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Saturday, 19 February, 2011

Dewey Decimal’s Demise Destined?
(with comments)

Libraries are changing: Who's killing the Dewey decimal system?

 dewey A handful of pioneering suburban libraries are transitioning from the librarian-loved but misunderstood Dewey to the type of organization system used by booksellers. The new layout groups books by subject rather than number, uses signs to highlight contemporary, popular categories, and displays books by their covers.

Critics say the new system is a nightmare for anyone trying to find a specific book that doesn't fit into an obvious category. Supporters counter that the system does what libraries should be doing: encourage people to read more books.

Dewey can be "daunting" for readers and librarians alike, said Audra Caplan, president of the Public Library Association. Numbered systems are time-consuming for staff members to put on shelves and require regular "shelf-reading," in which staff members check to make sure the inventory is ordered correctly. If a book isn't in the right spot, it's basically lost. She said each library has to find the best way to meet its community's needs.

Shown here is Melvil Dewey, the man behind the original system.


Permalink | Posted in Books |

- Reader Comments -

Following are comments in response to this item.
The most recent comment is at the bottom.

  1. By wormpicker. Comment posted 19-Feb-2011 @08:49am:
    What is it, this "libraries" you speak of? What's the URL?
  2. By chazunga. Comment posted 19-Feb-2011 @08:55am:
    "Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance" is a book I've found in several different locations at different libraries.
  3. By L.. Comment posted 19-Feb-2011 @09:06am:
    That one is easy too : fiction. No Dewey number.
  4. By wally the duck. Comment posted 19-Feb-2011 @09:15am:
    If a book isn't in the right spot, it's basically lost.

    A positional system is just wrong in today's world; it's like the computer metaphor of the desktop/file folder/file. Numbered identification is vastly better.
    What those libraries need to do is invent their own numbering system so there is some relationship between the numbers and what they see as the most desirable positioning. They probably don't want to do that work, though.
  5. By concertinist. Comment posted 19-Feb-2011 @09:23am:
    Critics say the new system is a nightmare for anyone trying to find a specific book that doesn't fit into an obvious category.

    Indeed, just go to a Borders or Barnes and Noble and try to find Atlantic by Simon Winchester. It won't even be the same from store to store of the same chain.
  6. By Marian. Comment posted 19-Feb-2011 @11:07am:
    Fie on these upstarts! I'm filing this post under 025.4.
  7. By Wendy!. Comment posted 19-Feb-2011 @11:28am:
    A new Simon Winchester book for me!

    Here's what he would have commented on the big boat post:
    Winchester: I detest the big cruise ships of today, immense Vegas style monstrosities filled with amusements specifically designed—or so it seems—utterly to detach the passenger from the realities of the ocean he is crossing (and to make even more money for the shipowners, of course). One surely goes to sea to experience the sea, it seems to me—and if you are in a gigantic floating play-center, and one that barely moves with the waves, then why not just stay home, and in doing so burn less fuel and pollute the world a little less?

    I've been a Winchester fan since I stumbled upon The Professor and the Madman
  8. By concertinist. Comment posted 19-Feb-2011 @11:30am:
    Marian, the librarian?
  9. By kashmarek. Comment posted 19-Feb-2011 @01:17pm:
    Delicate doggone deliberate demure.
  10. By Andie. Comment posted 19-Feb-2011 @03:44pm:
    The Dewey decimal system shouldn't be a problem now nor was it then. Now we have computers in the libraries. Then we had card catalogs. I don't see the problem with it. Also, there are people to help out if needed.
  11. By Snag. Comment posted 20-Feb-2011 @06:10am:
    Dewey may be an anachronism.

    Just give each book a unique number (Library of Congress), assign 'tags' eg like Flikr, as to topics, authors, current location, etc and let a new, universal, library database locate it.
  12. By chazunga. Comment posted 20-Feb-2011 @07:27am:
    That one is easy too : fiction. No Dewey number.

    The Cleveland Public Library System files it under Biography. It's subtitled "An Inquiry Into Values", by the way, which is probably why it's seldom put in with the Fiction.
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