Column Description: I am excited to share my knowledge of all things youth services. I have learned a lot and want to help others. I'll talk about the good, the bad, and the hilarious. Because we all have those epic fails that we look back on and laugh about.
Today’s article is going to be all about re-organizing the non-fiction section. It can be really frustrating putting non-fiction books away as well as finding them. You would think it would be easy because it’s just numbered, but it can be really confusing. To top it off, the Dewey Decimal System was built on racism. (Sorry if anyone reading has been crushing on Melville Dewey, he was not a nice person.) For more information on Melville Dewey, as well as racism in the Dewey decimal system, check out this awesome article from Book Riot!
You might be thinking, what are you talking about? How is the system racist? Have you noticed that any book that is about black/Hispanic/Asian/LGBTQ+ history is in the 300s instead of the 900s? The 900s section is full of straight white history! If you want anything about non-white folks or LGBTQ+ history, it is in the 300s. For example, the book Slavery Wasn’t Only in the South was cataloged in the 300s yet the Civil War Encyclopedia was cataloged in the 900s. They are both history books that deal with the Civil War, yet the Dewey Decimal number was different.
I knew that wasn’t right - so in the children’s section, I went through all the books in the 300s and had the call number changed. The majority of the books went in either biography or the 900s section.
I also made a switch between fairy tales and folk tales. Instead of having them by the author, they are now organized by the Tale itself. For example, books about Little Red Riding Hood are 398.2 Red. This has made it a lot easier for patrons searching for their favorite fairy tales. Another switch I made was placing the What was/Where series together. Since they are mainly history, they are now cataloged as 900 and the cutter is either WHA or WHE.
Now a question some of you might have is how has this affected your circulation? This is still fairly recent (only a couple of months), but I have noticed the What Was/Where Is books have been going out a lot more. For example, What was Stonewall? was cataloged in the 300s and only went out once last year. Since the change, it has gone out 4 times! Where is the Serengeti? cataloged in the 500s and went out once last year? Since the switch, it has gone out 8 times! Several parents and kids have told me they like having this series together and it makes it so much easier to see what is available.
There is one more change I am planning. Instead of having a million numbers after the cutter, there will only be 1-2. This will cut down on confusion when shelving and I think patrons don’t even know what all those numbers mean. I don’t even know what most of them are! Patrons just know the basics like 500s have animals, 900s are history, etc.
It was a daunting task but well worth it. It is also an ongoing task. We order our books processed and they will come with numbers I don’t agree with. Luckily, I have an amazing clerk who loves what I have done and does not mind changing the call numbers.
Want more information on how to accomplish this at your library? Send me an email at email@example.com I am happy to help out and give advice!
Sarah Heukrath has been a librarian since February 2012. She is currently the Youth Services Librarian at the North Syracuse Library. She loves her job and has the best co-workers. Outside of the library, she is passionate about scary movies, traveling, and, of course, writing!