You are on page 1of 9

UNIT 6 POSTULATIONAL AND SYSTEMS

APPROACHES

Postulational and Systems


Approaches

Structure
6.0

Objectives

6.1

Introduction

6.2

Subject Representation

6.3

Postulational Approach
6.3.1

Advantages

6.3.2

Application of Postulational Approach

6.3.3

Demonstration in Practical Classification

6.4

Systems Approach

6.4.1

Systems Approach to Fundamental Categories

6.4.2

Practical Implications of Systems Approach

6.5

Summary

6.6

Answers to Self Check Exercises

6.7

Key Words

6.8

References and Further Reading

6.0

OBJECTIVES

This Unit introduces you to the Postulational and Systems Approaches to library
classification. These methods are based on subject analysis and provide systematic
ways to organise a collection in a library. After reading this Unit, you will be able to:

get a clear grasp of the meaning, need and advantage of the postulational
approach;

obtain an insight into the application of the postulational approach to library


classification; and

get a familiarity with the concept of the systems approach and its practical
implications for library classification.

6.1

INTRODUCTION

In Block 2 of this Course, you have been exposed to the General Theory of
Classification, and how the various schemes of library classification like Dewey
Decimal Classification, Universal Decimal Classification, Colon Classification, etc.,
map the Universe of Subjects. This Unit introduces you to the postulational and
systems approaches to library classification. The former, as the name suggests is
based on the General Theory of Classification based on normative, principles
enumerated by Ranganathan. On the other hand, the systems approach is based on
Bertalanffy's "Genial Systems Theory".
This Unit seeks to explain the need and meaning of the postulational approach. It
highlights the advantages and application of the postulational approach to library
classification. In particular, it shows how the method offers a systematic
methodology for the intellectual organisation of knowledge and also serves as a set of
useful guidelines for application in practical classification.
After explaining the postulational approach, this Unit discusses the systems approach
with particular reference to fundamental categories and the practical implications for
library classification.

Application to Library
Classification

6.2

SUBJECT REPRESENTATION

Subject representation is the principal basis on which information systems retrieve


information .The subject or thought content of the document can be represented as
subject heading index term, class numbers, data structures and other kinds of
surrogates. This is to provide access to information in the information system.
This representation of subjects is done by the process of analysis of the subject of
document into its constituent elements and assembling them in a preferred sequence
or order. This process is equivalent to transforming the n-dimensional configuration
of the subject into a linear configuration. In other words, it is the process by which
the dynamic, e multidimensional and multifaceted knowledge as embodied in a
document is s/ represented in a linear sequence. Obviously, this would involve the
arrangement of that elements of each subject belonging to a subject field and all
subjects belonging subject fields among themselves in a sequence helpful to the
majority of users, :, keeping unvarying every immediate neighbourhood relation,
among all the subject while transforming or mapping the n-dimensional configuration
of subjects into a line. He representation is primarily concerned with analyzing,
identifying and representing relation between the components of the subject of a
document.
While Ranganathan's approach to the structuring of subjects is based on what h
postulational approach/method, there was another approach based on the system Both
these approaches are discussed in detail in the succeeding sections. '
Self Check Exercise
l)

What is subject representation?

Note: i) Write your answer in the space given below


ii) Check your answer with the answers given at the end of this Unit.

....

6.3

POSTULATIONAL APPROACH

In arranging books on the shelves of a library, convenience requires that they should
be arranged aloft a linear sequence. As books deal with subjects, it follows that the
physical limitation enforcing a linear arrangement of books enforces also a linear
arrangement of subject But this creates problems since subjects belong to a dynamic,
ever-growing, multi-dimensional, universe. In effect, it would mean that
classification of subjects for arrangement in library amounts to mapping or
transforming the system of points marked out in multidimensional space into a
system of points along a line. That is, the multidimensional space should be mapped
along one-dimensional space, a line for example.
Thus, in library classification, the problem is to choose what should be kept
unvarying in the classification of subjects. The question then is as to which of the
subjects can have its immediate neighbourhood relation kept unvarying in the
mapping, since an indefinitely large immediate neighbourhood relations are possible.
Thus, mapping is an extremely matter.

