Saturday, March 31, 2012

No Dewey?! The Horror

My post on ditching Dewey has remained one of my most viewed posts even though it is months old. Living without Dewey is so normal for me now that I forget how unusual it can be for those just considering the idea. When Tiffany Whitehead and I presented "Be a Next Gen Librarian, Today" at the Follett New Leaf in Learning Conference we included nontraditional shelving in our suggestions. I spoke about changing nonfiction and Tiff shared her genre organized fiction area.

NextGen.038
*Her slides are so cute! We should all email Tiff to encourage her to share her genre signs on Flickr:)


As soon as we brought up the slide and quickly shared how we implemented this concept in our libraries the room was abuzz with conversation. I think every person in the room turned to their neighbor to talk. Not sure if it was intrigue or shock, but either way I was happy to get conversations started and wheels turning. This presentation was the first full day of the conference, but the rest of the time there we had people coming up asking us more about it. Since then I've had a few emails forwarded to me sharing Dewey conversations from library associations in other states. I love that so many people are talking about it.
I believe Dewey is one of our sacred cows, which is why this topic causes such a stir. While I am very happy with the change I realize that this isn't for everyone. I'm not suggesting everyone should go out and do this today. There are many levels to this change if you aren't ready to completely ditch Dewey. You could create better signs, add genre or subject labels, or only pull out certain sections and still keep Dewey. You can adapt it to your needs.
What really excites me about these conversations is that librarians are evaluating tradition and deciding whether or not to keep, adapt, or throw out ideas that are no longer relevant to our students' needs. This is exactly what we must do to stay indispensable.
I thought it might be a good idea to start putting resources together when people ask about this so I created a topic on Scoop.it called Dewey Free Library. Feel free to add to the topic and share with others.
I welcome anyone with questions, concerns, and ideas about nontraditional shelving. Just don't try to convince me to go back. Ain't gonna happen!

13 comments:

  1. As always, you bring up excellent points. Yup, sacred cow. Does nontraditional shelving provide the answer for every school library? Nope. But the key - consider WHY you do WHAT you do. If it no longer makes sense, then change it!

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  2. Here's the conclusion I always come to, if I throw out Dewey, I'm still going to organize non-fiction by topic, how could I be sure my topic scheme was any better than the Dewey scheme? It seems to me like re-inventing the wheel to come up with my own topic-based system when the topic-based Dewey system is already in place. No system is ever going to be perfect.

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  3. For my students, the reason subject is better is because it makes more sense to them than decimals. Dewey is topic based to us because we learn the numbers that match the topics, but for students the Dewey categories mean nothing. Should they have to learn them? Do we learn fruit/ vegetable codes when we check out at the grocery store? I never ask for #4011, I look for bananas. Luckily we have the BISAC categories that are already standardized, in place and used by other places so I didn't have to invent anything. No system is perfect, but (for me) subject is a lot closer to perfection than Dewey.

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    1. Thanks for the tip on the BISAC categories. I am taking a look!

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  4. I did not feel qualified to scrap Dewey When I reorganized my library. Afraid that a real librarian would suddenly be hired and want to put it all back. So I left the call numbers as is and added location codes. I love it arranged by topics and so do the kids. I wouldn't go back.

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  5. Sharon HaberstrohMay 2, 2012 at 3:16 PM

    In this present day, when adminstration/tech people are already thinking that library skills are no longer needed, dividing the library people into this in favor of Dewey and those who are not. Part of the beauty of the Dewey system is that the skill is a life long skill, that is useful (or was) in all libraires around the country. I know it has it's flaws, but for the most part is an organized system which helps the students learn about classifications. I am very nervous that we as librarians are now easy picking, since we are now divided.

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    1. I don't feel that I am dividing librarians into the categories of "for" and "against" Dewey. Do you feel that way about librarians that use LOC? I don't. I don't see how Dewey is a life long skill since public and academic libraries (for the most part) do not use it. Ditching Dewey is a big deal to librarians, but not those outside our profession. Ask around. Librarians are in danger because we don't do a great job showcasing our impact and contributions and, unfortunately, there are still some that live up to the old stereotype. We aren't in danger because of the classification system we chose. I understand if you want to keep Dewey. That is perfectly fine with me. However, I won't take credit for destroying the profession.

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  6. It all comes down to marketing. I have been discussing doing this in fiction with my students. I haven't found one yet that doesn't love the idea. We have even discussed the challenges, such as books being shelved wrong or multiple genres for one book. They still want me to do it.

    As for nonfiction, I haven't even begun to tackle that yet as it is my first year in this library. I decided to just market what Dewey has already done for me. After I heavily weed and see how my marketing strategies play out I'll revisit the subject shelving for nonfiction.

    Thanks for sharing! Keep doing what you jniw us best for YOUR kids!

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  7. I am a library assistant in a middle school and I put the most popular books in sections. There is a sports section, Graphic Novel section, international book section, ESL section etc. I also display popular authors and series like Twilight, Maxium Ride, Diary of Wimpy Kid. The kids know exactly were to go and there are signs to direct them. Slowly I am making my way around the library and adding more sections that kids are interested in. It's all about marketing! We have to think like we are a bookstore!

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    1. That's great. I know your kids appreciate your hard work.

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  8. I am as school librarian. Subject could be better and make sense to our users rather than decimals, however, I feel that for purposes of item identification from the shelf, Dewey still plays a major role.

    Secondly, would it be problematic to factor in pictures in addition to the Dewey numbers so as to aid users locate materials. This could be pictures of sporting activities at 790s, fruits at 630s, etc.

    Why re-invent the wheel when we can better the wheel. Let's ask ourselves if the subject mode of classification be perfect?
    Habel Gregory A.

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    1. If Dewey works for you and your kids that is great. It wasn't working for us. I can count on one hand the number of times someone requested a specific nonfiction book. Most of them want to browse. Subject arrangements makes browsing easier. I can still look up specifics because the record in the catalog tells me the subject area and they are alphabetical within the area.
      Pictures would definitely help, but sometimes Dewey splits up books that seem like they should be together so that wasn't enough for me.
      I'm not reinventing the wheel. I use the BISAC categories that have been around for a while.
      Subject isn't perfect, but it is closer to perfection than Dewey for me. Thanks for reading and thinking about it. I hope Dewey continues to serve you well.

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  9. We are a public library and decided to drop Dewey for classifications. We used the BISAC model w/ easier language in the children's section. A pivotal day for me was when our reference librarian said, “Why do we have a system where our patrons, on a daily basis, apologize for not understanding it?"
    We changed in Oct. None of our staff would go back and almost every patron expresses relief. It is easy to understand, find materials, and one seldom has to write anything down. I hope we look to many venues for inspiration whether it is bookstores, libraries, retailing, or movies. Enabling both staff and patrons is an uplifting experience.

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