Dewey love you?

This post is totally library-world related – FYI!

Yesterday, I read this post by the very wonderful Greenville School Librarian (AKA Learning Commons Specialist, AKA Teacher, AKA Librarian, AKA Teacher Librarian…take your pick!), Tamara Cox. Tamara has rearranged her library “non-Dewey.” This means instead of the good ol’ Dewey Decimal system to arrange her books, she uses more like a genre shelving system (like a book store). On one hand, I totally get this and I like the idea. I even do this on some level. For example, all DK Eyewitness books are in the same place, regardless of Dewey number. All of our graphic novels are in the same place. All Star Wars. All Magic Schoolbus chapter books; etc. I could (and should) go a step further and move all of our Magic Treehouse Research Guides to one area; all of our American Girl books to one spot, and I could consolidate Dear America, Hello My Name is America, and add extra signage to the fairy tales…hello, Summer project!

With that said, I do not really like the idea of totally saying goodbye to Dewey. Yes, it is my “sacred cow.” Here are my top 3 reasons why:

1. Dewey is a way to organize the books by SUBJECT. When folks are saying goodbye to Dewey, they say they are doing so to arrange books by subject order. Aren’t they already? Maybe I’m missing something…but, I think I learned (in the one class that I must say did not hold my attention in library school = cataloging) that the whole point of the Dewey Decimal System is to organize materials so that like items are with like items. Why are we reinventing the wheel?

2. One of the duties I take very seriously is making sure my students are life long users of the library. I try to make sure they realize that what we are learning right now, in elementary school, are tools and skills they will need when they leave the comfort of NPE. I do not use shelf markers, for example and never have. I have never once seen a public library, a middle school library, or a high school library use a shelf marker to help folks figure out where they got a book. If you don’t know where it came from, you put it on a “to be shelved” cart. That’s just what you do in real life, so that’s what we do in my library.

3. This goes with number 2, but at the public library (at least at the public library MY population goes to), non-fiction books are arranged in Dewey order. I want my students to be able to find books in MY library, but I also want them to be able to go to the public library and find what they are looking for using the same skills they’ve learned with me.

This is not to say I will NEVER try non-Dewey shelving…I know they say that it makes it easier to find what you are looking for. It makes patrons more comfortable. It might get some of those books that are NEVER checked out, circulating again. However, right now, for me, Dewey is still my main man. I will say that I kind of like the idea of a genre shelving system for Fiction (instead of alpha by author, for you non-librarians 🙂 ). The public library DOES do this (on a small scale) and I can’t count the number of times a student has asked me where the “scary book section is,” or “where are the realistic fiction books.” Yet another Summer project!

What are your Dewey thoughts?


PS-One thing I would love to get rid of is the Library of Congress classification system – I can’t find a thing at our university library and I teach adjunct there! Oh no…have I just put myself in my student’s shoes???


About Valerie Byrd Fort

I live in South Carolina. I am passionate about libraries, books, and reading. I am also a mom. This is my blog about those things.
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1 Response to Dewey love you?

  1. Deana says:

    Hi Valerie,
    I’m struggling with this as well and love seeing posts on both sides of the issue as I work through making my decision. I agree that it may be helpful to students (in the E & F sections especially) to have subjects grouped together (princesses, dragons, etc.), but I also fear that this would cause some of my students to never wander too much into other areas of the library. I know my students – and some of my girls would NEVER go anywhere but the princess section! 🙂 For my princess lovers, I currently use a pink dot on the spine of those books, so when they ask where the princess books are I just tell them to look for the books with a pink dot. This allows them to find those books easily, but also gets them out in the stacks to perhaps find something else as well. I do have my Magic School Bus, American Girl, and Dear America books shelved separately since to me, those books circulate more when shelved together. I look forward to more posts/replies about this topic to see what other’s thoughts are!

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