Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dewey, You the Dude!

Four quotes:

"In 1868, when his school caught fire, he rescued as many books as he could from the school library; but inhaled a great deal of smoke in the process and consequently had a cough that lasted for months. Told by his doctor that he would be dead within a year or so, he tried to make the most of what he thought would be limited time... Efficiency became his obsession."

"Dewey's innovation was to combine a numbering system (like at the British Museum) with classification by topic. However, the numbers didn't indicate a shelf but rather a field of knowledge."

"Dewey began by establishing a broad division of knowledge into basic categories, to which numbers were then assigned--crudely put, these are the numbers to the left of the decimal point. That done, it was easy to add new subjects by dividing the original categories into progressively finer gradations--these are the numbers to the right of the decimal point. DDC is what today we'd call scalable--it has readily accommodated the explosion of knowledge since Dewey's day."

"We feel obliged to note that Dewey was no saint. He was racist, antisemitic, anti-black, anti- everything not white male Anglo-Saxon Christian."  (This I've got to look into!  I knew he must be a Christian from how he organized the sections.  My question is, how could he be "anti-everything" and yet set up such a beautiful system?)

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