“Do We” Really Know Dewey?

By Don

This iThe World of Dewey graphics the way some 5th and 6th grade students at the Nettleton Intermediate Center pose the question. These students created a website about the Dewey Decimal Classification System (DDC) (link to website: “Do We” Really Know Dewey?”) in partnership with Think Quest, the Oracle Educational Foundation.

Prior to doing their research, they asked the question, “Do We” Really Know Dewey?” Their answer was, “We don’t Dewey.” After conducting the research and creating the website, they answered the question this way, “Do we? Dewey? Boy, Do we!” C’mon that’s cute! I found this website while conducting some research of my own regarding the Dewey Decimal System.

During my informal and un-scientific survey, a lot of folks gave me a good answer when I asked them, “What is the Dewey Decimal System?” Some folks even told me what types of information I might find within some of the numeric classifications. Ask yourself, “Do you really know the Dewey?” Go ahead ask yourself.

In the old days when I was an Adult Services Assistant 1, I did not really know the DDC. Oh, I knew the basics, but did not KNOW the system. The Ace up my sleeve was this, when the wonderful staff at our headquarters labored night and day for weeks and weeks creating 35 different job descriptions, none of the line items in those job descriptions said, “Must know and be able to discuss the Dewey Decimal System.” Shhh don’t tell anyone.

Of course, I got away with not knowing the system because even I am smart enough to search for a book on a computer, view the call number of the book and locate the call number on the book in the stacks. I mean really, there are numbers are on the ends of the shelves. That narrows down the search quite a bit. I, however, had to know the rest of the story. I’m made the way. I like to know the why’s and how’s. I question just about everything.

Here is where my story takes a sharp turn, I am now the Training Administrator for the library system and one of my initial directives is to make certain all the staff knows the Dewey Decimal System, among numerous other things. I am happy that I am the type of person that has to know the why’s and how’s about stuff. During my years at the Reference desk, researching and answering all the questions that patrons ask about every subject imaginable and some that are difficult to imagine, I learned (some things) about the Dewey Decimal System.

Let me show off a little. The Dewey Decimal System was created by Melvil Dewey, in 1876. It is a proprietary system of library classification. It has been greatly modified and expanded through 22 major revisions, the most recent in 2003. This system organizes books on library shelves in a specific and repeatable order that makes it easy to find any book and return it to its proper place. The system is used in 200,000 libraries in at least 135 countries. (Information from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dewey_Decimal_Classification)

Additionally, the DDC attempts to organize all knowledge into ten main classes. The ten main classes are each further subdivided into 10 divisions, and each division into 10 sections, giving 10 main classes, 100 divisions and 1000 sections. The DDC’s advantage in using decimals for its categories allows it to be both purely numerical and infinitely hierarchical. (Information copied almost verbatim from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dewey_Decimal_Classification). Did you know that even Fiction books have a numeric classification? I didn’t.

Instead of me continuing to copy the information and paste it in this post, do a little searching on your own. The system is truly fascinating. I really enjoyed my research. Mostly I enjoyed the website the 5th and 6th graders created. Maybe that’s my speed. You really must check it out. Have fun!

One thought on ““Do We” Really Know Dewey?

  1. […] Well, I’m guessing that unless you’re a library employee or a true library nerd, that this list is just a list of topics, which is actually true.  But it’s not just any old list of topics, these are the 10 main classes of the Dewey Decimal Classification System, in order.  This blog post is not going to be about Melvil Dewey or his classification system (mainly because both topics have been covered here before by Deb and Don). […]


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