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The Enduring Qualities of Dewey

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Title: The Enduring Qualities of Dewey
Author(s): Young, Heartsill H.
Subject(s): Classification --Books
Abstract: It has been many years since Melvil Dewey's Decimal Classification has been discussed before a group such as this. In the nineteenth century, book classification was a controversial subject, and all librarians were eager to learn about and to compare new systems for arranging knowledge. At the first conference of librarians held in this country in 1853, classification was one of the topics discussed. Charles B. Norton read to the group a letter from Remain Merlin in which he gave the principal points of his book classification. At the organizational meeting of the American Library Association in 1876, classification again was one of the topics discussed. Melvil Dewey's new Decimal Classification had just been published, and Mr. Dewey appeared before the group to describe and to promote his scheme. By the early twentieth century, however, the Decimal Classification had gained such wide acceptance that book classification was no longer controversial, and librarians at large turned their interests and their energies to what they considered to be unsolved, challenging problems. Classification was left to the classifiers. The appearance of the fifteenth, or standard, edition of the Decimal Classification was the occasion of some general revival of interest in classification, but for some four decades we have more or less accepted the Decimal Classification, without giving much thought to its qualities, good or bad. It is easy simply to dismiss the Decimal Classification with the observation that it has endured, not because of any qualities it may possess, but because it is the scheme that is familiar to librarians and library users and because most libraries could not afford to reclassify, even though they might like to do so. Its familiarity is unquestionable. Dewey taught his scheme at the New York State Library School, and the graduates of that school went forth to teach it in other library schools or to adopt it for their libraries. Today the Decimal Classification is the basic scheme taught in the beginning cataloguing course of every library school in the country, and 85% of college and university libraries and 98% of public libraries in the United States use the scheme in whole or in part.
Issue Date: 1959
Publisher: Graduate School of Library Science. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Citation Info: In F.T.Eaton and D.E.Strout (eds). 1959. The role of classification in the modern American library : papers presented at an institute conducted by the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library Science, November 1-4, 1959. Urbana, Il: Graduate School of Library Science: 62-75.
Series/Report: Allerton Park Institute (6th : 1959)
Genre: Conference Paper / Presentation
Type: Text
Language: English
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/1478
ISSN: 0536-4604
Publication Status: published or submitted for publication
Rights Information: Copyright owned by Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 1959.
Date Available in IDEALS: 2007-07-16
 

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