Different schemes have provided different solutions to this problem. The problem of
mapping has been solved by Ranganathan by means of certain guidelines. This, he
called as postulational approach approach" to library classification, in which a set
of postulates (guidelines) can be for offering an operational methodology in a given
field. While this type of postulational approach was adopted in mathematical studies
and other subjects like philosophy, Ranganathan used the postulations approach very
effectively in library and bibliographical classification. According to him "A
postulate is a statement about which we cannot use either of the epithets

right' or `wrong'. We can only speak of a set of postulates as `helpful or `unhelpful'."


Thus, postulates are certain assumptions, which are helpful in carrying out the
process of classification of documents.

Postulational and Systems


Approaches

The postulational approach in library classification brings objectivity to the study and
practice of this discipline. It puts the study and practice of library classification on a
scientific basis. As a result of this approach, the discipline of classification has
become both easy and interesting. In fact, Ranganathan calls practical classification
based on postulates as "classification without tears". On the other hand, a
classificationist who designs and develops schemes of classification should base his
work on such an approach to avoid pitfalls, This approach also helps a classifier to
avoid the hit-or-miss approach to classification. As a matter of fact, the postulates of
this approach are helpful and useful for a comparison of the efficiency and.
effectiveness of different schemes of classification.

Self Check Exercise


2)

What is postulation approach to library classification?

Note: i) Write your answer in the space given below


ii) Check your answer with the answers given at the end of this Unit.

....

6.3.1

Advantages

Specifically speaking, the application of postulates in content analysis is very useful


for arriving at a helpful order of the resulting ideas. Some of the advantages in
adopting the postulational approach are:

Application of postulates results in a consistent sequence of ideas which


conform to a single recognisable pattern,

Postulates provide a matrix for the analysis of contents of documents and to a


certain degree help mechanise the procedure,

The framework resulting out of this matrix (arrangement of ideas in rows and
columns) provides flexibility to accommodate new concepts without disturbing
the existing structure of subject, i.e., it facilitates intrapolation and extrapolation
of ideas/concepts appropriately, and

Practical classification becomes methodical, bringing in a greater amount of


consistency in classificatory procedure, although different persons may be
involved in the work.

Self Check Exercise


3)

State the four advantages of the postulational approach to library classification.

Note: i) Write your answer in the space given below


ii) Check your answer with the answers given at the end of this Unit.

....

6.3.2

Application of Postulational Approach

Another valuable feature of the postulational approach is that it helps to clear fallacies likely to
occur. In this method, one is not bound by any preconceived metaphysical or other ideas and

Application to Library
Classification

not even by factual experiences. Certain postulates are assumed and all the implications
are worked out. By varying the postulates, one can get different models. In other words,
this approach sets up several models with several systems, of postulates as the basis,
quite unmindful of the models existence or otherwise within the realm of experience or
facts. Then, one can choose the particular model whose postulates are helpful in that
universe. Therefore, Ran an concludes by saying that "classification too will gain in
this efficiency if the postulational method is adopted". Accordingly, in his analyticosynthetic approach to classification, he has listed a number of postulates, some of
which have been discussed in detail in Unit 7 of this Block.
While charting the universe of knowledge, different schemes have followed different
methods and approaches. Ranganathan, on the basis of certain assumptions, i.e.,
postulates, has proceeded step by step to chart the universe of subjects methodically
and scientifically. The following chart shows the process of division of the universe
of subjects.

The process of mapping of the universe of subjects upto Step 2 is similar in all
schemes of library classification. From Step 3, the process of division differs from
scheme to scheme. It is at Step 3 of the process of division that Ranganathan's
postulational approach comes in full play. For example, in determining the various
facets occuring in a Compound Subject, he enumerates five postulates - first facet,
concreteness, facet sequence within a round, facet sequence within the last round,
levels, and level cluster, etc. (See Unit 7, Sec.7.4). He then goes on to enumerate the
various canons, principles which could be made use of in Step 4 for arrangement of
isolates in a helpful sequence. This, led to the exposition of the analyticosynthetic
approach to classification. The postulational approach has, thus, added a new
dimension to the Theory of Classification by providing clarity of thought and action
for pursuing the theory and practice of library classification.
A lucid and exhaustive presentation of the postulates enunciated by Ranganathan can
be found in his magnum opus Prolegomena to Library Classification (Ed.3; 1967)
which is regarded the world over as one of the seminal contributions to the General
Theory of Library Classification.

