I had the great honor to be asked to guest edit the November/December 2013 issue of Knowledge Quest, the journal of AASL. The theme was Dewey or Don’t We, a pro-con look at a growing practice among school (and public librarians) to go from the Dewey Decimal System to a genre-based one. I am again gathering my thoughts on the topic in preparation for writing an article for the February/ March 2014 issue of School Librarian’s Workshop and thought I would give my blog readers a preview.
The genesis of the Knowledge Quest issue goes back to the AASL Affiliate Assembly meeting at ALA Annual in 2012. The delegates from the Kansas Association of School Librarians brought a Statement of Concern asking AASL for guidance and leadership on how to approach a growing trend of genre-fying the collection. In addition to wanting AASL to take a position, KASL wanted some way to standardize the new classifications if that is the way we were going. The resolution passed, meaning the AASL Board had to address it. A “Hot Topic” panel was assembled for ALA Midwinter 2013, and I was the facilitator. The room was packed—standing room only—and while opinions didn’t necessarily change, most left with new perspectives and new questions. To deal with that, it was decided to devote one issue of Knowledge Quest to further explore the positives and negatives on both sides.
I worked hard as facilitator to stay neutral, but my personal position going into the Hot Topic panel was Dewey works, there is no reason to change. On the other hand when I was working as a high school librarian in New Jersey I had pulled out Classics and SciFi/Fantasy from my fiction collection. What became obvious at the panel, and more so in the Knowledge Quest issue, was there are far more than two sides to consider.
Some key points: choose what will work best for your students; whether you stay with Dewey or change, make sure you have good signage; and you don’t need to take an all or nothing approach. My own opinion has shifted quite a bit. The problems within Dewey are real. We have worked hard to eliminate the “shushing” librarian stereotype, maybe it’s time to get rid of our association with Dewey. He created the Dewey Decimal Classification System in 1876. The world has changed drastically since then.
If you are an AASL member, you received your issue and I hope you read it through. If you are not a member, do try to purchase a copy from AASL. This is a subject that is not going away.