Sunday, 30 August 2020

The Longest Dewey Number in the World

 The Australian and New Zealand Theological Library Association conducts a Virtual Conference in September 2020. In keeping with convention, there is a Pre-Conference Cataloguing Workshop. The Workshop runs uninterrupted for a fortnight on the Association’s e-list, from Thursday the 27th of August to the first morning of the ANZTLA Virtual Conference on Thursday the 10th of September. During Day Two, which looked at the Dewey Decimal Classification scheme, discussion almost inevitably arose about long numbers, the longest Dewey number, and was any of this justified by common sense or common use. 

According to The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences (OEIS), in 2001 the longest known Dewey Decimal number had 23 digits. Here is the sequence: 3,0,1,1,5,4,3,0,1,2,9,1,7,4,9,2,7,0,5,6,9,4. And here is Bob Kann’s entry in the OEIS: "Staff members at Northwestern University Library Cataloging Department have identified what is believed to be the longest Dewey number ever under serious consideration for assignment: a 23-digit monster for ‘Arab Attitudes Toward Israel’ by Yehoshafat Harkabi, 301.1543012917492705694. The meaning of the number can be broken down as follows: 301-Sociology, 1543-Opinions, attitudes, beliefs on specific topics (Add 001-999); 301-Sociology; 29-Historical and geographical treatment (Add "areas"); 174-Region where specific racial, ethnic, national groups predominate (Add from Table 5); 927-Arabs and Maltese; 0-General relations between two countries (Add "areas"); 5694-Palestine, Israel. In other words: Historical and geographical treatment of opinions on countries where Arabs predominate, and their relations with Israel." 

You can read more comment by Bob Kann here:


I am thankful to Google for regurgitating an even longer number than Yehoshafat Harkabi’s book. It is registered on a Canadian Blog called ‘Jen in Transition’, dated 2014.  Leave it up to us Canadians to try to be bigger and better!” Jen exclaims, whether in jubilation or irony, or both, is hard to say, before directing us to The Dewey Blog official announcement, and I quote:

22 February 2006 Exciting tractor-related news

Remember Classification Club? Everyone at the Manor is a life member, of course. And we're all rejoicing this week, as the news of another unfeasibly lengthy Dewey number continues to filter through the halls. Twenty-one digits? That's nothing. We'll see your "Rednecks in motion pictures" and raise you with a "Buhler Versatile Inc. Strike, Winnipeg, Man., 2000-2001." As every serious student of the Canadian tractor industry will appreciate, the best place for works on this subject is -- deep breath -- 331.892829225209712743090511. That's a whopping twenty-seven digits, and a clear contender for the title of Longest. Dewey. Number. EVER! It's one that we mapped the other day to a new subject heading approved by Library and Archives Canada in December 2005. The base number for strikes in extractive, manufacturing, construction industries and occupations is 331.8928. To this we added the numbers following 6 in 629.2252, which is the number for tractors, then T1—09 + T2—712743 for Winnipeg, and finally T1—090511 for 2000–2009 (as per the instructions at T1—093–099 Treatment by specific continents, countries, localities ...).”


Maybe there should be a contest to create the longest legitimate Dewey number, just to see how far over the edge a classifier can go. Is there an upper limit? Or maybe there should be a cap placed on length, with no number longer than say 40 digits. Would that be helpful or only add to the problem? These flights of whimsy are the logical outcome of striving after over-specificity. Such number games, like 27-digit Dewey numbers, lose sight of the purpose of classification numbers, which is to find the book as easily as possible.

During quiet shelfie moments, as we ponder a line of call numbers in proper order in our library, it becomes apparent that short numbers combined with an effective second element system like the Cutter numbers, are visually the best means to finding the needed book quickly. The longer the number the harder it is to distinguish instantly and the longer it takes to shelve. Both titles mentioned here would be found just as quickly with half or even just a quarter of the suggested numbers. We are grateful for classifiers who, in in-publication and digital records, mark the breaks in the subject make-up of the number, thus giving choice to shorten or lengthen the number.

