Dewey vs. Bookstore

In one of my classes we were discussing whether a library should approach its shelves and its website as a bookstore might.  Some students say that it’s more user-friendly and less intimidating than the Dewey Decimal System, and that it might increase the chances of customers browsing instead of looking for one particular book.  Others say that while it might be user-friendly, it forces customers to browse when they might not have the time to do so.  Books are harder to find in places like Borders because the store is so big and isn’t kept in very good order.  Both arguments are valid, and I’d be interested to see how this idea works in real life.

The professor offered a couple of links:
Article about Gilbert Library dropping Dewey.
Phoenix Public Library’s webpage, designed to look like a bookstore’s site.



  1. I can buy the idea that Dewey is one classification system and I certainly haven’t memorized it. But I wonder about how scalable the system at Gilbert is? I know when I go to Borders or B&N it is very easy for books to get misplaced – because they don’t belong in precisely one place. One example: a favorite fiction author. Charles DeLint is usually in SCiFi/fantasy. First he can be in the new section. Then sometimes there is a hardcover section- then the paperback. Nonfiction is worse. I think the better idea – signs that don’t just list the number, but also the general subject heading ( in english not library of congress).
    But I did like the webpage at Phoenix. I often go to amazon when a patron can’t remember enough of a book for me to find in the catalog. The search engine is a bit more flexible at the bookstore. Less LC terms, more real English.

  2. The only way I can see the bookstore model working is if we modified it to incorporate Dewey. The aisles would have a general subject with Dewey in parentheses (Cookbooks [641]), then the shelves would have a more focused topic (Vegetarian [641.5636]), and the individual books would be kept in order with Dewey. The patrons would be able to find the Vegetarian cookbooks without having to know Dewey, and the library could keep their materials in order so that we can find them.

    I loved the Phoenix webpage. So nice looking, and lots of neat little add-ons.

  3. I think there is potential in this idea with some sort of thing like ebg mentioned.

    In terms of websites, there are things under development that are going to be much user friendly with things like mind mapping and such.

    The sad fact is that we don’t yet have anything better for large collections. So until we do, Dewey and LOC will have to do.

    But perhaps as taxonomy and classification starts to change, how we organize things will also start to change.

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