27 August 2013

Goodbye, Dewey Decimal System

I first heard about libraries moving away from the Dewey Decimal System in 2008, probably through Twitter. Five years later, I've just finished our transition away from Dewey. It was a lot of work, but I'm convinced that my library is now a more kid-friendly place in which all patrons are better able to find what they're looking for.

If moving away from Dewey is something you're considering, I'd suggest doing it in chunks. It's a big job to tackle and you'll likely need a good bit of help along the way. If you're able to use volunteers for some of the work, it'll be a lot more manageable.

I started by splitting our chapter books into genre based sections. I was able to put lots of books in a genre section based on my familiarity with our collection. For others, I used Scholastic's Book Wizard and online reviews for help. The sections I created are: General Fiction, Adventure, Scary, Mystery, SciFi / Fantasy, Historical Fiction, and Funny. You might find that a different grouping of genres is better for you, but that's what this is all about - what's right for your library. My students have really enjoyed being able to browse their favorite genres and it's helped me become more familiar with my collection. I had no idea I had so many historical fiction books before this change. And it became really obvious that I needed to make adding more "funny" and "scary" books a big priority.

The next change I made was pulling all the graphic novels and grouping them together. Most of our graphic novels were in 741.5, but we had several in the 600s about health, and there were others spread out throughout our nonfiction section. This new graphic novel section quickly became one of the most popular sections in our library. 

The last job we tackled in the first year was adding stickers to the spines of our books, lots and lots of stickers. We added genre stickers to the chapter books first. Then, we added alphabet stickers to all of our picture books. This allowed for quick and easy shelving in the picture book area. Our picture books are never in perfect ABC order. If it's in the right section of letters, that's close enough for us. We added alphabet stickers to our biography collection, which operated the same way as our picture books. These sections aren't overwhelmingly big, so finding a book is still easy. Adding genre stickers to our sports books and our graphic novels wrapped up the 2012-2013 year.

shelves with signs
This summer, I started working on our nonfiction collection. It was a BIG job. Too big, really. But I did it... well, I'm in the process of doing it. We're so close! I've moved several things around within our nonfiction section and created a few special interest sections. But the biggest improvement is our signage. Each shelf is marked by a big, colorful sign. All I'm waiting on now is genre stickers. There will still be quite a few sections without stickers, but I'll tackle that after Phase 1 of Operation Stickermania is complete. Phase 1 consists of the following stickers: Marine Life, Animals (Alligator), Foreign Language, Travel, Cars, Animals, Art, Music, Science, African American, Health, Cooking, Pets, Holiday, Animals (Lion), Historical, Technology, and Finance. I ordered more than one Animals label so that I could label subcategories (Alligator for Reptiles/Amphibians, Lion for Mammals, etc.). 

Stay tuned for more!


  1. I can't even imagine trying to do this. Kudos to you!

  2. We use a modified bookstore version in our K-4 library with small rolling carts for early reader series (all marked with ABC stickers) A wall of bookcases with baskets for series like Magic Tree House and A-Z mysteries, a section of transitional chapter books marked with a red dot on the spine called (wait for it) Red Dot Books. A revolving bookcase for graphic novels. Displays for "Pink, Purple and Princess Books" and "Pirates and Superheroes" Identified shelves for Lego books, World Record Books, sets like NFL and dogs. And like you we add stickers for different genres to our fiction while still maintaining alphabetical order by author. We do use the Dewey system for our nonfiction because it works. The kids learn that books live in neighborhoods by subject and each has its own street address. All of this helps us keep a collection of 31,000 volumes circulating.