I’ve been blogging about the Dewey Decimal Classification System (DDCS) for years now. I started in my high school library by Putting Dewey on a Diet, where I talk about my ideas for focusing less on the DDCS and more on providing immediate and seamless access to our nonfiction print collection for my high school students.
I talked about specifics in Breaking Up with Dewey. I shared images, reasons, and successes.
After publishing those two posts and getting a lot of feedback (both positive and negative), I went on a little Dewey Decimal Rant. It felt good to get that off my chest!
And now I want to share my reflections three years after the change - what I wish we did differently, how our students use the system, and how this has impacted my day-to-day practice as a school librarian.
The statistics speak for themselves. Keep in mind 2012 was a great year for circulating fiction and we were seriously considering getting rid of our entire nonfiction print collection. Seriously! Students were checking books out - but not nonfiction books.
After the Dewey Hack, our circulation of nonfiction books tripled in places. We continue to tweak our collection by talking to our users (students and teachers) about what information they are looking for and where they instinctively go to find it.
Regrets? I have a few…
As we began to make the change in our OPAC, we deleted some of the call numbers from the initial group of reclassifications. When I started running reports using Follett’s TitleWise, I immediately realized that we had made a huge mistake! My newly reclassified nonfiction books were coming up as “unrecognized” in my TitleWise analysis. If I could do it over again, I would have left the Dewey number in as the call # and added the reclassified label as a “call # prefix.”
What we noticed more than anything is although we worried a lot about what the OPAC record would and should look like for students, this was a needless worry - students were not using the OPAC at all. Why? Since our Dewey hack, students found they could easily find and browse to the book they wanted simply due to clear signage on our shelves. They no longer had to look up a keyword or code to find the title they wanted - they simply went to the shelf marked with the appropriate label!
Daily, I found my job has shifted from fewer directional reference questions i.e “Where can I get a copy of Hamlet?” to deeper research and inquiry teaching i.e “Can you help me find evidence that the quote in Hamlet ‘to thine own self be true,’ should be the most important thing in a person’s life?” I get to spend more time discussing, asking deeper questions, and guiding students and less time teaching high school students about a classification system they may never use again.
We all understand that the Dewey Decimal System is not an essential life skill. We need to make decisions based on what is best for our students - not what is best for librarians.
Think of small ways you could connect your users with information in new ways.