6.3.3 Demonstration in Practical Classification


The General theory of classification guided by the postulates and principles enables
the classifier to do practical classification easily without any difficulty. Essentially,
practical classification involves the identification of the specific subject embodied in
the document and translating it into the class number. In other words, the process of
translation takes it from natural language into a classificatory language that is, a
language of ordinal numbers.Ranganathan felt that it is convenient to carry out the
translation in eight successive steps and to verify the result in the final step by reverse
translation .These steps are:

Step 0; RAW TITLE: The more or less expressive title of a-document either found
on the title page or provided by the classifier in the case of a fanciful title.
Step 1: EXPRESSIVE TITLE: An expressive title which is also called "full title"
is. one expressing all the facets/aspects of a subject covered in the document.
Step 2: KERNEL TITLE: The title resulting from the expressive title by removing all
the apparatus words and changing each kernel term to its nominative singular
form.
Step 3: ANALYSED TITLE: The title in kernel terms with the respective symbols
denoting

the nature of its manifestation, i.e., each kernel term with the indication of
the fundamental category to which it belongs.

Postulational and Systems


Approaches

Step. 4: TRANSFORMED TITLE: The title resulting from the analysed title by
rearranging the kernel terms on the basis of the postulates and principles
governing their sequence.
Step 5: TITLE STANDARD TERMS: The title derived from the transformed title
by replacing each standard kernel term with its standard term or equivalent
standard term as given in the Scheme for Classification.
Step 6: TITLE IN FOCAL NUMBERS: The title derived from the title in standard
terms by replacing each standard (kernel) term with the basic class number or
isolate number, as the case may be, as given in the schedules of the preferred
scheme for classification.
Step 7: CLASS NUMBER: The ordinal number derived from the title in focal
number by replacing the symbol after each focal number by connecting the
digit appropriate to the succeeding local number as prescribed in the rules of
the preferred scheme for classification.
Step 8: VERIFICATION: The name of the subject arrived from the title at by
translating the class number and checking for its equivalence with the raw/
expressive title
(Note: If the name of the subject arrived at is not equivalent to the raw
title/expressive title of the document concerned, a mistake would have
occurred in one step or. the other while classifying. This should be traced,
rectified and verified again.)
An example of classifying a compound subject:

Self Check Exercise


4)

State the steps involved in the practical classification of documents.

Note: i) Write your answer in the space given below


ii) Check your answer with the answers given at the end of this Unit.

...

