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De-Dewefication Begins

Last discussed here in May of 2006, de-Dewefication has begun at the new Perry branch library in Maricopa county, Arizona. The library will open without using Dewey classification. Their books will be shelved by topic.

Maricopa County officials say the Perry Branch library will be organized like a bookstore. Instead of assigning them numbers, the tens of thousands of books will be shelved by topic.

County librarians say it's time to do away with the century-old Dewey Decimal system.

They say it's too confusing for people to hunt down books using those long strings of numbers and letters.

The idea to get rid of Dewey came from Marshall Shore -- an adult service coordinator for the Maricopa County Library District.

He says that patrons are frustrated by the old cataloging system. He says that the libraries must adapt to their customers needs.

Articles here and here


How to classify and shelve print materials has long been a problem that has plagued librarians. If your customers are primarily browsers, classifying by general subject rather than a Dewey number may be worth investigating.

It must be hard to be first with something that will seem so radical to many librarians. I'm sure they will get their fair share of criticism, but if this style of shelving is best for their customers then I applaud them for changing to meet the needs of their users.

I have tagged you for the 8 Things Meme! :-)

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While agree that customers prefer the bookstore style of organization, the biggest difference between a bookstore and a library is that the customer doesn't return the book each time in a bookstore.

How exactly will the books be re-shelved? Will there be stickers or other identifying marks? Or will the shelving page decide where to place items? What will the online catalog have for a location? I'll be very interested to hear in the long term report when it comes to customers wanting to find a specific book rather than browse. As my colleague described it, will they get the Barnes & Noble shrug when an item in the catalog is nowhere to be found. :0


@ Loretta -
I'd assume they'd shelve by subject and then by Author, same as bookstores.


I'm actually kind of thrilled by this post. It makes me a wee bit giddy. I always secretly (desperately) wanted the fiction section to be shelved by genre (instead of by author...oh how it pains me!)... I hadn't even thought of reshelving the nonfic as well. Very interesting idea and I'm anxious to see how it works for them!

You really should check out this video, about the book everything is miscellaneous, and the author talks about the dewey system starting at 20 minutes.

It's going to be interesting to see how this L2 experiment works out. I predict a fiery crash and burn. Entropy is ubiquitous, even while implementing a structured system like Dewey. I hope they are using RFID too so they will be able to locate their lost items via tricorder...

It is an exciting idea, and doubtless works for a small branch library. I'm not sure how successful it would be in a major academic place, though.

I used to work at the University of London Library--some 15 floors of volumes--and there were a number of different systems, including some from private collections.

My favorite was called "fixed location"--every book had a specific address. So 13b7 meant aisle 13, second shelf, 7th book in. It was the only section where books never got mis-shelved.

Ah yes, by subject of course. But who/how is the subject going to be decided? Are the subjects going to be very broad (in which case how will you find anything!) or narrow (in which case who/how will it be decided). Authors rarely like to write a book that fit into a single subject (one of the reasons cataloging is so complicated at times) so there you are back on the road of 'cataloging' the book again. :)

I do think this will be a very interesting situation to watch. I think the customers will love it (mostly), but it will be interesting to see how much back end work this causes.

This was an interesting article. I think Mr. Courtright is a little off shore. I am open to new ideas but this one is not a good one. I can see where this might make things easier for a small library, but if you had a large number of volumes, it would be terrible. If you had five hundred volumes in the history section, and you just had a label on the books that said “history”, you would have to start at the first book and look through them all until you found the book you wanted, even when you had a title of the book. I wouldn’t want to waste my time looking through everything. Mr. Courtright probably is an administrator and doesn’t know beans about libraries, and if he does, he’s an idiot. The simplest way to handle it is like Mr. Casey. I have been doing this for the last thirteen years. I am a media specialist in a primary school. In order to keep books where I know I can find them and assist students, I use Dewey. I also use a system of pictures and labels above the shelves, so that smaller children who can’t read may use the pictures and the older children can use the subject labels as well. So why do both? Dewey for organization and labeling for patron convience. I imagine Mr. Courtwrong doesn’t help people find anything in his library system.

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