I sort of knew about this for a while but the Rangeview Library District is ditching Dewey in favor of a self-created WordThink system which more closely mimics bookstore categories. No word on whether they’ll ditch that horrible catalog though. They’ve only implemented the switch at one branch so far which means the systemwide catalog returns results with both WordThink and Dewey codes. Press coverage is the predictable “uptight librarians forced into uncomfortable situations by open minded knowledge workers!” and I have the same old twitch when I see libraries referring to patrons as customers.
That said, it will be interesting to see now just how this works in the new library but how it makes that library play with other libraries who use other systems Is ILL affected? How do you locate a book on the shelves (by author?) What are vendors saying about this and what are the ramifications for all the copy-cataloging that happens? I’m definitely just barely able to understand the longer range implications, but pretty much happy to see people trying things. More discussion on MetaFilter where someone included this terrific poem.
Dewey took Manila
and soon after invented the decimal system
that keeps libraries from collapsing even unto this day.
A lot of mothers immediately started naming their male offspring ‘Dewey’
which made him queasy. He was already having second thoughts about imperialism.
In his dreams he saw library books with milky numbers
on their spines floating in Manila Bay.
Soon even words like ‘vanilla’ or ‘mantilla’ would cause him to vomit.
The sight of a manila envelope precipitated him
into his study, where all day, with the blinds drawn,
he would press fingers against temples, muttering ‘What have I done?’
all the while. Then, gradually, he began feeling a bit better.
The world hadn’t ended. He’d go for walks in his old neighborhood,
marveling at the changes there, or at the lack of them. ‘If one is
to go down in history, it is better to do so for two things
rather than one,’ he would stammer, none too meaningfully.
One day his wife took him aside
in her boudoir, pulling the black lace mantilla from her head
and across her bare breasts until his head was entangled in it.
‘Honey, what am I supposed to say?’ ‘Say nothing, you big boob.
Just be glad you got away with it and are famous.’ ‘Speaking of
boobs ..’ ‘Now you’re getting the idea. Go file those books
on those shelves over there. Come back only when you’re finished.’
(John Ashbery, ‘Memories of Imperialism’, listen to it here)