Friday, March 15, 2013

Dewey Decimal Must Die

I know, demanding the death of an ancient tradition is a bit dramatic, but now that I've been a librarian for nearly two years, and having done volunteer shelving for a year before that, I hope my opinion isn't considered uninformed or without merit. And though three years isn't long, I've also been using libraries my whole life. Well, okay. Maybe my opinion is without great merit...

I hereby declare that it's time to do away with the Dewey Decimal Classification System as a way of organizing libraries, once and for all. 

I'm not saying it shouldn't continue to be used by ANY libraries. If needed. Classify away.

I'm just saying that for libraries, and more importantly, for library users, there simply has to be a better way!! Have you been in a bookstore? Did you have trouble finding a book because they didn't have antiquated mysterious numerical codes on the spines? NO! You found them by CATEGORY. That's all I want.

Image Courtesy of Lake County Library
For example, in my Elementary School library, we have a set of 13 books in the "Scary Places" series. The titles include "Haunted Hospitals" and "Ghost Towns". They are written by a few different people, so there are a few different call numbers involved. Most of them are 133.1 PAR or 133.1 STE or 133.1 WIL. So they are near each other, but separated by other books with different authors, but still considered "Apparitions" by Dewey. Within the series, however, we also have "Dark Labyrinths" and "Wretched Ruins" and "Creepy Castles", which are located at 725 GOO, 930.1 STE, and 940.1 PAR, respectively. These are very far away from 133.1. And they are single titles among shelves packed with non-scary-related books. 725 is "public structures", 930.1 is "archeologia" and 940.1 is "early history"!! Why would anyone go looking there for a book on scary places?

If you're a librarian (or a patron) and you use the online catalog and you look up a specific title (or series) and take the call # and go to the stacks, you can find these books just fine. However, my third graders, who devour these books, are all browsers. They want to go find "all the scary books" and choose one. This is much more difficult for them.

Image Courtesy of Goodreads
I ended up printing and laminating a card with all the various call numbers and sections for them to go looking. They also love the Scary Stories series (located in the 398s, or " Tales and lore of paranatural beings of human and semi-human form" according to Dewey.) and, of course, Goosebumps and many others found in the Fiction section.

What's a browser to do? Especially a young one? Many just give up and find something else, if I don't have time to walk them to what they are looking for. This makes a librarian sad. I want the kids to get the books they want.

In an effort to make the library more browse-able, I have already done a few particular things. I have all the Graphic Novels and Manga on a shelf where they are very accessible, rather than in order of their Dewey classification, which is 741.5. And I have a shelf for "new and recommended" books of all types.

The point of all this is: wouldn't it be much, MUCH easier for everyone if all the scary-type non-fiction books were located in the same place in the library? Again, like a bookstore?

For the moment, I'm still on board with Fiction being organized by the author's last name, though I'm open to even having that method reviewed and maybe revised. But since Non-Fiction is the area where Dewey is King, that's the section of the library I want to start with. 

I wonder if my school district would mind if I just dumped Dewey and did my own thing... probably. The wheels of change turn as slow as a turtle in a puddle of honey around here. But it's worth thinking about and maybe talking about. I've read some very good articles about it.

What I am going to do, TODAY, is take the scary stories collections OUT of the Non-Fiction section and put them into baskets. (I already have browsing baskets for many of our Fiction titles, so it's not going to be a big deal to include a new one (or two) for some Non-Fiction that is constantly circulated.)

What do you think? Are you a Dewey fan and want to defend his honor? Or do you agree with me?

Related Articles: 
School Library Journal
The Digital Shift
Library Journal


RachelG said...

I absolutely agree with you!! We need to start a BISAC revolution!! :)

Steph said...

Hear, hear!!