Application to Library
Classification

6.4

SYSTEMS APPROACH

While Ranganathan's approach to the structuring of subjects is based 'on the


postulational approach, Foskett (1980) and Heinalata Iyer (1992) individually have
examined systems approach to subject structuring. lyer (1992) argues that
Ranganathan's absolute syntax which provides a structure is based on the
categorisation of concepts and that there are three ways of establishing relationships
among them - cause-effect; probabilistic; and the third and most recent being systems
approach which is concerned with the interaction of the system with the environment.
This method of understanding is an analytico-synthetic one. It looks at the overall
purpose governing the design and functions of a system in order to explain its
behaviour. The systems approach is hierarchic in nature and moves from the
particular to the general and also vice versa. Although synthesis cannot be separated
from analysis and causality, it is different in its approach. The purpose and its
fulfillment are its primary concern. Obviously, then priorities in the fulfillment of its
purpose becomes essential, Thus, the representation of a system according to its
purposes, its environmental constraints, its actors, their objectives, the functions of
the system, and the parts that perform these functions take on a hierarchic form.
A similar line of thinking can be seen in Foskett's ideas derived form Bertalanffy's
General System Theory. The idea of a "system" is, any entity whose characteristics
are identified as the nature of its parts and the relations between them can be seen in
the contribution of Bertalanffy, Kenneth Moulding and Ervin Laszlo. For example, a
bicycle is more than a heap of bits of metal, rubber, plastic and so on; the
relationships set up between these parts transforms the heap into the characteristic
appearance of a bicycle and enables it to perform the characteristic function of
bicycle by converting the rotary motion of the pedals into the horizontal motion of
the bicycle and the passenger along the road. A committee is more than a collection
of single individuals.
Further, a system may also be a constituent part of another system of a higher order
of organisation. Thus, a word is a system of letters organised in a certain way. A
sentence is a system of words organised in a particular sequence, and a paragraph is a
system of sentences. A book is a system of paragraphs and a library is a system of
books. Thus, we have in the real world, which provides the subjects for
documentation, a system of systems in an order of increasing complexity of parts and
relations. Applying this concept to schemes of classification will produce on ordered
system which strongly resembles the scheme produced in outline by Dhalberg.
Foskett, based on his research, believes that there is plenty of evidence to show that
we cover the whole knowledge by relating subject analysis, or classification, to a
general theory of systems.
5)

What is the system approach to library classification?

Note: i) Write your answer in the space given below


ii) Check your answer with the answers given at the end of this Unit.

..

6.4.1 Systems Approach to Fundamental Categories

10

In a general classification for documentation, according to Foskett, any system can be


named as a basic subject, in DRTC terms, because systems also can be analysed by
facet analysis. The system itself, considered as a whole, becomes the Personality. Its
constituent parts and the relations between them become the Matter and Energy,
which Foskett calls Energy A. The relations of the system with its environment are
all processes, which he call Energy B. The other systems in the environment, which
react with' the original system, are agents or, in Ranganathan's own terms, Second
Round Personality of course, one need not accept Ranganathan's terms. But, this has
been done in order to illustrate how appropriately the

systems theory fits the scheme of the greatest contributor to classification since Bliss
and Dewey.
Similarly, Iyer believes that any system can be looked at in terms of parts and
elements. She defines "Personality" in terms of its unique regular and specified
responses to its environment, and these responses involve the properties of an
individual. The properties change or are made to change due to external action in
terms of space and time; hence, the idea of property, action, space and time. The
specific connotations of these embedded categories may he delineated further.

6.4.2

Postulational and Systems


Approaches

Practical Implications of Systems Approach

The question then is: What are the practical implications of the systems approach to
documentary classification? The main purpose of any scheme of classification is to
organise documents in a way that makes sense to specialists in each field. This need
not necessarily be a useful order, since one and the same specialist may approach the
literature differently each time. However, the order arrived at must make sense, i.e.,
the specialist must be able to recognise the basis of the order. In other words, while
specialists look at knowledge from the point of view of their own subject, librarians
and information professionals look at classification from the perspectives of the
whole universe of knowledge. Thus the scheme for documentary classification, must
be more than merely a collection of specialised schemes: this would not be a system
in itself, it would be no more than a heap of unrelated parts.
According to the systems theory, internal relations between the parts are essential if
these parts are to have the organisation of an entity capable of existence as an integral
whole in a particular environment. In our context the environment is the library, its
documents and services. The aim of the librarian in classifying is to reflect and
demonstrate the order and harmony existing in the real world, the universe of nature,
including the world of man.

6.5

SUMMARY

This Unit:
i)

introduces you to the postulational approach highlighting the need and


advantage of adopting this approach to library classification;

ii)

explains the application of this approach which results in a consistent sequence


of ideas that conforms to a single recognisable pattern;

iii) discusses the eight steps involved in practical classification with illustrative
examples; and
iv) highlights the systems approach with particular reference to fundamental
categories and its practical implications for library classification.