I suppose that cataloguers are as various as the stars, with long numbers of them psychologically and even emotionally needy for length. Such variables operate completely outside the rigid structures of the Rules, the Rules and their extensions but a means for creative play with infinite elaborations of digits. What I am warning about is the certainty that we have not seen the end of long Dewey numbers, and will live to see a number capable of overturning a Canadian tractor. My own instinct when seeing such enormities is to trust to common sense and take short views.

Philip Harvey

Workshop Facilitator

Saturday, 29 August 2020

Union Seminary Classification (Pettee) Today

 The Australia and New Zealand Theological Library Association conducts a Virtual Conference in September 2020. In keeping with convention, there is a Pre-Conference Cataloguing Workshop. The Workshop runs uninterrupted for a fortnight on the Association’s e-list, from Thursday the 27th of August to the first morning of the ANZTLA Virtual Conference on Thursday the 10th of September. On Day Four we looked at the Union Classification (Pettee). Here are my opening words to the online discussion. 

Julia Pettee (1872-1967) was the woman for the job. She responded to the need for a proper classification of the library of Union Theological Seminary in New York by devising an informed and specialist scheme for any theology library. The first edition was published in 1924. Its similarity to LC Classification, also a two-letter and number system, is no accident. Pettee took time off during the creation of the Union system to work at the Library of Congress on its emerging classification scheme, more particularly on Religion. Her wiki declares her immortal words that should be carved in stone at the library door: ‘Throughout her career, she emphasized that "there is no infallible substitute for the good judgement of the cataloger". 

‘Julia Pettee, librarian : the life and work of Julia Pettee (1872-1967)’, by Lennart Pearson, published in 2011, is a valuable addition to your collection. Elizabeth Call wrote an admiring brief history entitled ‘Organizing the Divine’ in 2016:


Union Classification, commonly referred to simply as Pettee, is a product of its time, but then much of what goes on in theology is timeless. Its great strengths are its sophisticated tables for Bible, Patristics, Medieval and Modern Theologians, Systematic Theology, Church History, and Liturgy. She did a sizable job of arranging the literature of the major world religions into some order, given the spread of knowledge about those literatures available at the time in the United States. Obviously too, if what you are classifying is a vast library of mainly Christian literature, then that’s where you start. You start with what you have, not with what is hypothetical. Union Classification continues to operate effectively in many theological libraries worldwide, including a fair number in our part of the world.  


Pettee has no web presence. This is because no formal international editorial authority has operated since the 1980s. There is no website dedicated to updates. The implosion happened in the United States at that time, when college decision-makers were persuaded of the long-term advantages of switching to LC Classification. The advent of automation prompted many to believe that LC would become the universal system for classification, a casual belief taken up more dogmatically by library boards than librarians. Conversion away from Pettee ensued rapidly in North America, while Australia was insulated from the changes abroad. Pettee is a nice thought in New Zealand.


In the absence of an international authority, the cataloguers who maintained some management of Pettee at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia graciously approved ANZTLA’s request to workshop new subject numbers at annual conferences. At these workshops, which continued into the new millennium and were light-heartedly known as Pettee Sessions, ANZTLA cataloguers tabled expansions to their own manuals, discussed the whys and where-puts of new subjects in the field, and generally arrived at agreed changes which were then adopted by all users of the scheme.


Conversion from Pettee in Australia has not been a high priority. This seems to be the case with the larger theological libraries, due as much as anything to the time and costs involved in such a massive undertaking, and for what? The reality about Pettee is quite simply that it is a tailor-made theological classification system, ideal for handling the categories of knowledge that are the stock of Theology. It is the only specialist theology classification of its kind. Where the Dewey 200s (Religion) are spread across ten main subjects, Pettee has 26. It is user-friendly and infinitely more capable of updates than either Dewey or LC.


