Wednesday, April 13, 2011

National Library Week Library Heroes: Melvil Dewey

Library reformer and creator of the Dewey Decimal System of book classification, Melvil Dewey was born December 10, 1851 at Adams Center, New York into a relatively poor family where thrift was a necessity. He began working in libraries as an undergraduate at Amherst college, visiting many other institutions during his time there in order to see how they ran their libraries.

In 1876, while still at Amherst, he published A Classification and Subject Index for Cataloguing and Arranging the Books and Pamphlets of a Library, which was eventually adopted by libraries all over the U.S. to become the standard American library classification system. Indeed, although it has been supplanted by other systems in academic, specialized, and larger public libraries, the Dewey Decimal Classification and Relative Index is still used in many school and public libraries.

As if that wasn't enough, Dewey went on to become the first secretary of the American Library Association, and twice president of that organization. He edited the first five volumes of the Library Journal, organized the Library Bureau in Boston, and became associated with the American Metric Bureau, the Spelling Reform Association, and other educational reform groups.

Melvil Dewey is also credited with inventing the vertical office file cabinet.

He died on December 26, 1931.

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