Dewey overdue for a makeover, librarians say


Southtown Star - Chicago,IL, Dewey overdue for a makeover, librarians say
In the sober, settled atmosphere of a library there is a radical movement afoot that is knocking books off their long established shelves and throwing Dewey out the window.

At 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning, when most library patrons are pulling the covers over their heads, refusing to acknowledge the rising sun, two bold and daring librarians are stirring at the Frankfort Public Library, shuffling books and tearing off those time-honored Dewey Decimal System numbers that no one really understood anyway.


Let's see. There is a blog devoted to this particular project. The library's website is also available. Their OCLC identifier is TM3.

The project is hardly done. From their own website their catalog is pretty thoroughly buried. As they receive ILS functionality through their consortium, I had to actually go in that way.

I'm not someone who would find such a setting simple. I recognize how much of a pain it is to find what I want at Barnes & Noble to purchase. Dewey has a finer degree of granularity than BISAC does. As I seek apparently obscure things, I have a better chance locating such in a Dewey collection than a BISAC collection.
Stephen Michael Kellat, Host, LISTen
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I'm not sure what you mean about the catalog being buried on the website. In the very center of the homepage on the website, there is a "search catalog" widget that users can activate to search their catalog.

Also, the "blog" you linked to is apparently no longer active.

Yes -- it's such a pain when you're looking for something that doesn't have a clearly-defined category, and the B&N employee says, "oh, go browse whatever section you think it fits in, they're all by author." Much easier to be able to look it up and know exactly where on the shelf it would be. (Our public library just switched *back* from subject-sections to Dewey, for that reason.)

so they are moving everything around so no one can find it but them...


Although I am certainly aware of the changes in users and promote positive changes, I'm not ready to throw out the proverbial "baby with the bathwater." I currently support changes like those Ann Arbor Public Library [] has made by its installation of John Blyberg's SOPAC [] combining the use of DDC with social input. In some places, DDC may be "archaic" but I don't find that is the norm based upon any of the word's definitions.

I am not clear on what this achieves that wouldn't be achieved by labeling the shelves or endcaps, and then having maps spread throughout the library. Even their own example, the Rachael Ray (shudder) cookbook. I'm supposed to know to look under Cooking and then Quick and Easy? What if I don't consider Ray's cooking to be Quick and Easy, or I don't even know that's an option? Am I supposed to look in the five different places it *might* be (As a have to do at B&N?) Guessing what some librarian thought on some random day FTW!

I'm going to quote one of my colleagues at my last job (where I was a Cataloger)... "I have a hard enough time looking for stuff at Barnes & Nobles... and *I'm* a Cataloger. Tossing Dewey doesn't make it any easier."

I had this argument with the Collection Development Manager at my last job. She was desperate to throw out Dewey in a 21 branch, 500k+ item system. "We should be like a bookstore and organize it by subject!" She seemed genuinely flummoxed when I countered with "But, Dewey IS by subject... it just has numeric representations." A part of me wonders if much of this "throw out Dewey/LC/Classification" comes from Library Schools not requiring even a basic cataloging course. These people (even some actual Catalogers) don't understand what it actually means or how it helps to have a specific point to go to. I mean, if we go the way this library has we'll be back to shelflists at the end of the aisles in no time.

I agree. I really think that in this case, thinking outside the box is just a euphemism for ignoring history and precedent. If the librarians there are going to ignore historic works on how to do classification, then that is a problem. I had an excellent professor in cataloging who helped ensure we understood the history of why we do things the way we do them now.

Whatever happened to the ALA Library History Roundtable? I would imagine a historical piece about the past hundred years of cataloging experiences might be useful. To quote a line from Battlestar Galactica--Razor: "All this has happened before, and all this will happen again..."
Stephen Michael Kellat, Host, LISTen
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I think that if the collection is small enough, and of general interest, a Dewey-less collection would work for browsers. But obviously browsing through a hundred cookbooks to find something works better than browsing through a thousand, or five thousand.

Research and homework-oriented titles would not seem to fit into this picture very well, though as these titles move to electronic access, going Dewey-less for print might make sense for smaller libraries.

It will be interesting to see how Maricopa and Frankfort evolve over time.

There is no doubt that Dewey is looooong overdue... and way past its usefulness, like a typewriter. Its usefulnesss is severly limited. For example, what number do you give to Youtube or Facebook? There is no clear answer to that, is there? It's outdated, simple as that!! The sooner librarians accept this and stop living in denial, there will be progress in the the library world, at last!!! And secondly, it is a matter of choice for any library to choose a system of their choosing. What law says that they have to use Dewey? It is a free country, after all. I think it is only fair to allow one to use Dewey if they please and also to dump Dewey if they please!

I wouldn't assign a Dewey Decimal number for Youtube or Facebook. They are websites. However, I would assign Dewey Decimal numbers for books about Youtube or Facebook. I searched many library catalogs and found "Facebook for Dummies" under 006.7 with other computer help guides.

The good: One thing about DDC is that it has been updated to include subjects that are everchanging, such as technology. It is widely used in public school libraries and was taught to students once upon a time. It's not the only classification system, but it is one of the best to set a specific number and location for a book to make it easy to find.

The bad: The big problem I see all the time with DDC is that there are several different numbers for some of the same types of books. For example computer guides are in the 000 range, while books about Ebay or other online shopping/business could be classified there or in the 658 range. If it was something about internet stalking it would be in the true crime range of 364. It can be too specific for the patrons that just like to browse. For patrons that actually use the catalog or have library staff help them, it's good. One other problem is people always seem to have problems with numbers. Must be that innate fear of math! With a long call number, such as 364.1523 Can (or 364.1523 C86r as my library used to do DDC), people don't realize everything in that call number is important.

Going Dewey-less isn't necessarily bad. They just need to be going to a classification system that is both easy for the patrons and helps them keep track of the books properly.