OCLC Research 2010: Classify and WorldCat Genres

As 2010 winds down, we’d like to call attention to some of the things we’ve worked on or created this year. You can see a rundown of highlights here.

I hate those end of year “10 best” lists. For me, each list represents a number of [books, cds, movies, apps, restaurants] that I once again failed to get to in the current year and probably won’t in the next. I also hate being told what I should [read, listen to, watch, play with, eat].

But I love WorldCat Genres, which is a great way to browse and discover fiction (or movies) based on my own tastes and preferences. For example, I love autobiographical fiction, because it’s usually bittersweet and sometimes dishy. Browsing in WorldCat Genres, I can see some newer books that are in this genre that look tempting, as well as some old favorites, and related movies. I like this way of constructing my own lists, based on similarities in the WorldCat data.

And then there’s Classify. Classify is an experimental web service that reveals the classification (Dewey Decimal Classification, Library of Congress Classification, or National Library of Medicine Classification) that has been assigned across a FRBR work set. A good example is a book I’m reading now, Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run. You’ll see, at least for DCC, the classifications mostly adhere to one class number, but also tend to be assigned to two other class numbers.

Additionally, Classify reveals the FAST subject headings for the FRBR work set.

So what?

So this is a person-friendly prototype for what is actually a web service. Imagine farming a portion of your cataloging workflow off to a webservice. If there’s overwhelming agreement on classification (90% of those items that have a class number are all the same), then the class number is assigned automagically. If there’s variance, a human intervenes and makes a decision. There is also an opportunity to use the provided subject terms.

Classify helps to harness the wisdom of the crowds, the decisions of lots of catalogers, as represented in WorldCat.

Another cool tool to put under the Christmas tree.

You can find out more about the Classify project and more about what makes WorldCat Genres tick on our website.

And if you are thirsty for more, you can check out a three-page summary of our accomplishments over the last five years.