Modified Dewey

 Posted by Amanda Roberts on November 4, 2012
Nov 042012

By Pete Thomas, November 2012

The Dewey Decimal System has been a mainstay of libraries over for a century. Created by Melvil Dewey in 1876, the Dewey Decimal System is broken into ten non-fiction classifications. Meanwhile, bookstores have moved to the BISAC system, which stands for the Book Industry Standards and Communications. BISAC fits books into more intuitive categories, based on how their customers browse.

NOPL has decided to move to a mixture of these two systems, essentially a modified Dewey system. Our items are broken up into categories based on the BISAC model, but then are ordered within the categories by their Dewey Classification Number. The Dewitt Community Library, the Fayetteville Library, and the Onondaga Free Library have already made this change, and NOPL is now part of this group.

Why has NOPL decided to make changes to the non-fiction collection? Much thought has been given to the Dewey classification system and how it is used by patrons at the library. Dewey is not perfect. One good example that illustrates this point is how books on careers are in the 330 section, while books on resumes are far away, in the 650s. To add to the confusion, there are even some books that libraries categorized into either section, and some into completely different categories. In the new system these books will be in the same section, under “Careers and Employment.”

Another example that highlights NOPL’s motivation to follow a modified Dewey system is the desire to have a singular History category. In the Dewey system, numbers in the 900s categorize history, geography, and biography books. Yet, there are plenty of history books that are not in the 900s classification. For example, a book on the Salem Witch Trials can be categorized as occult psychology but it is more intuitive to be listed under the History genre. Similarly, we have books on the history of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages that is categorized first under religion than under history. We’ve essentially switched the emphasis to history, than to religion. The religion category is now filled with books that emphasize the beliefs and theology of religions, and less their historic progress. These changes will create a more browser friendly system for library users when researching topics.

There are twenty seven total categories in the new system, and the libraries have easy to read signage to point patrons to the direction of books they might be interested in.

As much as it would have been easier to stick with Dewey, “times have changed”, says Jill Youngs, manager of NOPL at Cicero. We hope the effort taken to merge the old library system with a book store layout model, will lead to a better browsing (and discovering) experience by our patrons.

Tell us what you think of the new modified Dewey system. Is it easier to find new books? We appreciate your feedback.