Thursday, December 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, Melvil Dewey!


158 years ago today (Dec. 10, 1851), the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System was born in Adams Center, NY.

Did you know?

>The Dewey Decimal System is proprietary, meaning that somebody--the Online Computer Library Center of Dublin, Ohio--OWNS it. And, yes, they will SUE you if you use it for profit-making purposes without their permission. No kidding.

>Before Dewey came up with and standardized his system, library collection organization varied widely from place to place...and even within the SAME place! Under "location," a catalog might say something like "Third Floor, Norton Hall, Shelf Nearest the Stairs, Shelf No. 118A." Some libraries even arranged books by size and color, regardless of content. Not very efficient.

>Dewey was obsessed with efficiency, and came up with a system that allowed library users to find a book within fields and subfields of knowledge relative to one another, rather than in relation to a fixed location or shelf number.

>The "decimal" part of the Dewey Decimal System allows the system to be infinitely expandable...there is always room for something else. For instance, the system was first formally codified in 1876, before, say, airplanes. But now we find airplanes in at 629.13 or thereabouts. 629, when it was thought up, was "Other Engineering," which is exactly what aerodynamics would have been considered in Dewey's day.

Now, none of this might sound like a really big deal, but it revolutionized library organization and made your life (and mine) a lot easier when visiting your local public library.

Get to know the Dewey Decimals System...and put it to use soon!

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