This paper explores the ability to define bibliographic classification systems as socially significant documents in a way that goes beyond their immediate function in the information retrieval process. It does so in dialog with theory on documents and documentality, and knowledge organization theory. Two examples show how development of new classification systems address social and cultural structures in periods of rapid social and cultural change and crisis. The first example discusses the design of a classification system for Swedish public libraries in the late 1910s, and the second addresses the re-formulation of the Holocaust experience in American Jewish library classification practice in the 1950s and 1960s. Results indicate that social significance to classification systems influence the definition their institutional context in relation to wider social issues and movements. The character of this influence suggests research on documentality needs to address the relation between form and content in documents defined as reifications of social acts.

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