Mineral identification numbers for librarians, explained through a short history of Dana's classification scheme
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Many chemistry librarians are likely familiar with chemical identifiers, such as CAS Registry Numbers or InChI strings, that serve as unique IDs for chemicals, which attempts to overcome the challenges in searching the literature, as often a single chemical has many different names. However, less well known and less utilized in literature databases, are unique IDs for minerals, which have similar naming obstacles to chemicals. While there are several classification schemes for minerals, the particular focus of this talk will be on the classification scheme devised by James D. Dana, first published in his book, The System of Mineralogy in 1837. In his lifetime he published 5 editions of this book, and it continued after his death into an 8th edition published in 1997. The system evolved over the decades from a flat scheme, in which each mineral was grouped into families and assigned an integer ID number, into the newer schemes which are hierarchical and the IDs are a series of integers separated with a period. With this arrangement, newly discovered minerals can be more easily slotted in, and established numbers don’t need to be reassigned. It’s also beneficial as the ID can provide information about its mineral families or groups. This presentation will show some example minerals tracked over the course of the classification scheme. Some interesting aspects to examine while looking at how the scheme evolved over time, include tracing mineral discovery, re-classification, and re-naming. On a practical level, knowledge of the schemes can aid in mineral collection maintenance or rescue. Dana numbers are used by collectors, and have been for a long time, therefore older mineral collections could be cataloged, or even arranged by Dana numbers; being aware of what they are, an essential metadata element, is beneficial to that kind of work. Overall the aim of this presentation is to introduce the topic of mineral identifiers to librarians, using chemical identifiers as a launch pad, as they are simply more familiar. Specific focus will be on Dana’s classification scheme, and both modern and historic values of it will be discussed.