Mighty Red Pen

June 4, 2007

File under: L for Lame

Filed under: Mad marketing,Pop culture — mighty red pen @ 12:17 pm

An Arizona library is getting rid of the Dewey Decimal System.

There are a million reasons why this is lame, first and foremost is Dewey Decimal is not that hard to understand. It’s actually a really good system that does an excellent job of organizing millions of books.

And, no, MRP is not just saying this because I have (ahem) advanced Dewey training from my first job as a mighty red crayon shelving books at the local library.

According to the AP story, “Instead, tens of thousands of books in the Perry Branch library will be shelved by topic, similar to the way bookstores arrange books.”

The article goes on to quote Marshall Shore, adult service coordinator for the Maricopa County Library District. He says, “People think of books by subject. Very few people say, ‘Oh, I know Dewey by heart.’ “

Here’s a newsflash, people: The Dewey Decimal System also arranges the books by subject!

So, really, you go to the computer, you look up the book, it tells you the number, you find the book with the corresponding number. To MRP, the real issue has always been that libraries don’t do a good enough job of mapping out where stuff is located. Once I have my little number, I try to remember, “Are 800s on the first floor or second floor?”

Another idea would be to have more prominently placed and visible general guides to DDS that said, “800s — literature, 900s — history” for people who are inclined to browse. They could also make the tiny little numbers of the spines of the books easier to read.  Maybe we don’t call it Dewey Decimal System, which frankly has always agitated the math-o-phobe in MRP.

Having said that, let me say MRP does not think that eliminating Dewey is the way to go. But here’s something else: the article also said, “Across the U.S., some libraries are trying to lure readers by adding lounge chairs and coffee shops.”

Now that’s an idea that MRP can get on board with!

Thanks to Gopher! 



  1. I completely agree with you about everything you said!

    My local library (which is way cooler than yours) has comfy chairs and there is also a cafe that serves food and drink. As a rule I don’t frequent the cafe I’m generally in and out, but it is a great idea and I always see people enjoying it.

    Comment by Molie — June 4, 2007 @ 7:06 pm | Reply

  2. I have some philosophical nits to pick with Mr. Dewey, but to abandon the system in favor of… Barnes & Noble seems, well, ignoble. If they went for, say, the Library of Congress system, that would be okay by me.

    How am I going to find books now? I go to the computer, look it up and it says “Location: Upstairs, on the red bookshelf in “Home Repairs” next to the comfy blue chair. Would you like an espresso with that?”

    810.9 AE seems more reasonable.

    Food and drink in libraries is a rockin’ idea. Hey, Somerville Main, you reading this?

    Comment by David — June 5, 2007 @ 5:57 pm | Reply

  3. YES, SOMERVILLE MAIN is reading this.

    Patron DAVID, your books “Sycophantism for Dummies” is late and accruing late charges. Moreover, your borrowing privileges have been suspended due to MISSING/RIPPED PAGES from “Scott Baio: In Charge.”

    Comment by Somerville Main — June 6, 2007 @ 1:51 pm | Reply

  4. That would be funny if it were clever.

    Comment by David — June 6, 2007 @ 2:34 pm | Reply

  5. Wait, wait. What’s all this about going to the computer to look up where to find the book is at? You go over to look it up in the CARD CATALOG, people.

    Comment by Frida's Big Gay Dad — June 7, 2007 @ 2:44 pm | Reply

  6. Hey Frida’s BGD — Your card catalog called. It wants you to drop by and pick it and your abacus up ASAP. Bring your horse drawn buggy.

    Comment by mightyredpen — June 8, 2007 @ 8:14 am | Reply

  7. I just figured with all the whining and pining over the loss of the dewey decimal system, you might also be mourning the loss of the card catalog. But for the record, DDS is not that hard to understand and grouping by books means eventually things will be HARDER to find because things won’t be shelved right ever.

    Comment by Frida's Big Gay Dad — June 8, 2007 @ 12:57 pm | Reply

  8. Oh but the DDS makes my Saturdays volunteering at my local library so much more fun! (You see, I can shelve quickly and browse books at the same time under the illusion of only shelving hehe). I hope this practice in Arizona doesn’t head northward into my favorite libraries in Utah.

    Comment by Alex — August 1, 2007 @ 10:51 pm | Reply

  9. As a mighty red crayon, I used to do the same thing, Alex. My first job was shelving books in the library and I *really* got a chance to catch up on my reading. The librarians were always yelling at me for sitting on the cart, though.

    Comment by mightyredpen — August 2, 2007 @ 10:49 am | Reply

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