The continuing conversation about whether Dewey’s days are numbered (“Are Dewey’s Days Numbered,” Oct. 2012, pp. 24–28; “Summer Project: Kill Dewey,” Aug. 2012, p. 14) has been useful as I consider how to make my library’s collection more accessible. While I believe that Dewey still has its place, I’ve thought about fresh ways to meet the needs of my middle and high school students. As a result of the debate, I’ve added a lot more subject heading labels to my shelves, especially highlighting topics of high interest, and I’ve adjusted Dewey in the 800s section.
I abridged Dewey to 19 numbers in relation to literature, essentially eliminating the geographic/cultural separation of authors and literary eras, making this subject area an easy one for browsing. Instead of 810s for American authors, 820s for British authors, etc., all poetry by one author is under 821, and all collections of poetry are filed under 821.08, regardless of nationality or time period.
In addition, all literary criticism, without regard to the type of literature, is now shelved under 829 in the manner we file biographies, with the letters of the writer first, then the letters of the criticism’s author. A work of criticism on Elie Wiesel is now assigned the number 829 WIE BLO, with WIE placing all criticism on Wiesel together. BLO represents the critic’s last name. This book formerly was labeled 848.914 BLO. These changes make it easy for students to browse literary works by their author without knowing nationality or date, and to find literary criticism about Maya Angelou without deciding whether she is a poet or an essayist. Her poems are found with poetry, essays with essays, but all criticism about one author is shelved together.
I used the 820s because Shakespeare is too important to adjust. Shakespeare’s plays continue to be shelved under 822.33 SHA TEM (for The Tempest), and literary criticism for Shakespeare is shelved under 829 SHA and then the critic’s name.
A brief letter can’t describe the plan. We have 375 books in the 800 section, and it took seconds to reassign most books. Adjusting the online catalog records was also quick, but relabeling took longer.
Information Literacy Teacher/Librarian
McGinnis Middle School/
Buena Vista High School
Buena Vista, CO
Save Dewey redux
Sigh. I’m sure Scarlett Middle School’s library isn’t the only school library in Michigan in which the Dewey decimal system is used and taught. I wish Ms. LaPrise’s blanket statement (Letters, Dec. 2012, p. 10), “In Michigan, the students are frustrated because Dewey is not taught in their schools,” had been edited, as it is false.
Scarlett Middle School
Ann Arbor, MI