As I mentioned earlier, I have been pondering a Dewey Alternative system since attending AASL. The more I thought about it, the more sense it seemed to make, but where to start? I didn't want to abandon Dewey wholesale, but Metis didn't satisfy me, and so I kept pondering.
And then, one of my fabulous fellow Massachusetts librarians, Halley at Dartmouth High, gave a presentation to MSLA, the state library association, about her new, hybrid Dewey system. Halley had worked to develop real-language descriptors that fit her library, but kept the numerical organization of Dewey intact.
That's when I knew I had my solution. Halley has been extremely gracious in answering questions and sharing her classification guide with me, and today, I began taking the first baby steps into the brave new world of Dewey hybridization. I'm starting small, and in pieces (trying to minimize disruption to active areas of the collection and confusing my volunteers even more), and it's definitely time consuming, but the more I think about how this is going to translate into reality, the more excited I get.
My first section is HIST - WORLD WAR II - HOLOCAUST. I elected to not do a WAR modifier in front of WWII because I want to keep it to three descriptors, and we have a large Colonial America project that happens, so I wanted those labels to read HIST - COLONIAL AMERICA - SUBCAT. And it's great, because just this morning I wound up pulling together books not just from the 940s, but also from the 800s. Eventually, I'll also pull in fiction and even picture books, as well as biographies, that relate. And then they'll all be in one place, to allow for easy topic correlation. It's a take on Metis' "Imagination" and "Ideas" interfiling, but with my own twist.
If you're curious to see my thought process, you can follow along on my Trello board. I think this is going to be really, really great.
My student learning goal for the year is to build an awareness of how different books are categorized in the library with my 3rd and 4th grade students. So, by the end of the year, I hope that 80% of them realize that non-fiction is categorized by number, that Dewey is the organizing principle behind those numbers, and that fiction and biography have other call numbers and are arranged differently.
On a more personal note, since beginning work at my new school, I've started to look at the library through the lens of accessibility, and the sad truth is, many parts of it are not accessible. There are whole shelves in non-fiction that are too high for me (a 5'0 tall adult) to comfortably see - how can I expect kids to browse there? There's also the question of finding space for new books, because some sections (plants, I'm looking at you) are bulging at the seams. The non-fiction collection is also split into three different parts of the library, and the back portion (700-900) are dark and unappealing. So, I'm on a mission to make the library more user-friendly however I can. Part of that is weeding (we've gotten almost 2000 books off the shelves already, and I've got more to go), part of that will be reorganizing the space, and part of that is categorizing materials.
Plans are already underfoot to classify the fiction section by genre - alphabetization will still be present, but now the primary method of finding books will be genre, then author's last name. Yet, one of the things I discovered last weekend at AASL is that there is a raging debate going on over Dewey and its continued relevance (or irrelevance) to meeting the needs of school libraries and students.
I don't believe that Dewey is wholly irrelevant, and I'm not willing to (at the moment) adopt a self-created or minimally used alternative classification before seeing where everything pans out, but I did get to thinking about how the principles behind Dewey alternatives like Metis are worthwhile in terms of making information more easily accessible. Then I started thinking about how frustrating it is when kids ask for picture books on particular topics: princesses, ghosts, etc. So, I think I have a plan brewing in my mind. I am going to write a proposal to develop a subject classification system for our picture book collection (roughly 3000 books - no small task) with a focus on broad categories and some major subtopics and then redo them. Hopefully this will make books easier to find in the long-run, especially for my youngest, pre-literate students.
My name is Ms. Bery. I am a PK-8 library media specialist in the Boston area. In addition to being a certified school librarian, I am also certified in instructional technology, and have a strong interest in exploring and integrating technology in new and exciting ways in the classroom.
I am also a 2016 PBS LearningMedia Local Digital Innovator, and a 2015 recipient of the Massachusetts School Library Association's President's Award.
Check out the Sandbox for apps and websites I've found useful in supporting student learning and creativity. I also review children's, middle grade, and young adult books on Instagram.
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