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A Library Does Away With Dewey

When the Perry Branch Library decided to stop using the Dewey Decimal System to organize its books, library officials saw the move as a way to make their stacks more user-friendly. But some skeptics saw something rather more sinister: To them, it was a sign that the creeping “Googlization” of libraries continues apace, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Instead of the Dewey system, the Perry library, in Gilbert, Ariz., has placed its books within broad categories like “business” and “history.” Patrons can search a computerized catalog to determine where a particular title is filed, or they can head straight to the stacks and start browsing, as they might do at a bookstore.

For casual browsers, that might be a boon. But for serious researchers, the more general categorization scheme could be problematic: It’d be much more difficult to compare books on ancient Greece if they were filed under “history,” not grouped together in the 938s.

Dewey isn’t unassailable, nor is the Library of Congress Classification System. But some librarians say a broad classification system that seems to evoke unfocused Google searches isn’t the best fix. “There are other ways of slicing information that aren’t the way Google decided to slice it,” said Jessamyn West, the author of the blog Librarian.net.

It’s hard to imagine college libraries abandoning the Library of Congress system. But should campus librarians be making adjustments for students who are used to search engines, not card catalogs? —Brock Read

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