Why I Still Dewey

In this age when you hear a lot about genrefication in school libraries, I have contemplated whether or not it is a good idea for my school. In explaining my position I hope I do not upset those who have chosen a different path. If you have your library organized by genres, I hope that it is because you think it is a good idea for your school, your library, and your population. As school librarians we are responsible for deciding what is best for our individual library.

I work at a K-12 College Prep school. It is my belief, and the belief of my administration, that preparation for college begins when a child enters school. When we teach research skills in the elementary grades, we teach them in such a way to prepare them for the middle school and high school course work.

So when I began seeing discussions about organizing school libraries by genres I did some investigating and considered the consequences of moving toward genrefication. I looked at college libraries because that is what I was preparing my students to use. While colleges don’t all use the same classification system, most use either the Dewey Decimal Classification System or the Library of Congress Classification System. The standards for both of these systems are set by the Library of Congress so titles are generally categorized the same across a variety of libraries using the same system.  I could find no standard for genrefication. It appears to be based on the individual preference of the librarian who is doing the organization. Will a mystery story involving dogs be place with mysteries or with dogs?

The standard for both school and public libraries, at least those I have been familiar with, has been Dewey Decimal for non-fiction, Fiction gets an F designation along with author letters, and the Everyone or Easy books get an E designation along with an author letter. Maybe it is because this is what I have known my whole life, but it makes the most sense to me. I had an easy transition from high school to college libraries even though one used Dewey and the other used Library of Congress because they were organized in a definable way.

Part of my role as school librarian is to teach the students how to use a library. I see the elementary students on a weekly basis and the secondary students on as “as needed” basis. Because secondary use of the library can be sporadic at best, I need to teach the elementary students how to use the library in a way that will prepare them for their future education. The best way I know to do this is to have our school library organized by the Dewey Decimal System.

I still get those questions – Where are the mystery books? Where are the dog books? and other similar questions. To solve this I have purchased genre stickers from one of the library supply companies and have placed them on our books. We have genre stickers for mystery, fantasy, Christian, dog, cat, horse, sports, and a variety of holidays. If the students are interested in a genre they only have to search the shelves for the stickers. This has addressed the genrefiction question without compromising my strong belief in using the Dewey Decimal System in a College Prep environment.

What do you do? Dewey? Genres? a combination? Leave a comment below and let me know.