We owe a great debt to the brilliant, if flawed, Melvil Dewey


Greg Hill, director of Fairbanks North Star Borough libraries, has A Column in yesterday's Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on Melvil Dewey. He says even with all his shortcomings, Dewey's legacy, an elegant scheme for organizing knowledge logically, remains and overshadows his frailties.


Melvil Dewey's classification system is naturally limited because of it was created long time ago. (No wonder libraries have an image problem!) It just needs to be significantly modified and overhauled (it is okay to, it is not sacred!) to meet the requirements of today and the future, or dump it altogether!

The whole great aspect of the DDC is that it CAN be altered and expanded to suit new topics and the changing subject universe. You can use DDC to create vertually any classification number. If you want to see an old horse being trotted out, look at LCCN.

Uh-oh. It's on now.

Quick, somebody derail the discussion by talking about Macs vs PCs.

I most sincerely believe that the DDC is the best system that we have, if the other choices are the LCSH and UDC. However, the article gives the impression that Dewey is only used in the USA and that America is the only place in the world where you can actually go to a library and browse the shelves yourself.

I really think the author of this article needs to do a lot more travelling. Use of the Dewey Decimal System is on a global level, with at least 50% of users coming from outside of the US.

In fact, the development of Dewey is by collaboration with representatives from around the 'English-speaking' world.

As for browsing the shelves, try any academic or public library in the UK (or throughout most of Europe). Only material that is not part of general circulation is kept "behind the counter", which can include special collections and/or reserve material.

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