Dewey Decimal is a classification system for libraries

The Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) is one of the most used methods, especially by public libraries. Melvil Dewey was an American philosopher and librarian. He came up with a classification system aimed at organizing books according to their subject area. He developed the system in 1876 while working as a student assistant in the library of Amherst College. He was twenty-one years old when he invented the system. He assigned a unique numerical code to each category of knowledge so that it could be easily organized and accessed. Melvil Dewey believed that putting such a system in place would enable library patrons to effortlessly locate books to read them on-site or check them out.

Melvil Dewey
Melvil Dewey

Before he introduced this classification system there had not been any other standardized library classification system. Libraries used their own way of organizing their collections. Some arranged their books and other items alphabetically, whilst others organized them by size or colour. As a result, this unstandardized classification system lacked efficiency and uniformity, putting patrons under pressure when trying to locate books. 

Here are the numeral codes assigned by the philosopher: 

  • 000 Generalities
  • 100 Philosophy & psychology
  • 200 Religion
  • 300 Social sciences
  • 400 Language
  • 500 Natural sciences & mathematics
  • 600 Technology (Applied sciences)
  • 700 The arts
  • 800 Literature & rhetoric
  • 900 Geography & History  

Library shelves are organized based on these numbers. For example, if you are seeking to get a book about religion, you head for shelves with the label “200”; if you are looking for a book about technology, you head to shelf 600 and find it there, and so on.  Certainly, this classification system has revolutionized and improved the organization of library materials, be they books or other items.

Categorizing books by subject and assigning them unique numerical codes is specific to nonfiction books. Fiction books do not adhere to the DDC system. They are organized differently by putting them on shelves based on their authors’ last names’s first three letters. For instance, if you are looking for a novel by Margaret Atwood, you search for novels whose spine label has the letters “ATW”. You got them. 

The DDC system has rid people of many difficulties in accessing library books. Now, each subject area has a unique number that identifies it. This classification system has become a universal one, employed by almost every country of the world for its public libraries. Learning these numerical codes by heart will benefit you a lot because they enable you to find what you have in mind right away. 

Without wandering around or wasting time, you know which section of the public library to go to get this or that book. It is that simple and easy. Melvil Dewey left behind an efficient classification system for public libraries. He was born on 10 December 1851 and died on 26 December 1931, aged 80.