Union Classification librarians in ANZTLA are invited to make remarks about their current use of the system here in the workshop. I also encourage conversation between Pettee-users, who share a creative and original heritage, both here and outside of ANZTLA conference time.


Philip Harvey

Workshop Facilitator      


Thursday, 27 August 2020

Dewey Decimal Classification Today

 The Australia and New Zealand Theological Library Association conducts a Virtual Conference in September 2020. In keeping with convention, there is a Pre-Conference Cataloguing Workshop. The Workshop runs uninterrupted for a fortnight on the Association’s e-list, from Thursday the 27th of August to the first morning of the ANZTLA Virtual Conference on Thursday the 10th of September. On Day Two we looked at the Dewey Decimal Classification. Here are my opening words to the online discussion. 

Most of us work in libraries with an inherited classification system. This means that if we use Dewey, for example, we also inherit numbers and numbering processes that predate the current electronic WebDewey version.

 Differences in numbering for many books are therefore inevitable because 1) a library has developed ways of using Dewey, including in-house expansions of numbers, that are fixed practice, 2) classifying books by subject means cataloguers will place the emphasis on one main subject rather another, with the result that the same book can justifiably go in different parts of the collection, and 3) the classification numbers inside books and on databases are themselves not always consistent, and even offer a choice. Consistency across libraries is an impossibility, which is why we must acquaint ourselves with in-house practice in our own libraries and keep to the traditions of our own place. It is paramount to be consistent within our own collection. 

This is the case in my own library, where alterations to the standard 200s were done long ago with little thought for the internal logic of the subject arrangement. Added to this, the library has a General Collection and a separate Carmelitana Collection (first element of the call number is capital-C), both using modified Dewey, each with their own special expansions. This is why the numbers are of no earthly use to other cataloguers seeking authoritative Dewey numbers for their own collection; our evolved system is so in-house it is only authoritative within the four walls of that library.    

DDC 23 would seem to be the last print edition, after the editorial staff announced in 2017 that an English print edition would no longer be produced. My guess is that some of us use the latest WebDewey, others consult the much-annotated print version of one of our own Dewey editions, while others work between a print Dewey edition and the sheaves of precious expansions and changes in homemade manuals or computer files. But we still face similar daily issues, which I invite you to talk about here in the Workshop:

1.     Which online sites do you use to make your numbers?

2.     Or do you work from the book, with assistance from whatever online sites are available?

3.     How many numbers are justified after the decimal point before the purpose of the number is lost?

4.     How many libraries have made overhauls of their numbering to keep in line with Dewey changes, e.g. shifting general Religion numbers from the 290s to 200-219?

5.     How far can we justify expansions and alterations to the 200s?

6.     Do you invent new numbers for new subjects, rather than wait for WebDewey to come up with a number? Or must you invent a new number in order to fit the in-house Dewey system that has evolved over time?

7.     Which subjects are currently causing headaches due to lack of an appropriate number?

8.     Do the Schedules’ inherent biases or emphases, reflective of a worldview a century ago, cause problems for you in today’s subject classifying?

9.     Is WebDewey user-friendly? If not, how so?

10.                        Do you ever receive a book that defies classification and where do you number it?   

Philip Harvey

Workshop Facilitator

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Dictionnaire de Spiritualité Ascétique et Mystique (DSAM)

 The Australia and New Zealand Theological Library Association conducts a Virtual Conference in September 2020. In keeping with convention, there is a Pre-Conference Cataloguing Workshop. The Workshop runs uninterrupted for a fortnight on the Association’s e-list, from Thursday the 27th of August to the first morning of the ANZTLA Virtual Conference on Thursday the 10th of September. Day One of the Cataloguing Workshop includes an invitation to share favourite cataloguing reference works. My contribution, as Facilitator, is this posting on the ‘Dictionnaire de Spiritualité Ascétique et Mystique’ (DSAM). 

