Dewey Decimal Rant

9 07 2013

@flickr by Super Furry Librarian

I believe that librarians who focus on conventional technical practices like cataloging using the Dewey Decimal System are harmful to our field – because their attitudes appear to be elitist and exclusionary.
Librarianship today must be inclusionary, dynamic, and focused on the user – not on the librarian.
Librarians who fail to see that marginalize themselves and their programs.
It’s difficult to accept for many people, but the field has changed.
Cataloging and classification served as a valuable tool for many years and before the advent of Internet/tags/an abundance of information available at our fingertips, it ALSO (not very conveniently and not very easily, but also) served as the user-facing resource for information retrieval in our libraries.
It turns out, keywords are a more user-centered way to access the MEANINGFUL information our students are looking for. We keep books on our shelves for those same students because we’ve evaluated the best informational texts and want our users to access them. Why not make that process as easy as natural language searches?
A researcher walks into my library and is faced with laptops, computers, and other devices- as well as a wall of natural language signs (i.e Decades, Countries, Shakespeare, etc.) They have the choice: logon to a computer and easily find millions of links to both good and bad information OR walk to the shelves and browse through 20 or 30 titles that have been evaluated by a professional. Neither choice involves decoding an outmoded and archaic system of classifying information that so many librarians continue to grasp at.
So why. the. hell. are we still spending time arguing about an administrative practice that is useful to almost no one?
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4 responses

9 07 2013
Christopher Harris

Very nicely put. Keep hammering on the fact that it isn’t a choice between Dewey and Chaos, but rather Dewey and other equally valid and appropriate methods of organizing information for retrieval.

6 08 2013
dedicated hosting

I like what you guys are up too. Such clever work and reporting! Keep up the good works guys I’ve added you guys to our blogroll.|

20 08 2013
Loretta Johnson

Pam, in a future post would you address how you increased your circulation statistics so dramatically? Also, thanks for this post. I am contemplating some changes too and your post has inspired me!

25 04 2015
Judy Freeman

I don’t know if you’ve identified your Melvil Dewey doll elsewhere on your site, but folks would probably love to know they can buy one from Mimismotifs.com, and it comes with with 10 hand “puppets,” one for each 100 of Dewey. He’s mighty cute.

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