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Take Our Dewey Challenge!

Ready to master Dewey Decimal?  Ready to master information science?  Are you ready to find your way around virtually ANY library? 

If you answered "YES", then you can start our online quiz by clicking HERE.  Each question shows you a book and has 3 answer choices - choose the one that correctly identifies which general Dewey number the book belongs in. Good Luck!

Quick Review:  Doin' Dewey

Do you have a lot of books? What if you had many more? How would you keep track of them? How would you find the book you want?

Libraries have many, many books. Librarians need to know what books are in the library. A list of books in the library is called a “catalog.” Today, libraries keep this catalog on computers.

Librarians group books by what they are about – the subject matter. This is how they are placed on shelves. This is called “classification.”

Melvil Dewey, who lived from 1851 to 1931, invented a way to do this. His Dewey Decimal System is still used today.  Melville Louis Kossuth Dewey, the youngest of five children, was born on December 10, 1851, in a small town in northern New York.

Later he shortened his first name to Melvil, dropped his middle names and, for a short time, even spelled his last name as Dui. As a child, Dewey loved to organize and sort things and also had a talent for mathematics.

Organizing a Library?

Before Melvil Dewey invented the Dewey Decimal System, there was not a common way to organize libraries. Books were very expensive then and much harder to find.

Most buildings were made of wood. There were no fire codes. Fires were common. Think of all the things in a library that would easily burn. Librarians were more worried about fire than about how books were organized.

Libraries kept books in buckets so they could easily carry them out if there was a fire. The most expensive books were kept where they would be easy to grab and rescue if there was a fire. This made it easy to save books if the library was burning, but made it hard to find books to read.

To Dewey – this was not good. He loved organizing and he loved math. He used these two ideas he loved to create a system to keep books organized in the library. His system is so good – we still use it today.

Thanks to Melvil Dewey’s Dewey Decimal System, you can go in almost any public or school library and use what you know from one library to find books in another.

Using Number Codes to Organize Books

What Melvil Dewey did was think about what each book was about. He knew that when we look for books in the library, we are interested in books by topic or subject. Instead of organizing books based on the cost of the book, he organized books based on what each book was about.

Books on the same subject or topic should be placed together. This lets us easily find books on the things we need or like to read about. In order to do this and allow us to quickly and easily find books, Dewey created a number code for each topic. The numbers use decimals – the numbers have “dots” and then more numbers.

Think of all the different things we could write or read about. We will need a lot of numbers. Dewey created a set of 10 general subject areas – things that books might be about.
These general numbers are in groups of 100. The decimals in the Dewey Decimal System let us give each topic a special number or code.

General Dewey Numbers (by 100's)

To keep things simple, Dewey thought about what people are interested in and how we share information. He created a system of 10 main classes with 100 divisions and 1000 sections.

This means there THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS of Dewey numbers. Every topic you can imagine has its own number! No one wants to memorize them all. You don’t have to.

To make things easier, we can look at Dewey Numbers We will just look at the main classes or groups he created. That will help you know what shelves to look at when you want a nonfiction book.

100s – Who Am I? Books About Us.  The first section in Dewey are books that are numbered from 100-199. The most important thing most people are interested in is themselves. Some call this taking care of #1. Dewey started by creating a group for books that are about who we are. This means how we think and act. These are the things that make us human.

200s – Who Made Me? After we think about ourselves, many want to think about how we got here. The next group that Dewey created is about religion and Myths. These books try to explain how people got on earth and why we are here.

300s – Who Is My Neighbor? The next thing that interests people are the others around us. Dewey knew there would need to be a groups of people to share information with. These are books about how people live, the things we do, and folklore.

400s – How Do I Communicate With My Neighbors? If we have things to share with our neighbors, we need to be able to talk to them. This group of Dewey numbers is about languages, how we write, and grammar.

500s – What Will I Talk About?  Natural Sciences. Now that we know our neighbor and how to communicate, we need things to talk about. Dewey made this group for books about math and science.

600s – What Will I Do With Science? Applied Sciences.  After we learn about numbers and science, we need to find ways to use it. The next Dewey grouping is about APPLIED SCIENCE. It is about how we use science in medicine and technology.

700s – Time For a Break! What Will I Do For FUN? We have covered a lot of ground – almost everything we need to understand ourselves, share with our neighbors, and use science. Dewey knew that we would also want to relax and have fun. This group is about arts and recreation.

800s – Time to Get Serious Again:  Authors and Books That Make Me Who I Am.  After a fun break, we look at the important books we read, which we call literature. Famous authors and famous books are important. They are so important that Dewey gave them a special section in the Dewey Decimal System.

900’s – Who, What, Where, When, Why? How Did Everything Happen? In order to understand everything else, we need to answer these questions. Dewey created a special section for geography and history

000-099s.  Everything Else - Room to Grow! Remember, Dewey lived a long time ago. He could never have imagined many of the things we talk and read about today. He knew this, so he created a special grouping for everything else that would come along. This includes topics such as aliens and software.