When specialisation in the subjects of Christian spirituality and mysticism are the main focus of the collection, then changes need to be made in classification to accommodate this vast literature. When the Carmelite Library went in that direction it meant that certain numbers in the Dewey 240s were converted into blocks of major writers by time period. This was necessary where the publication of major spiritual writers in different languages continues at a pace. Only question is, how does the cataloguer decide amongst all of those writers which ones are major?

 We all have in our cataloguing certain reference books that are indispensable, indeed integral, to our daily work. In the Carmelite Library where I work pride of place in this respect goes to the French seventeen-volume work called the ‘Dictionnaire de Spiritualité Ascétique et Mystique’, published by Beauchesne of Paris between 1937 and 1995. One rule of thumb is that if a work arrives by an author who is new to me and who looks significant, possibly major, I check for their entry in the Dictionnaire, always keeping in mind that the entry will be under the French spelling of their name. If the person is there in bold letters, then I must devise a new author call number in the special period section (247.9) of the collection. I like reading the print version because it’s quicker and more expansive, but there is also an online presence:

 This is an example of a cataloguing tool that meets the specific needs of an individual library. You may have similar works that assist directly with the cataloguing and classification of your collection. If so, you are invited to talk about these works here in the Workshop. You have a fortnight in which to show-and-tell your favourite support literature.

 Philip Harvey

Workshop Facilitator



Thursday, 20 August 2020

Rare books 29: The Tangled Web of Purgatory

Two nineteenth century excavations in the troubled history of Purgatory, thoughtfully brought to light by the prolific French Jesuit Marcel Bouix (1806-1889)(Paris, 1883) Notes: Bibliothèque nationale de France Notice n° :  FRBNF30141460 is a scanty record that gives editorship to Bouix and authorship to one J. Munford; the preface calls him Jacques. Title entry has not followed the lengthy presentation on the title page, in fact has just popped in a few main ideas related to the words on that page. Construction, therefore, from the ground up was required for this work on Purgatory. Further research disclosed that Munford is in fact the English Jesuit James Mumford (1606-1666), someone who would have found himself in a not very nice place if he had stayed in his homeland for any length of time. The other half of the book is by the considerably more renowned person known as Saint Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510), something that the BnF has missed entirely. Purgatory remained a burning issue for some through this period, Bouix’s work serving to delineate the doctrinal from the experiential and the populist, and possibly even the geographic. Catherine’s writing, in particular, remains influential to this day, with its emphasis on purgation as a purification rather than a process of torment, albeit temporary. The book is solid text throughout with, disappointingly for this cataloguer, no illustrations.  

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Lockdown Haiku by Clotilde Lopez

In August the Poetry Workshop at the Carmelite Centre practised haiku. Participants produced poems which were then discussed in the group online. Here are haiku by Clotilde Lopez, including two haiku titled ‘On Teaching by Remote’ 


like glitter

invisible to the eye,

it sticks inside


we walk Blind folded



under massive cloaking

pus pressed


stray happenings erupt all around

Who bears this, who

does not



I venture out

On my two legs

The world out there



Not queen, or minx

escapes this corset

Breathe in, breathe out



I heard the wind outside


The light of the paper lantern

chyron’s thick black fonts crosses the

tv screen

Starring statistics lining my thoughts

I switch it off.



A grab of infected leaves, their shadows


pressing their silhouettes

knock three times

at my window



Masked bandits

a curious standoff

no one around

on these empty streets



to finally sit


not poked, or prodded

a season’s respite it seems

while others lay

inside black body bags

Prematurely dead



I am Becoming silent

my words do not approximate

the things I cannot grasp



I do not want to talk

What is inside comes out

a different language



Each one of us

A Deep, Deep well

I barely see you



I trace my lips with my sensitive fingers,

my brows and nose

I open my eyes and see someone else in

the mirror




And then interiors

swell to surfacing, then back down again.

