Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ditching Dewey

 My fifth graders use the card catalog every week, they always find the book they want on the catalog and then ask me where they can actually find the book. They know how the Dewey Decimal System works, they know it is in numerical order, but every week, they have to ask where to find things. I have taught them how to use Dewey, labeled the high interest shelves and used increased signage to help, but to no avail.

So, I am going to shake things up; change the look and feel of my library, by organizing the shelves using a categorizing system based on the BISAC Subject Headings. Yes, I'm going to DITCH DEWEY. I got the idea reading about METIS, which I found at Brief Book Bytes.

It's not that  I don't like structure, as a teacher/librarian, I like being able to shelve things in an easy manner, it is just that I think that Dewey is outdated and the children don't really need it or use it. I honestly don't think most of the adults in my school use it either. They come in and ask where things can be found, the same as the children.

I have spent a lot of time reading both sides of the argument for 'Ditching Dewey' and everyone keeps using the phrase, "Librarians search and students browse", but I don't think that is completely true. I think students don't search, because they don't understand the system; even when taught, the whole decimal thing throws them off. I usually start teaching Dewey by talking and teaching about decimals. Students can understand the concept in 3rd and 4th grade, they can organize a pile of books without a problem, but using the system to find books confuses them once they go to the shelves. I believe, if the shelves were organized so that they could relate to them, it would make searching easier.

Thus, No more Dewey.

In my research about getting rid of Dewey, I also read, "Anythink’s WordThink: A Revolutionary Organizational System" and understand why they have more books circulating and more patrons using the library; it is easier for the patrons to use a BISAC approach and less intimidating, whether searching or browsing.

Anythink calls their system WordThink, the group in New York calls theirs METIS after "the Greek goddess of wisdom and deep thought". I have no idea what I am going to call my system (which is going to be a kind of mix of both of these systems), I'm more worried about making it work and figuring out how to do it.

So, over the next couple weeks and months, I will be sharing with you my journey from Dewey to my new system. I haven't even really started yet, and already I am thinking about the process in my sleep. I don't know if that is a good sign or a bad one, but only time will tell.

As the Garth Brooks song says:
sometimes you just can't be afraid 
To wear a different hat 
If Columbus had complied 
This old world might still be flat 
Nothin' ventured, nothin' gained 
sometimes you've got to go against the grain.

I guess we'll see if I sink or swim...

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