Disability in the Library of Congress Classification scheme – Part 1

The impetus for this blog was that I was cataloging a book, Exile and pride by Eli Clare, and found myself quite dissatisfied with several aspects of the master record.

Leaving aside the misgendering subject headings for the moment, as that’s another post for another day, I spent some time looking at the way LC’s classification scheme treats disabilities and disabled folks.

First, a note about LC’s notion of classes of people: from the subject headings manual H 1100:

classes of persons, including age and sex groups; social, economic, and political categories of persons; types of afflicted persons; members of particular religions; employees and occupational groups; etc. Examples: Youth; Women; Fathers; Poor; Political prisoners; People with mental disabilities; Liver–Cancer–Patients; Catholics; Hare Krishnas; Fire fighters; Judges; Darts players; High technology industries–Employees.

LC treats classes of people from different perspectives: if you’re looking for works on the legal treatment of a particular class, you’ll find that in the Ks, an anthropologic treatment of that class in the Gs, a religious treatment in the Bs, etc.

The H class, being the social sciences, struck me as the natural place for a resource by a disability rights activist, and indeed I found:

Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology–Protection, assistance and relief–Special classes

HV1551-3024 People with disabilities

Notice that people with disabilities is explicitly placed under ‘Protection, assistance and relief–Special classes’, a span from HV697 to HV3024.

By placing people with disabilities here, they are co-located with other classes of people who happen to be in need of ‘Protection, assistance and relief’

A screenshot from the HV classification outline with 'HV697-4959 Protection, assistance and relief ' highlighted in red and 'HV1551-3024 People with disabilities Including blind, deaf, people with physical and mental disabilities' indicated by a red arrow

for instance:

HV1442-1448 Women
HV1449 Gay men. Lesbians
HV3025-3163 Mariners

Each of these areas is designated for that class of person as someone in need not general placement of works about that class of person as a person.

A work on any of the previous three groups as classes themselves not in need of protection could be classed in a number of places, e.g.:

HQ1155 Women. Feminism—History—Modern—21st century
HQ75.25 Sexual minorities—Homosexuality. Lesbianism—General works
HD8039.S4-.S42 Labor. Work. Working class—By industry or trade, A-Z—Seamen.
Sailors. Merchant mariners

People with disabilities have no such other number, they are only classed as a special class of people in need of protection, assistance and relief.

Next: Part 2 – the biography subdivision.

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