"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Libraries 101..Sorry Dewey

Several years ago, when my daughters were young, we went to the public library to look for American Girls books.  Each of the girls had an American Girl doll and they enjoyed reading the books about their particular doll. Each doll had a set of six books written about them. At the library I had to use the card catalog to locate each of the six books which were located throughout the Junior fiction section because the books were written by different authors.  The children's librarian on duty didn't have any pity on us because they had a strict policy of shelving books correctly according to the Dewey Decimal system. They also had rules about shelving fiction according to the author of the book. She understood that it was a hassle and confusing, but the kids should learn to navigate the catalog to locate the books they want.

That lesson really stuck in my craw.  Shouldn't we think about patrons when we organize our libraries? Years later when I went to school to become a librarian and then got my own library, I was confronted with the same issue. It took me several years but I finally decided that patrons ease of use was more important that rules set up by Dewey years ago.

The issue came to the forefront when I had several classes in the library doing project on immigration.  My books on the subject were located in both the 300s (social issues) and the 973s (US History). I spent my whole day running back and forth, finally pulling all the books and placing them side by side on the top of a shelf making them more accessible for everyone. When the classes were finished with their projects I shelved the books in their proper locations in the 300s and 900s. A few days later kids, who hadn't finished the project on time, started trickling in wanting to locate the books they needed.  Once again I spent several days running back and forth between the two sections before I decided that Dewey was not going to send out the library police if I re-cataloged the books and put them together in one spot. Now I can walk kids and teachers and point to one location for all the immigration books.

All my immigration books in one spot in the library.

In order to do this I had to recatolog the whole lot.  I found a section of the 300s between 312 and 318 where I had no books at all.  I assigned new dewey numbers to everything so that I could
get country books next to each other, too. Admittedly it took a bit of time and effort but it was worth it.

Since then I have done the same thing with the drug books, assigning all of them 362.29 numbers even if the assigned Dewey number meant the book should have been shelved with health issues in the 600s. I decided it made more sense to batch them all together in one spot.  Kids don't care if books in 362.29 should be books about scoial issues related to drug use and the ones in the 600s are more about the health issues related to use.  They just know that they can walk to one spot to see if I have what they are looking for.

Even the fiction section of the library has received my scrutiny.  First, I took all the books by Orca Book Publishing and put them together in one spot.  These books are geared toward reluctant readers and are designed to be high interest but low reading levels.  I talked to the Special Education teachers and they all agreed that it would work best if we just called these books Orca Books (rather than Hi-Low Books) and they should be placed together somewhere for easy assess. I even put ORCA instead of FIC (short for fiction) on the spine label so that my TAs would know where to shelf them. This has been a huge success.  The SPED teachers send kids up from their classrooms to get another ORCA book. The kids all know exactly where they are and don't require my help in locating them.  By the way, I am a huge fan of Orca books.  If you aren't familiar with this publishing company check them out. (Orca Book Publishing.)

Books about Halo all shelved together by title, not author.

Secondly, I took all of the Halo books that are so popular with boys that are in the XBox game and placed them in one spot, re-cataloging them as FIC HAL (for the title, not the author.) I decided to do this to undo the frustration over the American Girls book at the public library. I'm sure that the authors of the various books don't care where I put the books in my library, just that kids still want to read their books.

This summer I hope to tackle another issue...biographies verses subject matter. But that is a blog for another day.

I hope Dewey doesn't mind.

What frustrates you when you go looking for books on a topic at a library? If you are a librarian, have you done any similar fixes?  Please share your thoughts and ideas.



  1. We've had these same discussions in my library. We've pulled biographies/921s and put them in special shelves in the middle of the library so that the sophomores can find them easily. Our Guinness Book of World Records were in 3 places until I consolidated them! And, we have a separate shelf for the Orca books, the Bluford High books, etc called the Reading Collection. Special Ed and English Learners know where to find them

    1. Funny that you should mention Bluford High books. I was just thinking about them on Friday. I think I will move them together under BLU for Bluford instead shelved by author like I have them now. I like your idea of a Reading Collection. I guess great minds....

  2. I think your way sounds great. The Dewey Decimal system shouldn't be set in stone with no leeway. You want to engage and encourage readers, not frustrate them to the point of leaving with no books. Good for you for finding a system that works for you and your patrons.


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