Monday, October 22, 2007

Dewey or Don't 'ee?: The Promised Longer Post

I have mixed feelings about the Dewey Decimal System. I think it’s okay as a cataloging system. I don’t feel cranky nor apologetic about its biases, but I recognize they exist. I don’t have it memorized, nor do I feel the need to do so. My theoretical joy at the exactness of an item’s Dewey number extending six or seven or eight decimals places to the right is tempered by the difficulty of having to visually sort through all those numerals at the shelf.

In spite of that, just from the frequency of wandering down to the stacks to pick up a book, there are some numbers that stick in my head. But even there, my mental labels are not necessarily the real Dewey labels:

004, 005—computer books, PCs and some software [official Dewey, Data processing & computer science, 005 Computer programming, programs & data](The Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system is a general knowledge organization tool that is continuously revised to keep pace with knowledge. The system was conceived by Melvil Dewey in 1873 and first published in 1876. The DDC is published by OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. OCLC owns all
copyright rights in the Dewey Decimal Classification, and licenses the system for a
variety of uses.)

200, 220, 290-99—religion (primarily Christian), Bible, Comparative religion [Religion, Bible, Other religions]

364.something—True crime [Criminology]
398.2—folk and fairy tales [Folklore]

423—Dictionaries [English dictionaries]
428—Learning English [English standard usage]
438—Learning German [German standard usage]
448—Learning French [French standard usage]
458—Learning Italian [Italian standard usage]
468—Learning Spanish [Spanish standard usage]

500s—Science [Science]

635—gardening [Garden crops]
635.9333—Roses [Roses]

636.7—Dogs [Animal Husbandry, Dogs]
636.8—Cats [Animal Husbandry, Cats]
641--Cooking [Food and Drink]
658—Management [General Management]

700—Arts [The Arts]
759—Historical artists [(Arts) Historical, geographic & persons treatment]

800--Various Literature, poetry, plays [Literature]

912--Atlases [Atlases, maps, charts & plans]
914-19--Travel [Geography and Travel, specific locations]

920--Biographies of groups [Biography, genealogy & insignia]
921--Biographies of individuals [Optional number]

930--Ancient History [History of the Ancient World]
940--European History [History of Europe]
970--American History [History of North America]
980--Latin American History [History of South America]

Admittedly, a very incomplete knowledge in my head. But I can find the others.

A couple days ago, a patron came in and said, "I found this book in your catalog and wrote down the number, but I guess I didn't get enough of it, because when I went there, I couldn't find the book. It's about Caribbean culture." She showed me here paper: Caribbean 641.5

I went back to the catalog with her and started to type in "Caribbean Cookery."

"No," she said, I don't want a Caribbean cookbook. I did a keyword search for Caribbean and about seven thousand titles showed up and I was going through them. At about page four I found one that caught my eye. It was about Caribbean culture."

"But 641 would be a cookbook...," I said.

"No, it wasn't a cookbook. I just searched on Caribbean."

"Okay, well, I'll try this." Then I keyword searched Caribbean and limited it to just books we own in the building. Seventy-nine titles claimed to be in the list.

"Oh, that's a lot better than seven thousand," she said. "I can find it from here."

So I went back to the desk.

Ten minutes later:

"It was a cookbook after all. But it had pictures and talked about the culture. Thank you," she said.

Even when I know what I know,
I can let it go
If a patron tells me so.

1 comment:

Carrie K said...

At least she couldn't tell you it had a green cover.

And whew! I too am a Dedicated Reader. As if I had any doubt.