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Dear Colleagues,
Yesterday, I took a road trip with a teacher-librarian colleague. We talked
about the new Arizona Dewey-less library. After our conversation, I thought
more about two Dewey problems that have been nagging me for years. These
issues make me wonder if it wouldn't be so bad to let the Dewey system of
classification die - a natural or unnatural - death.
To be sure, I am a (real) librarian. I do believe that information must be
organized to be accessible. However, my questions are about Dewey's
classifications. Here goes:
1.      There is a proliferation of informational books for children than
the Library of Congress classifies as fiction. This is frustrating when we
explain the Dewey system to young students. Although it is shelved with
fiction, there is no way that Sandra Markle and Alan Marks' book A Mother's
Journey is a "made-up" story. This "story" is scientific facts about Emperor
penguins told in a narrative format. These penguins are not in any way
anthropomorphized.  Is this book classified as fiction because the
illustrations are paintings rather than photographs? 
The proliferation of multigenre books adds to the dilemma of accurately
classifying books. Joyce Sidman and Becky Prange's book Song of the Water
Boatman and Other Pond Poems is clearly poetry, but the addition of factual
information about the topic or theme of each poem complicates the waters.
You may or may not know that publishers have NO input into the
classification of their books. The Library of Congress assigns the numbers,
and there is NO debate.
2.      The Judeo-Christian bias of Dewey has always bothered me. Creation
and other spiritual stories by American Indians and other people are found
in the 398.2 folklore section while Judeo-Christian stories are classified
in religion when they are found in the non-fiction section of the library.
Perhaps, savvy librarians will develop a new classification system that
better represents the books and other resources and the sensibilities of
21st-century society and library collections.
What do you think?
Judi Moreillon, M.L.S., Ph.D.
Literacies and Libraries Consultant
Author:  <> Collaborative Strategies for Teaching
Reading Comprehension: Maximizing Your Impact

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