Melvil Dewey, noted librarian, was born on December 10, 1851. Originally born Melville Dewey, he was an advocate for spelling reform, and changed his name to suit his beliefs. He was also a huge fan of the metric system, and the number ten.
Melvil Dewey is best known for the creation of the Dewey Decimal Classification System ( DDC), a system for organizing books and materials on the shelves. Most public libraries use DDC to organize their nonfiction materials. The best thing about DDC is that each book is tagged with a meaningful address, so all the books about football - or any topic - are in the same location on the shelf (for football, see 796.332).
Each power of ten is used to further narrow the subject - so, if you wanted to learn about dinosaurs, you could start in the 500s, where we keep materials on the natural sciences and mathematics. The 510s are for mathematics, the 520s are for astronomy, the 530s are for physics, and so on. Dinosaurs will be in the 560s, where paleontology is. We can subdivide the 560s even further, into 561, 562, and so on. Dinosaurs are in 567 - cold-blooded vertebrate fossils. Because you can add as many decimal numbers as you’d like after a whole number, you can subdivide further. Dinosaurs will end up in 567.9, with different species of dinosaurs in 567.91, etc.
To learn more about Melvil Dewey, check out some of our biography resources:
To learn more about finding materials at the library, ask a librarian!