This is the first and only unassigned ten-spot in all of Dewey. It used to be the home of Biographies, but most libraries separate biographies into their own section, leaving this vacant lot to the weeds. Of course, on the shelves the 030s and 050s will flow together seamlessly, but in our minds and hearts we all know and carry on the memory of the ancient denizens of the 040s.
035 Encyclopedias in Italian, Romanian & related languages
036 Encyclopedias in Spanish & Portuguese
037 Encyclopedias in Slavic languages
038 Encyclopedias in Scandinavian languages
039 Encyclopedias in other languages
You want facts? They got your facts right here. Perhaps this section should be renamed “Bathroom Reading” as there are encyclopedias and fact books galore, including the perennial favorite Guinness Book of World Records and multivolume and multicolored World Book. Once the behemoths of research, this type of printed books seems to be either dead or dying as a primary resource for in-depth study. I feel like a dinosaur for remembering having the set at home and actually using it for school assignments. Despite their diminished status, I’ve come to see them as a great place for serendipity to reign. Open up to a random page and you’ll find something interesting or informative or even delightful.
Just imagine how differently Breaking Bad would have ended if Walter White had stocked his bathroom with encyclopedias instead of a personalized book of poetry. I’m not saying encyclopedias are better than poetry, but I guess I kind of am. Perhaps I’ll change my tune (or my verse?) when I get to the 800s.
024 No longer used—formerly Regulations for readers
025 Library operations
026 Libraries for specific subjects
027 General libraries
028 Reading & use of other information media
029 No longer used—formerly Literary methods
We’re getting meta up in here. I suppose it’s fitting that the section on libraries should be towards the beginning. Imagine how much this section has changed from Melvil Dewey’s time until now. I wonder how blown his mind would be by the Internet and online catalogs. It’s something we modern users take for granted. I’m old enough to remember using card catalogs, but kids these days (\*shakes fist at sky*) don’t have a clue. Whether that’s good or not is debatable, I suppose, but so long as they’re using the library I’d call that a victory.
Speaking of victory, this section is the first thus far that has books I’ve already read, two of which are below. Yeah reading!
My Ideal Bookshelf
edited by Thessaly La Force
Dewey: 028.9 MY
Random Sentence: “I picked all of these books because I think you should always judge a book by its cover–or its spine, in this case.” -Oliver Jeffers
014 Bibliographies of anonymous & pseudonymous works
015 Bibliographies of works from specific places
016 Bibliographies of works on specific subjects
017 General subject catalogs
018 Catalogs arranged by author, date, etc.
019 Dictionary catalogs
Ohhhhh yeaaahhhh… Pure, unadulterated book crack. This is where things start to get good. Book lovers don’t have to go far to get their fix in Dewey. Bibliographies of all stripes serenade perusers of the stacks like the Sirens in The Odyssey, each its own rabbit hole of bookish delight. Be careful not to linger for too long here, though, as there’s so much more to see. (Although, if you’re already overwhelmed by the panoply of book choices before you, then perhaps a curated bibliography is a good place to start your reading adventures.)
Ready for the Snapchat summary of Dewey? Here it goes:
The Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) organizes library material in a numerical hierarchy by field of study. Each one has its own 100-level placement, called a class:
000 – General works, Computer science and Information
100 – Philosophy and psychology
200 – Religion
300 – Social sciences
400 – Language
500 – Science
600 – Technology
700 – Arts & recreation
800 – Literature
900 – History & geography
Each class has its own 10 subdivisions, which have their own subsections, which become more specific the deeper they go. So a book with a Dewey number of 300 will be more general than one with 301.355. Books are organized on the shelf in numerical order, with books with the same Dewey number organized alphabetically by author. (It’s a lot easier to understand when you see it on the shelves, so go visit your local library!)
A book’s Dewey number has two components: its class number (i.e. a number that designates its place on the shelves) and three letters, which usually are the first three of the author’s last name.
So in my library, David McCullough’s Truman has a Dewey number of 973.918 MCC, which got that because it’s in:
900 History & geography
– 970 General history of North America
– – 973 General history of North America; United States
The numbers after the decimal point identify the material more and more specifically by geography, subject, language, etc. And because David McCullough was the author, MCC is tagged onto the end.
That’s basically it. How an item gets cataloged fully – with subject headings, physical description, and all that extra info most non-library folks don’t care about – is both an art and a science, and one best left to professional catalogers because they actually enjoy doing it. But going forward, we’ll be just fine with the basic knowledge of what a Dewey number is and why it’s important for libraries.
The Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) is kinda weird. For today’s app-ified patrons, it’s not very intuitive and seems tattered, like one of the old books it classifies. But despite what the sayers of nay say, it’s not time to dump Dewey. Instead, we should try to get to know it a little better.
Librarians encounter Dewey every day while finding books for patrons, weeding the stacks of old books, and selecting new material for the shelves. Yet it can be a bit hard to understand at times, even for librarians. How can such a fusty system be made fresh again?