Interesting Notes from Class:
This week we were learning about how libraries catalog and shelve their books. The Dewey Decimal System? The Library of Congress? Something else? I was mostly interested in the Dewey information, as my library uses the DDS to shelve nonfiction. Here are some notes from the readings:
As one librarian noted about the Dewey Decimal System: “Gardening books were on one shelf and books about planets several bookcases away with home organization and child care in between — It just didn’t make sense.” — “To Dewey or Not to Dewey: Libraries Go Dewey-free” by Maureen McGrath (peer-reviewed article), p. 29
Changing to a non-Dewey system makes library employees think more about where a book should be based on what a patron is looking for. For example, the book entitled Construction Tools: “On the surface, it looked like it should go under building, architecture, or even hobbies but, after looking at the content, it was much more about the people who use the tools and so we placed in the “Careers” category.” — McGrath, p. 30
Anecdotally, we know that one library saw an increase in non-fiction circulation after they ditched Dewey and chose subject headings like “dinosaurs,” “poetry,” and “transportation.” Fiction had always outpaced non-fiction, but non-fiction circulation increased so fiction/nonfiction was 50/50. — p. McGrath, 32-33
Prior to the Dewey Decimal System, many books were organized by size or location (e.g. third shelf down and on the left) on a shelf. Of course, as new books were added and shuffled around texts on the shelves, the librarians would have to recatalog works in the collection. — “A Lot More to Dewey Than Decimals,” Public Libraries, vol. 57. no 6., Dennis Maurizi, p. 34
Although Dewey helped women become librarians and fought for their right to enter a professional field previously denied to them, he was a notorious sexual harasser, even chasing off his own daughter-in-law. He also founded an academic country club of sorts whose rules were segregationist, eventually leading to his ousting from the American Library Association, which he helped found, and losing his librarian job. — Maurizi, p. 35-36
Because Dewey was a notorious racist and segregationist, his Dewey Decimal System reflected his views. He did not have a category for African Americans, so when W.E.B. Du Bois published his infamous The Souls of Black Folks in 1903, it was categorized under “primitive societies.” — Maurizi, p. 36
No cataloging system is perfect because it reflects the feelings of the person who designed it and the times in which they were living. The Library of Congress system used to catalog homosexuality next to “criminality rather than biology or sexual behavior.” — Maurizi, p. 36
This Week’s Blog Posts:
People’s true feelings about sheep came out after they read my review of Sheepish by Catherine Friend. Ya’ll think sheep are stupid. Sheep are majestic weirdos, dammit. And I’m so glad some of you are now keen on getting a copy of this memoir!
More so than my sheep love, readers here were interested in my thoughts on Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. Thanks to this nuanced novel’s popularity in the bookish community (and maybe a push from yours truly?), several of you want to read the story of Emira and Alix.
Next Week’s Blog Posts:
I’ve been thinking about how much reading can make your body ache and groan. Holding the book, bending your neck, that sort of thing. How do we get over the bookish burn when we can’t put our books down? And then I got thinking about accessibility and reading. How do people with chronic pain and limited mobility navigate the physical challenges associated with reading? Check out Time To Ponder Books: Physical Limitations & Books on Tuesday.
Did I mention reading about sheep was calming? After, I headed for the horses and picked up Half Broke by Ginger Gaffney, a memoir about a prison ranch where the horses are more likely to eat garbage and charge like a pack of wolves than nibble carrots from your hands or prance around the prairie. Review on Thursday.
Book I’m Reading Aloud to My Spouse:
We’re back to Tibetan Peach Pie by Tom Robbins, from which we took a break to read True Grit by Charles Portis and then My Lady’s Choosing by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris. Robbins’s memoir is split up into chapters based on theme rather than moving chronologically, so it wasn’t hard to get back into. Here is a quote that just had me dying laughing:
There was major fighting in Laos at the time and the [Times-Dispatch] had been giving in front-page coverage, but the editors were starting to have second thoughts about that level of attention, so I was assigned to telephone Richmond residents at random and ask the question “Do You know where Laos is?” Few did. My favorite response was, “He don’t live here. Try across the street.”
Books Added to the TBR Pile:
Thanks to Bill for his recommendation in line with my recent warm feelings about animal memoirs! I also added the Ada Calhoun book about Generation X after the library I patronize started an online book club that meets over Google every other night. The small group that gathers there is comforting during times like these when the only people I talk to are Nick (my spouse) and Kitty (my cat) in person.