Monday, July 28, 2008

don't let dewey die

Earlier in the summer, the family and I were at the library, one of our usual evening outings. Owing to a new tiny kitten in our household, I encouraged the girl to check out a few feline specific non-fiction books. And we had a little exchange, something like, Where's the cat section? And I said, Oh! You need a Dewey Decimal Refresher. I said, you can consult the chart on the wall for general categories and I turned around to point, and turned around, and turned around and what? No Dewey Decimal Chart on the wall in the Children's Room at the Public Library?!

So we approached the librarian's desk and I asked if they had a Dewey Decimal wall chart that I didn't see. She gave me a queer look and responded, "oh, I think we used to have one, but we took it down when we put in the new shelves and, oh, it's probably around here somewhere."

Can we see it please?

(surprised expression). Oh, okay. Let me see. (much rifling around, finally finding it slid behind a filing cabinet). and then she looked my girl and said, "future librarian, huh?"

And I didn't say anything because if I'd opened my mouth it would have been, "Future Librarian? Future Librarian?! How about CURRENT LIBRARY USER!" geez.

Now I've since related this scenario to a number of different people and no one else was quite this outraged. I can get a little worked up about this sorta stuff. But the lack of passionate commiseration I've found has led me to worry that DEWEY DECIMAL IS DYING AND NO ONE CARES.

What with your information age and digital catalogs and internet searches, it might not seem like such an important skill set anymore to know the basic call numbers for Ancient Egyptian History (932), because anything you need to find is but a click away. Many public libraries have axed Dewey all together, opting for the academia preferred Library of Congress system. The Library of Congress system is, in my opinion, a better match for our digital world. But nothing beats Dewey if you want to organize and find items quickly without the use of complicated cataloging. We're talking basic categories by subject, time tested and part of our cultural ethos.

I don't think my reaction is purely sentimental. I fondly remember, and sometimes secretly wish my children could experience, the bygone powdery cylindrical Tarn N Tinys candy, instead of the modern, bullet-shaped candy-coated-shell version. That's sentiment.

This is embracing a valuable, traditional skill, an analog methodology useful for bypassing dependence on plugged-in technology. Widespread power outage and energy crisis? No trouble, I can still access the candlemaking section (745.593) by flashlight!

(this 1985 youtube clip is relevant and hilarious and fan-freaking-tastic)

4 comments: said...

I'm with you. I still miss card catalogs, too. {sigh}

Lisa said...

I don't have strong feelings about dewey. I don't like card catalogs though. I'm too impatient.

triple p said...

I get so frustrated with libraries these days. I love the posted Dewey reminders, because then you can just go browse the shelves - sadly, there isn't one at ours. I think I may just find one, and print it out wallet size for our personal use.

midgettroyani said...

I loved those candies more than I loved Dewey. I used to stack them and eat them and build w/ them. I still remember the way they made my nose tickle. Sigh.