The Deschutes Public Library system is ditching the Dewey Decimal System.
Walk into a bookstore and how are the books arranged? By areas of interest or subject matter.
That’s what the library system plans to do as it reorganizes. For instance, it will try to put all the books about gardening in the same section. That makes it easier for people to browse and discover.
The Dewey Decimal System in the public libraries does that, too, to some extent. But under Dewey, some categories of gardening would be shelved in three or maybe four vastly different areas, Lynne Mildenstein, assistant director of the Deschutes Public Library, told us.
That’s one reason the library system is making the change. But it’s also because any system designed in 1873 is likely going to need a refresh. And then there is Melvil Dewey, the system’s inventor.
Dewey did a lot to further the cause of public libraries. He was also racist, homophobic and accused of serial harassment of women.
His system of categorization arguably has some echoes of that. It has been revised over the years. For instance, all the works of Black authors are typically no longer lumped in the class of International Migration and Colonization.
It will take some time for the Deschutes library system to make the switch. It might not be completed until late 2023. Some categories that were in Dewey may be retained. But it will no longer be the fundamental way books are organized.