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My thoughts have been lingering over this month's lead story in School Library Journal - Are Dewey's Days Numbered?  I serve a large K-2 library...  900 little 5, 6, and 7  year olds who come in to my library daily looking for a good book.  We are a Dewey Decimal System library...  well 96% a Dewey library...  (I don't always agree with the way a book is cataloged!) and I field the following questions every day:
  • Why aren't rockets with the space books?
  • Why aren't the firemen with the policemen?
  • Why aren't all of the Cinderella books together?
  • Why are the tanks so far away from the army books?
  • Why is I Spy in nonfiction?

I dutifully defend Dewey each time.  But now, I am starting to question...  If my students are struggling to find the items they want because of the way that they categorize information in their minds, if they are learning their letters, just learning alphabetization, and have NO idea what a decimal is, is my library meeting their needs?  Is it providing ease of access to information?

The more I read, the more I question how I am allocating my time...  Do I want to use my precious minutes teaching my students about a system that is outdated - a system that, to them, seems illogical, a system that in 10 years may be obsolete when publishers have decided that eBooks are king?

There are arguments to keep it...  Continuity between libraries, transitioning between schools, providing the skills students need to do research.  But is it the system that is important, or the process of understanding how to locate information, regardless of its organizational system, that is important?

I have so many questions...  Does categorical grouping transform how students browse?  Does it truly increase circulation?  Is there a library in Alabama that is doing this? 

So... my next steps...  Read more.  Contact the closest library I have found that has ditched Dewey.  Try to arrange a visit.  Talk with my administration, my teachers, my students.  And daydream about the day that all of my super-hero books are together on the shelf! 

If you are interested in this topic, know of an Alabama library who has made the jump, or feel strongly either way, please comment!

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I can't believe that 91 people have viewed this post, and no one has replied. 

First of all, no system is perfect.  Very few of my students have ever questioned the arrangement of the books in the library, so I haven't been tempted to remove Dewey.  In fact, I changed one of my libraries back to Dewey.  However, the books were labeled and in the catalog as Dewey but arranged on the shelf under various subject headings that made sense to my predecessor but not me.

Is it worth your time and energy to change everything? Re-cataloging a library is not an easy process. And there will always be books that won't fit into a neat category.  Where do you put Michelangelo?  with inventors? or painters?  How about John Glenn? astronauts, pilots, or politicians? Cars in vehicles or sports? Science fiction books with a romance in them? Mystery romances?  I can never find anything in bookstores -- I guess my mind isn't just set up that way. 

To be honest, I don't think it matters what classification system is used as long as the catalog gives you "the address of the book".  And the address is on the spine label, and that's how the books are arranged.  Our students leave high school every year and survive the change from Dewey in K-12 schools to the Library of Congress Classification system in colleges and universities.

I wish you luck in your endeavor.  Keep the rest of us posted.

Here's a  link to my blog post about how we ditched Dewey. Hope it helps. PS. Heard that ALA Midwinter will have a table set up centered around this discussion. Good Luck!

Wow! I went to your link.  It sounds like this is working for you.  It also sounds like you did a lot of planning before you did anything.  Great job!

I must admit that the amount of time and energy required to take on this project seems a bit daunting.  My patron makeup is my strongest motivator for even considering such insanity.  Pam - I totally agree that the important thing is that our wee ones undertand that information is organized and that there is a way to navigate that information.   My challenge is having 900 four, five, six, and seven year olds who don't know what a decimal is and who think VERY concretely.  I'm not currently completely convinced that this is the way to go...  I am glad to hear that ALA Midwinter will be offering opportunities for discussion...  Anyone else serve my same population exclusively?  And what are your thoughts? 

How many books do you have?  I have 10,000 more or less and just 400+ students.  In my present position, I work full-time every other week (so basically I'm half-time).  There is no other staff, and the library is closed on my off weeks.  My school is 97% poverty and over 60% ELL.  I have grades PK-5.  Many of the students are reading way below grade level, yet they have no trouble finding the books by Dewey numbers.

I put all the superhero books and movie books together in baskets, along with the I Spy type.  They go out so fast I never have time to shelve them anyway.  I put a note in the catalog to look for them in "Special Collections".  And marked the baskets "Special Collections."  Just like I put all the American Girl books together even though they have different authors.

The picture books are arranged by the first letter of the author's last name.  I'd rather do them totally alphabetically, but there isn't time for that.  I'm training student volunteers to shelve the picture books and the fiction.  Fiction is by the author's last name.  I also have an easy nonfiction and regular nonfiction section, plus the Spanish picture books, Spanish nonfiction, and Spanish fiction sections. (Shelving is sometimes a nightmare -- way too many sections.)

My 4K's don't check out and my Kindergartners are choosing from a cart at this time, so I don't have the little ones trying to find stuff as yours are.  In my previous positions, I always checked out to 4K, but I always had them pick from a cart.  Also in my previous positions, I gradually let the Kindergartners choose from the shelves.  I don't think I let them into the nonfiction until at least January -- this was mostly due to the arrangement and shelf height of the nonfiction shelves.  (I wanted to see which children I would need to watch more carefully when they or others used the stools.)  I needed to use the higher shelves in that school because of the size of the library.  The students there didn't use the OPAC much -- they just asked me where the books were.  I either gave them the number or the location.  Ex. The pet books were 5 shelves over and 3 shelves down. 


My last position was as the library media specialist for a school district.  I had 4 libraries and 5 aides, 2600 students.  One of the schools was a PK-2 building similar to your position. That library had 1.5 aides who were there every day.  It had 650 students, but the 4K students did not get any library services at all.  K,1, and 2 chose books once a week from the shelves with little assistance.  I was only in that library once a week, and I liked helping the students when I was there.  The students never seemed to question the arrangement of the books.  As long as the aides or I could find the book they wanted, they didn't care where it was kept.


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