What’s in the basement?


‘On Teaching by Remote’



I have landed.

On some remote planet,

an alien

I thought I knew myself.


‘On Teaching by Remote’



morning Deadline

The work begins

I can barely pick up my pen

And when I do,

I do not stop



Bombarding us with quips of

well-being and


I think of cement where no robust seed lies

even thinks of breaking through

Put away your banner and

Leave me alone



trickles to dawn

the daylight fades

to night

trickles to dawn



Chunks of solace


why am I still hungry?



The hours nevertheless

pull me forward

like a carriage and unwilling horse

I play the notes on the piano

each sequence restoring my capacity to do




Sapped, my thoughts roam


clouds float by

my hand outstretched

I grab an apple and Bite into that sweet

juices filling,

I write a haiku






Lockdown Haiku by Philippa Wetherell

In August the Poetry Workshop at the Carmelite Centre practised haiku. Participants produced poems which were then discussed in the group online. Here are fourteen haiku by Philippa Wetherell, with her opening note. 

“I send this offering of Haiku knowing that I have in no sense perfected this fascinating form, but that in the struggle I have learnt a lot about disciplining language and about aiming at suggestiveness rather than overtly spelling out an idea. I have also become more conscious of focusing on a present moment and noticing small details, so I hope this is reflected in some of the poems.”


                     A lone bird engaged

                     in sustained converse with itself

                     Heard and held though in fog.  


                     Look, a single leaf

                     clinging on to blackened branch

                      sustained by a thread


                     Tiny tiny bubbles

                      purple-green arcs in the sun

                      lost in a breath


                       Four tall straight talking 

                       lemon daffodils gold centred

                        in pink twilight.


                       Swiftly greying sky

                       sudden burst of slanting rain

                        slivers of sunlight


                       Did I smile first

                            or did you?

                        Opening out on approach

                         in all your pink finery.


                          grey moon in outline

                          in dull sky with slivered slice

                          awaiting latent gold


                          Open the door, masked

                          outside a new morning world

                           young and fresh in fog


                         A sociologist said :

                         No certain exit from uncertainty-

                          with soaring numbers, how true.


                          Shadow glimpsed, ghostlike

                          dropping off beans, carrots leeks

                           no touch, no eyes meet.


                           Seniors, old wise ones

                            called to attack the virus

                            by doing ‘nuffin’.


                            Drowning in things, lost

                             submerged, hardly surfacing

                             for breath and freedom


                            Stretched on yoga mat

                            delving deep into philosophy

                             lost in time and tome.


                             No bell tolls the hour

                             but none walks in the blank street

                              in time of curfew.
















Lockdown Haiku by Philip Harvey

In August the Poetry Workshop at the Carmelite Centre practised haiku. Participants produced poems which were then discussed in the group online. Here are the haiku by Philip Harvey. Philip titles this series ‘Seventeen Signs’, seventeen 17-syllable lines using public lockdown signs in italics.


