PSLA 2013 Takeaway: Simplifying Dewey…A Bold Step!


Image from public domain at Wikimedia Commons

I’m about to take a huge leap into the unknown here and risking the ire of librarians (not to mention my fantastic library assistant) everywhere.   I’m not “ditching Dewey” entirely as we discussed at the PSLA 2013 Unconference.  Instead, I’m going to start cutting off all Dewey numbers at the decimal point to make them whole numbers.  No decimals.  Not even for the animal or sports section.  I think it’s high time we let go of the strict cataloging that Dewey limits us to and make it fit our needs instead of the other way around.

Some folks are sure to think I’m insane.  After all, how will students find a dolphin or panda or orangutan book if they are mixed in with all the other mammals in 599.  Same with sports and 796.  Well, here’s my brainstorm:  I’m keeping the books shelved with the same general topic and adding magazine files (backwards on the shelf) or empty VHS tape cases with large, pictorial signage to help with both shelving and finding the right books.

I’m aiming for an easier-to-implement METIS-like system.  While I’m not convinced that METIS has everything figured out, I like the idea of simplifying the Dewey numbers.  However, I think it’s an easy enough connection for students to make that a number (Dewey decimal assigned) corresponds with a topic, and I think it helps for students to have one section to browse about the same topic.

Some other accommodations I’ve made to make finding a book easier:

  • I made an “easy nonfiction” section that is organized very basically: animals, science, holidays, health, careers, places, biographies.  Kindergarten and 1st grade start with nonfiction here, though I will show them the “big” nonfiction section and guide them to the right shelf if they request it.  By the end of 1st grade, they know their favorite nonfiction shelves and go straight to them.
  • I’m in touch with Mackin about fixing/updating all my MARC records for me.  Unless there’s a report in Destiny for this, I don’t see another way.
  • Finally, I’m starting to make some signage this summer to use recycled magazine files and empty video cases.  I’ve used the taller backs of magazine files before to label the easy/everybody section with the alphabet letters, and it really is a valuable idea to make the library more useable for young children.  The magazine files take up a LOT of space on the shelf, so that’s why I’m considering video cases.

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Mrs. J in the Library

Collette J., or Mrs. J in the Library, is a full-time elementary teacher-librarian, blogger, and mama from Pennsylvania. She loves technology, books in any format, makerspaces, and all things Harry Potter. The information and opinions represented here are her own and are not the views and opinions of any business or organization.

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2 Responses

  1. Nancy Thren says:

    Wow, very interesting! I think these changes will make the library more user friendly for all your students. You are very brave to update the existing system.

    • Collette J. says:

      Thanks, Nancy! I know I’m totally crazy, and I don’t know when exactly I’m going to do this. Having a plan, though, is something! 🙂