Dewey vs. Genre Shelving…the Conversation Continues Here February 15, 2013Posted by Jen Habley in ALA Midwinter Meeting, Check this out!, Hot Topics.
At the recent ALA Midwinter Conference in Seattle, I moderated the AASL-sponsored Hot Topics discussion on “Genre-fying” the collection. Six panelists presented a variety of viewpoints on how to handle and issue that is being widely discussed. A number of librarians have implemented the change, reclassifying their nonfiction titles using letters identifying the genre. Some have used EBSCO’s NoveList as a source for the categories they chose, others have used their own ideas. A few have integrated fiction within the nonfiction. A more limited approach is to “genre-fy” the fiction collection. Those who have made the change point to increased circulation. Librarians who think we should stay with Dewey argue that consistency between libraries is important and the amount of work to make the switch is huge. The debate continues to rage. An upcoming issue of Knowledge Quest will be devoted to the subject.
Below you will hear from two of the members from the discussion panel, Devona Pendergrass and Christopher Harris. Where do you stand on the issue?
Hilda Weisberg is the Editor of “School Librarian’s Workshop”
Dewey or dontwey? That is the question that brings to mind a list of things to remember in making your decision. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water! If it ain’t broke don’t fix it! We heard from Michael Panzer the Editor of the Dewey Decimal System that Dewey is meant to be a fluid system that evolves and changes over time. Although not perfect Dewey offers a logical system for organizing every item in a library, offers users familiarity and consistency and is used in libraries worldwide. Dewey is a living, breathing system that each of us can tweak to fit our own individual needs and those of our students and patrons. Dewey also allows for the use of thousands of additional relative index terms that can be used as additional access points to your Dewey system. Familiarity breeds contempt. Maybe that is what is happening here. Since the system is old and everybody has heard and used the system it must be old and outdated. Heck, I’m old but I’m certainly not outdated and I can and do change every day in my way of thinking and doing but I am not ready to just throw me away for a newer model and neither is my boss. I’m sure my system could be replaced with one younger, prettier and sweeter smelling but as Shakespeare says “to thine own self be true.”
Devona J. Pendergrass is the School Librarian at Mountain Home High School in Mountain Home, Arkansas.
Genre (Subject) Shelving
The biggest hurdle we face in the discussion about reorganizing resources in school libraries is getting over the widely held belief that this is a black-and-white decision between Dewey and chaos. Those of us exploring new spaces beyond Dewey are still using an organizational structure. We have carefully considered vocabularies of subject headings set within a hierarchy that better matches the unique browsing needs of school-aged readers and curriculum-focused collections.
In actuality, I believe that the practice of subject-based cataloging isn’t anywhere near as controversial as it may seem on the surface. The general consensus of the pro-Dewey crowd at the panel seemed to be that libraries need to use better signage to help students find book. You know, signs…with subject words on them. Don’t get rid of Dewey, they cried, but please could we have more words to make it easier for a browsing student to find books.
The difference is that those of us working to move beyond Dewey in organized and documented ways are actually doing more to ensure that librarians who follow will have a clear map to understand the changes. Pretending to maintain strict adherence to Dewey while moving books between sections is more confusing just building a new, fully explained system that works from the beginning.
In the end, we are all asking for the same thing; a hybrid solution that uses the back-end power of the DDC, but displays subject words to students. A system that provides support for the flexibility and local changes required for the adult-centered, public library-focused Dewey to be truly successful in schools.
Christopher Harris is the director of the School Library System of the Genesee Valley (NY) Educational Partnership and editor of the American Libraries Magazine E-Content Blog.