6.6

ANSWERS TO SELF CHECK EXERCISES

1) Subject representation is the process by which the subject or thought content of


the document is represented as subject headings, subject index terms, class
numbers and other kinds of surrogates and involves an analysis of the subject of
the document into its constituent elements and assembling them in a preferred
sequence or order. It is equivalent to transforming the n-dimensional
configuration of the subject into a linear configuration.
2) The postulation-d approach to library classification is a method by which a set of
postulates (guidelines, assumptions) can be enumerated for offering an
operational methodology in a given field for classification or mapping of subjects
which are multidimensional into a linear sequence. In other words, postulates are
certain assumptions which are helpful in carrying out the process of
classification. It brings objectivity to the study and puts the study and practice of
library classification on a scientific basis.
3)

The four advantages of the postulational approach to library classification are:


The postulational analysis results in a consistent sequence of ideas
which display these ideas in a recognisable single pattern,
b)
Postulates provide a framework of facets which mechanises the procedure,
a)

11

Application to Library
Classification

c)

This framework permits flexibility of accommodating any new idea


without disturbing the existing structure of the subject, and

d)

Practical classification becomes methodical.

4)

The following steps are involved in practical classification:


a) Raw Title: Identification of the more or less expressive title of a document as
found on the title page or its overflow.
b) Expressive Title: Determination of all the facets/aspects of a subject covered
in the document.
c) Kernel Title: The title resulting from the expressive title by removing all the
apparatus words.
d) Analysed Title: The title in kernel terms with the respective symbols
denoting the nature of its manifestation.
e) Transformed Title: The title resulting from the analysed title by rearranging
the kernel terms on the basis of the postulates and principles governing their
sequence.
f) Title in Standard Terms: The title derived from the transformed title by
replacing each kernel term with its standard or equivalent term as given in
the scheme for classification.
g) Title in Focal Numbers: The title derived from the title standard terms with
the basic class number or isolate number as the case may be.
h) Class Number: Ordinal number derived from the title in focal numbers by
'replacing the symbol after each focal number by the appropriate connecting
digit.
i) Verification: Name of the subject arrived at by translating the class number
and checking for its equivalence to the expressive title.

5)

The systems approach is a` method of subject structuring. It is concerned with


interaction of the system with its environment. The representation of the system
is according to its purposes, its environmental constraints, its actors, their
objectives; functions and the parts that perform these functions, which takes on a
hierarchic form. Applying this concept to schemes of classification will produce
an ordered system. Foskett believes that there is plenty of evidence to show that
one can cover the whole field of knowledge by relating subject analysis or
classification to a General Theory of System.

6.7

12

KEY WORDS

Basic Subject

: Generally means conventional subjects. It is a postulate in


Colon Classification; basic subject, basic class, basic facet
are used synonymously.

Classificationist

: One who designs a scheme for the classification of subjects.

Content Analysis

:Analysing the subject contents of documents' from subject


statements form which the different facets of the subject may
be identified.

Facet

: A group .of isolates obtained on the application of a


characteristic; for example sulphur is an isolate of the
substance facet in chemistry.

Helpful Order

: A logical arrangement of subjects, their facets and isolates


which help the arrangement and display of documents on
shelves in libraries.

Isolate

: A songle idea that can go with any basic subject. Example:


The rice crop is' a isolate facet in agriculture.

Schedules of Classification
Lists of basic classes, their facets, isolates, etc.,
arranged systematically using a symbol.

REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING.

Postulational and Systems


Approaches

Foskett, DJ. (1980). Systems Theory and its Relevance to Documentary Classification.
International Classification. 7, 2-5.
Iyer, Hemalata (1992). Subject Representation and Entropy. International
Classification. 19, 15-18.
Krishan Kumar (1985). Theory of Classification. New Delhi: Micas Publishing
House.Chapter.15.
Ranganathan, S.R. (1965). A Descriptive Account of Colon Classification. Bombay
Publishing House. Chapters D and F.
Ranganathan, S.R. (1962) Elements of Library Classification. 3rd ed. Bombay: Asia
Publishing House. Chapter H.
Ranganathan, S.R. (1967). Prolegomena to Library Classification. 3rd ed. Bangalore:
Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Science. Chapter R.

13