winter sunrise

   play area closed

plane flight a pastime of the past


the working week again breakfast

   take away only

online headlines


woman alone on train alone

   stay home save lives

on her phone alone


morning magpies

   one point five metres apart

peck for nature strip worms


wide blue sky

   thank you for your understanding at this time

 empty road


once quick brown stick went

   click and collect

 in the maw of the jaw-drop dog


carpark vacant grids

   storewide reductions

carpark line ups with symptoms


holdups at the bank

   please wear a face covering

speechless in small groups


chairs stacked lights out

   thank you for dining in with us

 bain-marie deep cleaned


leaves curl in the wind

   follow directional arrows

assemble rest


computer non-stop verbals

   face masks required

its fingertip worlds


highway with nobody

   shop capacity is eight

apartments of one


they glow in the day

   wash your hands regularly

they glow in the night


winter sunset

    sorry we’ve had to close again

night a place to dream


staring at the known world

    for more information visit

 knownworld dot com


curfew etiquette

   keep your distance where you can

you and the gatepost


heavy rain

   your wellbeing is our priority

trees take hits


Thursday, 13 August 2020

Rare books 28: Half a Lifetime


The life of Blessed John Soreth (1394-1471) and translation into French of his Exposition of the Carmelite Rule. (Paris, 1901) Notes: In 1976 the Warden of Trinity College, Evan Burge, invited Bryan Deschamps to be a guest resident where he could continue his studies. As a student at Trinity myself, I remember this large, jolly figure as he strode about the place in his Carmelite robes of brown and cream. Not that I had any idea at the time about the subtle variations of religious attire. Bryan was just one more unlikely eccentric who winds up at Trinity, or so it seemed. In 2018 one of Bryan’s projects found its way into print (Aschendorff of Münster), a commentary on Soreth’s highly influential ‘Expositio paraenetica in Regulam Carmelitarum’. John Soreth was one of those critical reformers within a religious order who changed the nature of that way of life before the big-R Reformation came along and changed everything. This included Soreth’s encouragement of orders of religious women in the time before Teresa of Avila. The astounding donation from the Carmelite sisters includes this rare book, complete with Dulwich Hill stamps, of the French translation of the document Bryan studied over the years, as well as the life of the author by Ubaltero de Terranova. The Bibliothèque nationale de France has not heard of this book and the Library of Congress Name Authorities have never heard of Ubaltero. It is a good day for students of John Soreth.

Sunday, 9 August 2020

‘To Call on His Name : Perspectives on the Jesus Prayer’ by John Gill BOOK REVIEW

 Review by Philip Harvey of a new book received at the Carmelite Library

John Gill is a member of the local Melkite Church in Melbourne. His discovery of Eastern Orthodoxy came while reading the Russian spiritual classic ‘The Way of a Pilgrim’, with its explanations of the Jesus Prayer. John was “surprised to find that there was a dearth of material relating the Jesus Prayer from the East to the prayer traditions of the West,” with one outcome being his book ‘To Call on His Name : Perspectives on the Jesus Prayer’ (Sacristy Press, 2019). The book is about prayer life itself, starting in Scripture and the words of Jesus when asked how do we pray.  

Through the development of hesychastic practice in Orthodoxy, separating oneself from the passions through prayer, vigils, and good works, Gill says the Jesus Prayer, of which it is a part, became “not merely a practice, but rather a complete approach to the whole of Christian life. It can become a way of constant prayer, but “to be efficacious the invocation of the Name of Jesus requires genuine faith.”

This ‘exploratory journey’, as he calls the book, as well as foregrounding what we know of the Jesus Prayer and its evolving use, also takes care to acknowledge what we don’t know. One lively chapter is entitled ‘Precautions and controversies’.

The author makes connections with mantra in Eastern tradition and the influence of meditation techniques in the church through time. This includes, in our age, the related method of centering prayer taught by Benedictine John Main, and others. He traces how Carmelite, Ignatian and other Western prayer traditions focus on the same relationship to Jesus in prayer. The prayer in one of its forms is in the Kyrie of the Mass, while being present in the entire action of the Eucharist.

Perhaps the best place to start reading is the Appendix, a set of suggestions or guidelines for the regular practice of the Jesus Prayer. These appear to have come directly from John Gill’s own personal prayer life, giving insight coincidentally into the nature of the person whose words we are reading. A valuable, sensible and sensitive set of measures, they reveal both who it is who is writing to us, and why he would have been inspired to write such an informative and well-researched work of spirituality.     



Monday, 3 August 2020

Stage Four Restrictions in Melbourne

The Library is NOW CLOSED. Stage Four restrictions in Melbourne mean the temporary suspension of the ‘Request and Collect’ circulation system until at least the middle of September. Please email the librarian at for any updates, communications, or other information. Our policy is hospitality first.