Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Dumping Dewey

A co-worker of mine came into the Rivendell library yesterday and asked me if I had seen the article in the paper about libraries getting rid of the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system. I found it on the web today from both the Denver Post and Library Journal. There is a library district here in Colorado that is in the process of dumping the DDC for something they apparently came up with called WordThink. It is based on BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Communication). Basically, they are going to make the districts libraries set up more like bookstores in grouping their books. They say that this is better for browsing and that people complain that they don't understand how the DDC works.

Good luck. I see so many problems with this. How will someone be able to find an exact title if it isn't shelved in an exact place? They may have figured out a way to do this, but it will involve some kind of system that will still be a mystery to some people.

Lots of books could go in two or more different subjects. Does a book on the History of Christianity go under history, Christianity or more generally, religion? It's not a bookstore where you can put a few copies in one place and some in the other.

I also think they are doing a huge disservice to their patrons by not teaching them how to use the DDC or any classification system. It really isn't that hard understand once it is explained. You can then use this knowledge in any other library that uses the DDC. You wouldn't say to someone that can't read, "Oh, that's okay. You don't need to learn to read. We'll have you listen to audiobooks instead." No, you teach them.

The DDC and the Library of Congress Classification (LCC) systems both group books by subject. That's the whole point of classification systems in the first place. I run two libraries, one with DDC and one with LCC and I see people browsing all the time. They sometimes need some help finding right area to look in, but that is what we librarians are for.

Good luck to them.

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