Friday, February 25, 2011

Interesting Nonfiction for Kids: Dewey Decimal System RIP?

Melvil Dewey
An article in last week’s Chicago Tribune about the demise of the Dewey Decimal System has given cause to think about my usage of a library versus a bookstore, and how the general public uses both. In the article titled “Who's Killing the Dewey Decimal System?”, a local Elgin IL library is featured as a successful library that has fashioned their shelving system into a more bookstore layout. Other Chicago libraries are following suit and have demonstrated increased amounts of books checked out, aka “foot traffic”.
Basis for the change is to encourage people to read more books and for libraries to become more user friendly. Opponents to the new system have strong feelings regarding the change. Comments range from the belief that the fad is dumbing down libraries to the lack of standardization leading to chaos within the library system.
The Dewey Decimal System for me brings back fond memories of looking for a book in the Wilson Elementary Library or the Mt. Washington Library – where my mother would drop me off each week while she shopped at the local Kroger’s grocery store. Nowadays, I’ll get a text from my ten-year-old son begging me to stop by the library while I’m running errands to grab a book (with the corresponding number) for him – that he’s checked online and is at the library.
Definitely, I'm in no position to rant one way or another about the evolution of the library in our culture and economic climate, but the topic is fodder for an interesting discussion on this blog. Anyone have a comment or two? Please chime in.
Last November, Annoyed Librarian in Library Journal blogged about the library system changes in a post titled "Libraries Reinvent Themselves".

Feeling a little nostalgic for Melvil Dewey’s invention? Here’s a few Interesting Nonfiction for Kids selections:

Dewey the Library Cat: A True Story
By Vicky Myron
Little, Brown 2010
J 636.8

Melvil Dewey: Library Genius
By Jill Sherman
ABDO Publishing 2010

Bob the Alien Discovers the Dewey Decimal System
By Sandy Bridget Donovan
Picture Window Books January 2010
J 025.431 DON

The Library Gingerbread Man
By Dotti Enderle
Upstart Books January 2010
(Yeah, I know it's not nonfiction but I couldn't resist.)

*Please notice that I added the Dewey Decimal information, for your convenience.


kristin said...

Very interesting Anna! I admit I would probably prefer the bookstore type layout as I am always looking for new authors and like to just wander and pick up things that look interesting. I can definitely do that in a library, but I always have more luck wandering in a bookstore than I do in the library.

On another note, my kids and I watched a movie from 1983 last weekend (War Games w/Mathew that movie!). There's a part in the movie where he uses a card catalog to find a book. How ancient is that! My kids had no idea what it sad!

Renée said...

I like the idea of changing themed displays at the front and/or in different areas of the library to catch the attention of browsers and call people's attention to groups of books, but I really question the usefulness of wholesale reorganizing a whole library "like a bookstore." If people really like an author, it is not that hard to walk three steps to a library computer, type the author's name in, and get a whole list of his/her other books. And if you are interested in a nonfiction subject, it seems to make more sense to keep identical and then related subjects grouped together. What might be more helpful for browsers stymied by the Dewey decimal system is to add more prominent and clear signs above and at the end of each row of books to let people know what subjects are covered where. Little pictures or icons are helpful too. The bottom line is that people who are serious about doing research on a topic and looking for a specific book by number are going to be driven mad by "Pack Your Bags" sections full of random travel and language books that are mushed together in no real order.

Anna M. Lewis said...

Thank you for your comments. I was just curious what people thought.

Kristin, that is so cool about the card catalog in War Games!

Renee, I LOVED your comment about how people are going to be "driven mad by the Pack Your Bag sections". LOL