because Islam is shared among many Islamic countries.

Next, in 1982, the History of Iran was published. 955 was retained from the original version of DDC for Iran and the number was expanded by decimal digits. This again is not a mere expansion, but a complete revision of Iranian history in DDC. Different periods and historic events have been included to meet the needs of public and school libraries, as well as, college, university and mosque l ibraries. DDC classes the history of ancient Iran in 553, but in the revision, the history of Iran: ancient, modern, and even, prehistoric remains in 955 and its divisions.

The area notation for Iran, named Geography of Iran, was produced later in 1983. It solved the problems encountered in following DDC's instructions for use of area notations. Expansion is again do ne by decimal digits. Thus, the original Dewey numbers have not been disrupted in expansion. Any bibliographic database can be used without revising and changing of numbers. Materials written in P ersian have to be originally catalogued and classified anyway, since the Persian/Arabic collection is housed separately from other materials. Besides, records for Persian materials are rarely found in international databases.

Translation of DDC in the Arab countries and Iran

Both Iran and the Arab countries have translated a DDC abridged edition. The Arabic translation, based on the DDC, 10th abridged edition, and the Persian translation, based on the DDC, 12th abridge d edition, were published in 1984 and 1994 respectively. Comparing the two, it is easy to see the differences:

  1. Unlike the Arabic translation, the typographical aspects in the Persian translation remain similar to the original version.

  2. Indentation, which is very meaningful in DDC, has been completely disregarded in the Arabic translation but has been retained in the Persian translation.

  3. The Persian translation contains an English introduction, describing the methodology of the work. The Arabic translation lacks an English introduction.

  4. Unfortunately, many typographical errors exist in the Arabic translation.

  5. Both translations contain expansions of sections relating to each country. In the Persian translation, the full text of the previously published expansions has not been included. The abridged v ersion has been included. The full version has been retained for the translation of the full edition, whenever that happens.

  6. As stated earlier in the expansion, English was not substituted for Persian or Christianity for Islam. 820 remained for English literature and 8F0 for Persian literature.

  7. As the Persian edition is based on the DDC, 12th edition, it also includes the translation of the Manual, located before the second volume's index. Both translations appear in two volumes. Beca use in 1987, a one day conference was held on the Arabic translation, it is not necessary to describe it here.

Expansions related to the Library of Congress Classification

LC is used in Iran in special libraries, most university libraries, and also in the National Library of Iran. Again, the sections on Iran were too limited. The expansion of Islam was published in 1979. It was the result of more than two years' sustained research.

Background, methodology, history and special acknowledgements were included in the introduction. The late Dr. Taheri, its revisor, conducted extensive research on Islam in most Iranian libraries. I n order to adhere to LC's literary warrant, the College of Theology's collection in the Holy City of Mash'had was the basis for the expansion. Dr. Taheri also conducted research on Islam in the outs tanding libraries in Egypt, in Cairo and Beirut and held discussions with scholars in the subject and famous classifiers. The English version of the schedule was also sent to the Library of Congress. Ms. Mary Pietris, Chief of the Subject Cataloguing Division, responded and kindly provided some useful suggestions that were applied. She replied:

"We will not adopt your revision, but will use it as a guide."

The Persian version was published in 1979, just some months after the Islamic Revolution. It has now undergone arduous revision because of experience gained in cataloguing new publications on I slam in the National Library of Iran and advice from some religious libraries. The second edition should be published in late 1995.

The shortcomings in the section on the history of Iran soon became very apparent. Subsequently, after a great deal of research, the section was revised. Every effort was made to provide notations for different events and topics. The first edition appeared in 1980. When the translation was sent to LC for approval, Ms. Pietris, Chief of the Subject Cataloguing Division, responded: "Kamran Fani seems to have done a very thorough job of developing the classification to include many more specific dates and rulers than we have been able to include in DS251-DS336. We will be plea sed to use DSR as a source or authority when it is necessary for us to establish new numbers and topics."

Last, but not least, was the revision of Iranian languages and literature. It had been scheduled for 1978. In 1980, LC was approached for permission to use PIR for the expansion of Iranian language s and literature. But for various reasons, the work did not proceed as planned. The transfer of TEBROC to the National Library stopped it completely, because all efforts were expanded, not only in updating the national bibliography, but also in producing it according to the Unesco Guidelines. The work on the classification of Persian language and literature was resumed in 1990 and the final v ersion was completed in 1992.

This time, only the Persian version was sent to the Library of Congress. An English version was neither prepared nor sent to LC for review and approval. Probably, that is why a response was not re ceived.

The revision of the essential sections on Iran in both the DDC and LC Classifications is almost finished. The section on Islamic philosophy still has to be done. Mr. Kamran Fani, an outstanding sch olar, member of the Research Group, eminent classifier of Iran and the creator of the History of Iran, has been doing some research on the classification of Islamic philosophy, intended for publicat ion in late 1995.

The Translation of the LC Classification

Evidence was not found of any translations of the whole or sections of LC in the Arab countries. Responses to the questionnaire just mentioned that LC is used for Roman alphabet collections and tr anslations were not needed.

In Iran

In Iran, translation of LC was not found absolutely necessary because in university, national and special libraries both classifiers and patrons are familiar with English. However, whenever the con cept of alphabetization is part of the classification, the necessity for translation arises. This happens mainly for the literatures of different countries. It is because the alphabetical order is not the same in English or other Roman alphabets. See the following Alphabet Order:

The Alphabet Order is only on the paper copy.

Because it is necessary in Iran to keep the Persian/Arabic collection separate from all other languages, the translations of non-Persian works are kept with the Persian collection and alphabetized accordingly. The number assigned for Shakespeare cannot be the same as the one assigned by LC, because Sh in the Persian alphabet does not alphabetize in the same place as in English. Names of auth ors, which appear in LC, had to be transcribed and rearranged according to the Persian alphabet. In doing so, general parts of each section were translated. The methodology followed is explained in the introduction. It also contains an English abstract. To describe it here would take too long. In short, in each case basic decisions were made after literature searches. To date, Class PQ: Fr ench Literature, Individual Authors, 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries has been published. PR, PS and the first part of PQ have also been translated, but require further work before being ready for publ ication.