5 Interesting Facts About The Dewey Decimal System

On December 10, 1851, Melvil Dewey, the American librarian famous for creating the Dewey Decimal Classification system, was born. Find out five things you didn’t know about the Dewey Decimal Classification System.

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Dewey Founded The American Library Association, But Was Later Forced Out Because Of His Behavior Melvil Dewey may have come up with a good way to classify library books but was reportedly unable to control himself when he was near women. Dewey and other American Library Association members took a cruise in 1905 to Alaska to talk about the future of the ALA. Four women on the trip accused Dewey of sexual harassment.  Within a year, Dewey was forced to step down from his involvement with the organization he helped to create.

He Required School Applicants Had To Submit a Photo Dewey was the founder of the School of Library Economy at Columbia College, where 90 percent of his students were female. It was long rumored that Dewey required that female applicants include their bust sizes in addition to their ages. Although his was just a rumor, later proven to be false, Dewey did however, ask women to submit photos of themselves, often noting“ You cannot polish a pumpkin.”

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The Original Dewey Decimal System Was Racially Biased Dewey’s personal biases spilled over into his creation of his classification system.  In the 1930s, Dorothy Porter, a librarian at Howard University redid the Dewey Decimal System, which treated black writers unfairly. The Dewey Decimal System was also accused of homophobia because books on issues regarding LGBT were placed under categories such as perversion, abnormal psychology, medical disorders, and even derangement.

The Religious Section Was Heavily Skewed Toward Christianity The religion section on Christianity under the DDS begins at 200 and goes to 290, even though there are about 4,000 religions recognized around the world. This means that only ten numbers are used for all those other religions. The numbering system for religions has seen some changes but totally restructuring it has not been addressed.

A Better Classification System Is Referred to As "Dewey-Lite" The Dewey Decimal System of classifying library books is used by 135 countries and in 200,000 libraries. but its far from perfect. However, the biggest complaint is that the DDS doesn’t make reading especially exciting and that it might be better to organize the books in public libraries the way book stores are set up.  By doing away with the numbers, some libraries are classifying books simply by category and organizing by author—a system they've begun referring to as "Dewey-lite."