Adco Library: Goodbye Dewey Decimal System

An Adams County library district is dumping the Dewey Decimal Classification system for organizing its books in favor of one that is considered more user-friendly.

Rangeview Library District Pam Sandlian Smith said the retail-based system called WordThink encourages browsing and is more intuitive than the classification system developed by Melvil Dewey in the 1870s.

The new system, which breaks down books into about 45 alphabetical categories, will be used at all six of the district's libraries and its outreach office by the end of the year.


It never ceases to amaze me how many librarians work so hard to undermine librarianship. Now we have yet another library that is leaving a discipline for an eccentric method of cataloging. This will not help the students who will go from this library to a college library. It will not be easy for new people coming to this community, who will be used to a standard system, to find 45 categories of books in the library, arranged in a manner to sell books, but not to aid research.

What is the cost of re-cataloging the existing library collection? What is the cost of re-arranging the shelves for the new system, moving biographies of tennis stars away from the biography section to the new sports section and all the ballet books to the new women's section? What is the cost of retraining the library staff to this new system? Will vampires from outer space inflicting themselves in 1880s Dodge City be placed under horror, sci-fi or westerns?

The only good I can out of this is a really good, in-depth report of how the change-over went, and what the reactions of the library patrons, the lirbary staff, and the bookkeeping department were. This is a rare opportunity to do some library science, but I suspect, that as usual, it will pass by.

I also wonder how long it will take for either a new system to be imposed, or a decision to go back to a standard format. I'm afraid that won't make the news, either.

R. Lee Hadden (These are my own opinions!)

Most academic libraries use the Library of Congress cataloging system so the students who go from this library to a college library will have to learn a different cataloging system anyway. Vampires from outer space will find that they are placed alphabetically by author in the fiction section anyway.

Most of the patrons I assist are accustomed to the bookstore way of shelving books anyway. They ask for books on gardening and landscaping which they see as related (and they would find together at a bookstore), but Dewey does not so we have to show them several locations on the shelves. What's wrong with a PUBLIC library offering books to its patrons in an intuitive way that they understand?

Now one of the librarians at my library is putting together bookmarks on popular topics to show where all of the related subjects are found, no matter where Dewey places them. The patrons can do a more comprehensive search and find the information they really want.

The question arises as to whether browsing is more important than finding something for study. The "bookstore" systems are great for the first but break down when you need to find something in particular ... which students (of whatever age) have to do.

They also break down at this point in bookstores. I've had clerks at Borders scrambling to find the items their computers say should be on the shelves.

As a librarian, I'm not saying this is a bad thing but what do you want to bet that the Director of this library system is brand new. Brand new Directors are always trying to shake things up to prove their value.

When LISTen comes out on Monday, it will have an interview with the director concerned. We just recorded it tonight. You might find it surprising.
Stephen Michael Kellat, Interim Coordinator, LISNews Netcast Network
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