Monday, August 10, 2009

Why do I still care about Dewey?

Libraries are changing. fast. Why dedicate the title of a blog to some dead guy, especially when the card catalog has gone to the wayside?

Will the Dewey Decimal system be next?

Maybe, but not anytime soon.

Dewey is a pretty incredible figure, having birthed the American Library Association, founded the Library Journal and invented a book classification system that is still in use in libraries around the world 130 years after he invented it.

All by the time he was 25.

Makes me feel like a slacker. At least back then he didn't have the distractions of reality television, youtube and facebook. Without those I'd have multiple books written by now...

Oh did I mention he also was a staunch supporter of segregation and was opposed to women's rights? Which is kind of interesting these days, as most folks first think of a librarian as being as being a woman. When I was talking to people about going for my Masters in Library Science, everyone was telling me schools are always looking for guys to enter their program. I guess there are not a lot of dude librarians out there.... (To see where I dug up my info on Dewey, or if you're in need for a hilariously good book check out Scott Douglas' Quiet Please: Dispatches From A Public Librarian.)

...but I digress. Back to Dewey, and why I named my blog after him. I guess because I get the notion that so many people feel that libraries, now that the magical internet is everywhere, are no longer necessary. Unless you are a student. of medicine. who is curing cancer. But in fact just the opposite is true. Libraries are needed just as much now as ever before, to ensure that the access to information remains open to everyone.

So I look at Dewey as an allegory. Yes he is definitely dead. But libraries are not, and like Dewey, they're pretty incredible. They may not have the sweetest history, but they get better and better everyday...


  1. Why were librarians predominantly women and when did this start? [The Lateran Councils forbid Christians from charging interest to other Christians on money loans (Ex. 22, Deut. 23, & Lev. 25), and the Jews are forbidden almost all types of jobs during the medieval period, and then we get the Jewish moneylender sterotype.] At what point did Dewey's ALA move from men to mostly women?

  2. Word up, T-Maz. Glad to hear you're in library school, and glad to see that I can follow your adventures on this here blog. I actually did some time working as a library clerk here in Albany, and enjoyed almost every second of it. Was glad to have a bottle of Purell close by, however. I look forward to reading your future posts.

  3. Talking about Dewey and women it should be notet that it was his secretary E. W. Sherman who convinced him to use index cards for other purpose than library cataloging. Without the success that followed her idea the library bureau would soon have went bancrupt and could not have offered library services for affordable prices.