Rethinking Dewey

This is actually what I wanted to talk about with that last post!

At the 2011 ALA conference in Minneapolis, I went to a session about ditching the Dewey Decimal Classification System, in favor of a bookstore model. There are a lot of articles in the literature (and blogosphere) about this, and, judging by the attendance, it was a popular session. With that said, though, I don’t think I was the only one who walked away disappointed. The librarian in question was setting up a new school library, with all new books. These were done via the bookstore model by Mackin. What good did that do those of us with an average collection age of 1989?

“The card catalog is no longer the necessary first stop in a visit to the library” by dfulmer. Used under Creative Commons license.
In my practicum, I had put my toe into the bookstore model, by doing a “featured collections” section which was hugely popular with the students (593% increase in circulation for the military books!) and have done that here, too. Doing that makes it easy for young students to find the books they really want – dinosaurs! princesses! football! kittens! – and keep them from messing up the nonfiction stacks. It was only for a few categories, though, with a small percentage of the nonfiction titles.
We’ve done a lot of physical changes here at the elementary library this summer – see these posts for pictures – but I think the biggest change will be some things we’ve done to the collections. We had already physically separated higher level fiction from lower level, but that was just by eyeballing it when we put them on the shelves. This summer, we’ve set up three collections for that – Fiction (Hoot by Carl Hiaasen, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) is against the north wall, Juvenile Fiction (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid, Smelly Bus, Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets) is against the south wall, and a new section, “Early Reader” is near the south wall, parallel. This section includes very early books, whether they be picture books, nonfiction, or fiction. This is your Hop on Pop type of books. Last year, students would come in to find “good fit books” for Daily 5 literacy instruction, and for those very beginning readers, it was hard to find appropriate books. Going to picture books was hit and miss, when you have books that really could be used with junior or senior high students. And the itty-bitty nonfiction books, appropriate for this level, simply don’t get checked out if shelved in nonfiction. So this will help, I’m sure. (We got stickers from Demco for the JF and ER collections. It’s a beautiful thing.)


But back to nonfiction. One argument I see in favor of changing to a bookstore model is that it’s easier for students to find books. Frankly, I find it very hard to find books in Barnes and Noble.  But then again, I know the DDCS, so navigating even the New York City Public Library wouldn’t be too hard for me.

The reason I want to transition to something a little different is this: the inconsistency of spine labels. I don’t know about you, but I hate doing spine labels. (I know, I know, I could get processing done, but half of my books come from Amazon.)  But let’s say you have a book on grizzly bears – 599.784. But I don’t like to put three digits to the right of the decimal, so I’ll round that to 599.78. But perhaps a past librarian would do the whole number, or round to 599.7, or god forbid, 599. So then, if you – or your Junior Librarians – have faith in your spine labels, your books might be: grizzly bear, polar bear, grizzly bear, panda bear, gazelle, grizzly bear, hyena. Chaos, I tell you! Chaos!

What I’m doing this year, then, is using fiberboard dividers that stick out a bit from the books, with the category name and Dewey number included. So we’ll have “Fairy Tales” and “Bears” and “World War II.” We’ll get more specific with the category when there are at least ten books on a topic. We’ll still mostly adhere to the Dewey order, though we’ll use our judgment – we’ll put all of the Titanic books together (910, Ti-tan-tic history – just like in the Dewey Decimal Rap). NASCAR is going out of the 796s and into 388s, sorry (cars, not sports).  This if course will require me to make more spine labels . . .

The fact is, I rarely have anyone come in looking for a particular nonfiction book. Someone will want a book on the Vietnam War or a fairy tale that isn’t too long or a print encyclopedia (ha ha, just kidding on that one). This will make it easier to find books on a topic, for my Junior Librarians to shelve books, and I think it will encourage browsing by students who thought they didn’t like nonfiction.


The elementary library is coming along very nicely.  Today the carpets are getting cleaned, so I’m staying in my office for awhile.  Oh, here’s a picture of my office! 

I suppose it looks a little cave-like and a little messy.  The cords and such above the desk aren’t my fault, though!  They are for the network and wireless and such.  I just decided that it was a waste of a good space to just put crap in there.  I have another office, but I don’t like to work in there because then I can’t talk to Donna!  This is closed off enough (so yes, it is cave-like) that I can get some work done, but open enough that I can bother talk to Donna all day.  I know she’s glad!  😉

The stage is all but done.  The only thing left is Brian will come and put in the shelves.  But the carpet layers came yesterday and it looks fabulous:

Doesn’t it, though?  Student registration was on Monday and Tuesday, so we had a few students come in and inspect – and approve – of the space.  I do see hopping down is going to be a problem, though!  We were preparing for the carpets to be cleaned, so the tables are out and the library is very open, which did encourage such behavior.  We initially were going to have some seats built to the sides of the stage, but that got postponed.  We’re not really sure we want them anymore – we’ll see how this works.  You can’t see it in that picture up there, but that red is a step up from the floor.  Here, look at this one:

We’re going to have carpet squares made from those rolls of carpet, and some students and I were discussing pillows yesterday so we got out some of Donna’s stuffed animals.  🙂

Oh finally, for the name of this blog post.  I’ve done some shedding of my own – eight pounds since July 1.  I’m doing the Shangri-La Diet and am having a lot of success.  I hope to be down 15 pounds by the beginning of school, 30 by the end of 2012, and 50 by the end of the school year.  We’ll see.  I would have been down 10 today but the kids and I went to eat at Chen Garden yesterday and the four miles I walked after wasn’t quite enough!

So here I am, with two of my bestest buds, Brandie and Kristen.  We did UNI’s 2 + 2 Elementary Education program and we were the Sioux City cohort.  (I’ve since graduated from the University of Missouri for my library degree – hence my shirt!)