When the new Gilbert library opens next month, it will be the first public library in the nation whose entire collection will be categorized without the Dewey Decimal Classification System, Maricopa County librarians say.
First one in the nation. Sure, except for -- all the libraries that use the Library of Congress system. Come to think of it, what does the Library of Congress (a public library) use? (Hint: It's not Dewey.)
The news here is that the library is planning to shelve books more like a Borders or a Barnes and Noble does. So it's got a new cataloguing system.
The books in Gilbert's new library will be organized in about 50 sections, then subsections, from sports to cooking, gardening to mysteries.
Apparently the old system is too difficult:
It's just too confusing for people to hunt down books using those long strings of numbers and letters. Dewey essentially arranges books by topic and assigns call numbers for each book.
Indeed, it is complicated to find books about, say, the U. S. Civil War under the Dewey Decimal System. You'd have to go to the "the history and geography section," (900s) and within that go to the "North America section" (970s) and within that you'd have to find the section devoted to U. S. history (973). But in this new system it is very different:
For example, a book on the Civil War would be in the history neighborhood and in the U.S. section.
See? Totally different!
"Nowadays, people are used to going to a bookstore to browse, so we're just trying to create that same atmosphere," Shore said.
"I know Dewey fans are out there. But we haven't changed a lot in so long, and I think we're in a fight for our own survival."
No cataloguing system is perfect. Different ones work better for different audiences: that's why scholarly institutions tend to use the Library of Congress system and children's libraries tend to use Dewey. And there's nothing at all wrong with a library deciding to devise one of its own, assuming that it will be able to work effectively with other libraries using different systems.
But the article doesn't say how a patron is to find a specific book. Or how librarians know where to shelve a specific book when it's returned. Or how the electronic catalog will be managed. Will they all be alphabetical by author? Doesn't say. At any rate, this is still a classification scheme, and you'll still have to "hunt for" books, first narrowing it down by "neighborhood" and by "section" and then -- maybe -- needing to know the author's name to find the specific book you want. A better system for this library? Maybe, maybe not.
In other news, the U. S. postal service has decided to eliminate those difficult-to-remember house numbers and zip codes. All mail to me should henceforth be addressed to my full name, followed by "you know, that lady in Minneapolis with the three kids. The short one with the glasses who talks too much."