Just a thought in passing before I begin. As is probably obvious to a lot of you, I get some of my blog fodder from LIS News (as well as Library Stuff, Library Link of the Day, my favorite newsy Twopointopian, and of course my lovely readers). Lately, I’ve been wondering what is up with posts like this one. Several by this guy have been "cross posted" to his own blog. W, as the kids today say, TF? LIS News is for LIS news, not for exploitation by some librarian desperate to draw attention to his blog. If you want people to read your blog, write something worth reading. If you have some LIS news to share, post it to LIS news. How hard is this? Sheesh , have a little respect for the readers. Plus, do we really want libraries partnering with Ben and Jerry’s? Aren’t librarians heavy enough already? I just find that sad.
So on to Dewey, or the lack thereof. The Library Journal – the best library news magazine in the whole bloody world! ® – reported that the Rangeview Library District in Somewhere, CO is dropping Dewey Classification in favor of something called the WordThink system. Someone outside Colorado apparently thinks this is interesting news, or I wouldn’t be commenting on it. I’m just not sure who does.
According to the local news story about it (via Library Stuff), "Rangeview Library District Pam Sandlian Smith" [sic] said Rangeview is the "is the first district in the U.S. to dump Dewey," but of course one branch of the Maricopa County Library System dropped Dewey two years ago. Everybody wants to be first at something, I guess.
I don’t see why it matters one way or another, as long as I don’t have to find anything in that library, but the arguments for dropping Dewey amuse me. "’For years, we’ve had focus groups and people consistently tell us, "I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how this library works," ‘ Sandlian Smith said. ‘So we decided to turn things upside down, and so far it seems to work well.’"
This tells me that there are a lot of morons living in the Rangeview district, or that the librarians need to work more on the "information literacy." Their new system has 45 categories. Dewey has ten. Which seems easiest? I’m suspicious of that anecdotal evidence anyway, because if the DDC is an intellectual challenge to someone, how likely is it the person even knows how to read? The fiction and biographies are almost always separated out of Dewey anyway, and maybe that’s to protect everyone else from the mouthbreathers gorging themselves on their steady diet of romances and Princess Di biographies.
"Garsh, Edna, there’s a number on the side of this book! What could that mean? For the life of me, I can’t figure it out!" "Don’t worry about it, Maynard, just quit spittin’ tobaccy in the libary!"
The librarians dropping Dewey like to say the new system is more "user friendly," but user friendly is a relative term. If your users are knuckleheads who rarely need to find a specific book, then, yes, the bookstore system is more "user friendly." If your users are people of reasonable intelligence or above who can take the 67 seconds required to master Dewey and sometimes want to quickly locate a specific book, it’s not more user friendly. Simple as that.
This local news article seems as badly written as the last one I commented upon. Check out this leap in logic. "The Dewey system has ardent supporters." Oooh, ardent supporters! And the supporting quote? "’I guess I can’t entirely see the reason for switching over to anything else,’ said K.R. Roberto, serials and electronic-resources librarian at the University of Denver. ‘This idea of grouping items by subject matter, it’s already being done, it’s just numerically.’" "Can’t entirely see the reason." Yep, Roberto sure sounds like an "ardent supporter" to me!
I’m not sure Dewey really does have any ardent supporters. Let’s face it, Dewey sucks. That’s why most academic libraries – you know, the ones with lots of books – dropped it decades ago for LC. Once you get up to a half million books or so across a lot of subjects, Dewey is just a big pain. For libraries with less than a half million or so books, what does it really matter? They don’t have enough books to bother about organizing, anyway. Just toss the genre fiction into a big pile for the addicts, and have the librarians remember where the rest of the books are. That always worked in my house.