Facts about the Dewey Decimal System

Friends of Lincoln Library column
By: Jeri Chase Ferris Special to The News Messenger
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Is the summer reading program at the Lincoln Public Library at Twelve Bridges a success? Yes, indeed! There are 978 children enrolled (and reading). The Friends of the Lincoln Library (FOLL) have already donated 686 books as prizes. And Friends of the Lincoln Library does much, much more for our library. For example, the Friends donates $7,500 a year for an extra three hours a week of staff time for Mother Goose on the Loose, attended weekly by up to 200 children. Many thanks for the beautiful books you donate to Friends of the Lincoln Library for our book sales, which is one way we raise funds to support library programs. Last Saturday?s sale was a resounding success! Note to self: get there earlier next time. Please join us at our monthly Friends of the Lincoln Library meetings (second Tuesday, 2 p.m.). Bring your ideas for fundraising, grant writing and more. With your support, we can help keep our library open. Entrance to the library ? free. Information inside ? priceless. Someone asked, ?Who is Dewey and why should we care?? Do you know who helped found the American Library Association (ALA)? When? Do you know who opened the first library school? When? Where? Do you know who invented the Dewey Decimal System? A guy named Dewey, Melvil Dewey, did all the above. The American Library Association was founded in 1876; the first library school opened in 1887 at Columbia University; and Dewey came up with his system for organizing and shelving nonfiction books in 1876. (Fiction is shelved by the author of the book, except folk tales, fairy tales, riddles, which are in 398, and poetry and plays in 811-12.) Nonfiction goes by the numbers ? decimal numbers ? except biographies, which are under 921 by the last name of the subject. Some libraries still shelve them according to what the subject is famous for, which seems a bit awkward. What if the person was famous in both sports and music? Before Dewey invented his numbering system, some libraries arranged books to ?look nice? by size; some put them alphabetically by title; some just had a fixed spot on a shelf. When a new book came in, everything had to be rearranged. Ask your bffl (best friend forever librarian) for all 10 Dewey categories and all the hundreds of sub-categories. Here are three: 200 is religion, 300 is social studies and600 is applied science (science you use). So, for example, the Dewey number for a book on the commercial processing of kidney beans is 664.805652. I know you are rushing to get that book even as we speak ¬ unless you agree with the friend who said, ?Like I care about kidney beans.? If you are researching at an academic library such as Harvard or Yale, say, you will probably not use the Dewey Decimal System. Instead, you?ll use the Library of Congress Classification System, which is more academic. One last fact on Dewey. He was born Melville Louis Kossuth Dewey, He changed this to Melvil Dewey and even considered changing Dewey to Dui, the better to get rid of extra letters. Oh, one more last fact. When did he figure out how to organize books? He wrote, ?One Sunday during a long sermon ? without hearing a word, my mind absorbed in the problem, the solution flashed over me.? Family Movie Night July 21: ?Kung Fu Panda II.? Doors open at 5:30 p.m., with popcorn and soft drinks available. Come for the fun and check out the book, too! $5,000 grant from LEGO You can vote once each day through Oct. 1 at See last week?s column or Please help us win! This column is part of a Friends of the Lincoln Library series. Have a question? Contact the Friends at 434-2404, at or e-mail Author Jeri Chase Ferris is a Friends of the Lincoln Library member. This column may or may not necessarily express the opinions of The Lincoln News Messenger.