Dewey: Friend or Foe?

I really enjoyed the “What’s so great About the Dewey Decimal system?” article that we had this week. I really agree with what the author said about Dewey being extremely revolutionary for his time. I mean the guy organized information which is not an easy task by any means.

However, I have a bone to pick with Dewey. The system is great, don’t get me wrong, but after spending the past five months cataloging books I’ve come across some discrepancies in our preferred organizational classification. For instance: There are multiple numbers assigned to Christian holidays, Easter, Christmas, etc. Each of these holidays gets its own number. But when you have a book that deals with any number of Jewish holidays, or any non-Christian holiday really, you find that they are all just lumped into one number.

I understand that the system has been built so that you can continue to add new numbers for different genres, but how many decimals places are we really willing to go to actually organized everything?

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2 thoughts on “Dewey: Friend or Foe?

  1. I think it’s great to hear from someone who has more personal and in-depth experience working with the Dewey Decimal System of classification. While I can read an article and decide that a system is great, my experience with the system goes no further than an occasional browse through the library. From someone who has worked within the system in cataloging, we are able to gain insight to problems others might not realize, such as the discrepancy regarding classification of materials related to Christian vs. non-Christian holidays. It seems as though with a system so huge and complex, issues like this would not arise or would already have been dealt with. I am quite surprised about the choices made in regards to cataloging this subject, as it seems that religion itself is a highly researched field! Maybe this relates to the mention in the article that Dewey himself was anti-semitic??

  2. Kate, you raise a really good point and exemplify one of many issues with the DDC. I do agree with you that Dewey did accomplish something quite amazing. But, I think at this point in time, it would be advantageous for cataloguers, librarians, and knowledge organizers to rethink and, perhaps, restructure the DDC.

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