Social distribution of knowledge in action: The practical management of classification

Nozomi Ikeya, Wes Sharrock

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


In this paper we attempt to revisit the concept of social distribution of knowledge Alfred Schutz once put forward to be the central concept in sociology of knowledge, operationalising this in the context of practical action. In doing so, we examine how the notion of relevance is deployed as the members' practical concern in the context of librarianship. Thus, this is an attempt to look into activities where members not only operate under auspices of organised stocks of knowledge, but also modify the organisation of those stocks of knowledge as needed in their attempts to accomplish their work. Examination of librarians making books available to users through classification in a university library in the U.K. revealed that their activities involve their management of professional and organisational corpuses of knowledge, in this case, through the medium of classification schemes. Librarians in the university studied were using the "local version" of the DDC (the Dewey Decimal Classification), and were adapting it to the needs of the library service as they saw them. The notion of "relevance" extensively informs their work, two dimensions of relevance being prominent. The librarians understand their work to be responsive to the varying and changing requirements of users, their decisions being shaped to provide what they construe as "what readers want". The other significant relevance we considered is that of aligning the library's classification with the relational features of academic and scientific fields as embedded in documented "subject matters". Thus, relating the stocks of library materials to the current shape of the professional corpus in domains of knowledge so that it stays relevant to collectivity members seems to be central to the community, and what the relevance consists of may vary depending on the community.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRelevance and Irrelevance
Subtitle of host publicationTheories, Factors and Challenges
PublisherDe Gruyter Saur
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9783110472509
ISBN (Print)9783110470185
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Sept 24

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)


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