What really was obvious about my futile car-starting attempt was that my efforts didn't work. Sometimes failure to seek out and follow instructions will result in a noticeably different outcome from the one anticipated and desired: The cake doesn't rise. Nothing happens when you flip the switch. Your computer freezes up. But sometimes the incorrectness of an outcome that results from failing to follow directions isn't readily apparent.
Since the assignment of an inappropriate Dewey number doesn't announce itself, starting with a knowledge of the basic rules that govern the DDC is important. A knowledge of the basic rules is all the more important, because, as a general principle, the Dewey tables and schedules do not include instructions/reminders that are considered "standard operating procedure."
A common variant on "if all else fails, read the instructions" is "is all else fails, read the manual." In the case of the DDC, the Manual is not where the basic rules of the DDC are recorded. (The Manual contains notes that are too lengthy to be included in-place in the schedules and tables.) It is in the Introduction that the basic rules of the Dewey Decimal Classification are found. The Introduction is part of volume I of the print DDC 23 and is accessible from every WebDewey screen (indeed, you don’t even have to have a WebDewey subscription in order to access the Introduction from WebDewey or elsewhere).
Over the next little while, we are planning to use the blog to review basic principles that govern use of the DDC. We will consider, for example, the rule of application and the rule of zero; we’ll review the difference between an interdisciplinary number and a comprehensive number; we’ll consider rules that govern the addition of standard subdivisions. If there’s a specific rule or principle you would like to see addressed, please let us know by commenting on this post.