An end to Dewey?

A story here about a US public library using topics as opposed to Dewey.

OK as far as it goes. But Dewey has the advantage of being a ‘universal’ system, albeit one with many faults. Categories can, and most likely will, vary from library to library.

Signs etc can be used to identify the ‘topics’ that DDC builds up anyways. OPAC display modifications can be used to point people to where 641.5 is.

This is another example of ‘either/or’ thinking. DDC can be used alongside categories, signing etc. There is also an implied judgement on people; that they can’t cope with DDC. Maybe it’s because I grew up with it, but it’s never seemed that hard to me.

Still, if people were to consistently ask for topic arrangements over DDC (or LC) then it would be something to look at.

And who will decide what the topics are and what books go where? 😉


6 Responses to An end to Dewey?

  1. I’ve really never understood why Dewey is thought to be difficult – it seems so logical to me. Like any system it has faults of course and can be used subjectively depending on who does the classifying, but overall, it works for me, and most of our students are able to use it without any difficulty. I really don’t like this increasing trend for ‘dumbing down’ and don’t think it will magically increase circulation figures. Does no-one want to learn anything any more? Or are they unwilling or ‘too busy’? If presented clearly and visually (like Miriam mentioned on TC’s blog), and if staff are adept at explaining how it works, there is no reason why Dewey should be misunderstood or difficult.

  2. Pete says:

    Absolutely. People cope with far more intricate systems after all. And any ‘categorisation’ would be potentially equally confusing.

  3. Michael says:

    The arrangements of books in a library isn’t just for browsers. Your “average” browser might be happy with a shelf labelled “gardening”, but people with more narrowly-defined needs – either advanced or professional users, or library staff – benefit from a hierarchical classification system.

    Your advanced user (terrible term, but it’s the best I can do) might have a specific book in mind – maybe Bob Flowerdew’s organic bible – or they might be interested in organic gardening generally. In either case, a system which helps you pinpoint the location of a book, or books on a given subject, has to be A Good Thing.

    And that’s one of the many reasons I don’t agree with bookshops as a paradigm to which libraries should aspire. 🙂

  4. Pete says:

    Absolutely. How would you identify individual books? A number of some sort, and maybe some letters… 😉

    Borders and Waterstones categories are horrid. Overly broad ‘History’ categories then ALPHABETISATION. aagh. Frustrating and makes browsing harder.

  5. Michael says:

    You could be onto something with this numbers/letters thing: the Smith Decimal Classification System! You could make a fortune.

    The wonderful thing about a proper classification system is that, if you’ve found one book on a subject you’re interested in, others will be sitting next to it on the shelf. Alphabetised historians won’t do that.

    Maybe if bookshops made their stock control system available to the public, these retrieval issues might be minimised: we’d be able to see that they *do* have a book on mountain bike maintenance, and it’s shelved under Sports, then Cycling. They could call it a public access catalogue, and they could make it available online…

  6. Pete says:

    Hmm. I think I’ll put out the SDC on a CC licence. I wouldn’t want to be accused of greed.

    Maybe I could link it with this publicly available catalogue which is online thing of yours. It could be called the PACWIO.

    We could be famous…

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