Melvil Dewey

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Melvil Dewey: 1851-1931
The Father of modern librarianship
A Biography Assignment

Submitted by

Hanem A. Ibrahim

Summer 2009
ILS 503:S70

Hanem A. Ibrahim

Melvil Dewey
Introduction

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“It is not easy to write a biography of Melvil Dewey” With that sying Fremont Rider started his preface of his book about Melvil Dewey. Rider had his own reasons to say so, but how about me? I thought it is easy to write about that great man who changed our life as we belong to that wonderful career. Who doesn’t know Dewey? When I started writing about him, I found it’s very hard to give you in this assignment a short biography of the father of librarianship, Melvil Dewey perhaps was the most influential and in most ways the most controversial American librarian, His enormous energy and endless activity in every aspect of librarianship, he was the leader who shaped the development of libraries, and because of him I’m here now! Trying to put some words together to give him just a little from what he deserved. Melvil Dewey Melville Louis Kossuth Dewey, he successively dropped “Louis”, then “Kossuth” then “le” of “Melville” and finally tried to shorten the “Dewey” to Dui, simply that was his character, his idea of making everything easy, and that’s why he still standing on the top of the world of librarianship. Dewey was born on December 10, 1851 to a poor family living in Adam Center in northern New York. As a child, he felt drawn to mathematics and enjoyed playing around with classification systems at a young age. In 1870 when he was nineteen, he attended Amherst College. In his diary he said on July 13, 1870: “…I shall take the course which I think will give me the most thorough culture and greatest ability to do good” and he did good, he studied almost every subjects he needed to be good he studied: (philosophy, religion, law, Logic, political science, languages (Latin, Greek, French, German), astronomy, algebra, geometry, chemistry, physical culture, Literature, geography and history) these studies prepared him for the most popular contribution of his life. Dewey Decimal Classification system Like many college students today, Dewey worked in the college library to help fund his education. There he drafted that great scheme for book classification with which his name will be forever linked. His affinity to the job at Amherst library enabled him to remain as a librarian upon graduation in 1874. Following graduation, he worked towards improving library classification systems, he searched for a way to classify books rather than the old impractical
Hanem A. Ibrahim

Melvil Dewey

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systems of classification used at that time where each book was given a dedicated spot on the shelf. Dewey devised a system of Arabic numbers (000-999) and decimals to categorize books according to subject. He received permission from Amherst to apply his new system to their library. Amherst published his system in a pamphlet entitled A Classification and Subject Index for Cataloguing and Arranging the Books and Pamphlets of a Library which is now in its 22nd edition, and available in print and Web versions, The Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) is the world’s most widely used library classification system. With this classification system we can organize information on any topic under the sun. In the United States only, there are 95 % of all public and K-12 school libraries, 25% of college and university libraries, and 20 % of special libraries use the DDC. More than 200,000 libraries worldwide in 135 countries count on the DDC to keep their collections organized so that their users can easily locate the resources they need. DDC has been translated into more than 30 languages. While there are other systems in use throughout libraries and universities, such the Library of Congress Subject Classification System, Dewey's system has proven to be one of the easiest and most intuitive ways of grouping subjects and dividing library items into accessible, memorable sections. Lifework beginning In April 1876, Dewey left Amherst and moved to Boston which has one of the best education systems in the country, and high profile libraries. That day was a momentous one, not only for him but for the whole library world. The American Library Association (ALA) was just about to be born, with Dewey as its secretary and chief moving spirit ; the Library Journal, the first library periodical was about to appear for the first time, and with Dewey as its editor; the Dewey Decimal Classification was about to spread abroad to the outside library world. Dewey was the founder of The American Metric Bureau (Library Bureau) the first significant provider of library supplies and "fittings" for America's libraries. Dewey was a cofounder of the Spelling Reform Association, and because of his interest in spelling he respelled his own name as I explained before. Dewey appealed to congress concerning the reorganization of the Library of Congress, he wanted it to be expanded as a national library serving as a center point to which other libraries could refer. Other associations Dewey was involved with include the Children's Library Association, the Association of State Librarians, and the American Library Institute. Dewey was credited with the invention of the vertical office file. He also reorganized the N.Y.
Hanem A. Ibrahim

Melvil Dewey

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State Library, and established the system of traveling libraries (boxes of books shipped by wagons around the state) and picture collections. Under Dewey’s leadership of the New York state added several new departments (a medical library, legislative reference services, and a services for the blind. he also founded New York State Library Association. Dewey’s contributions to the library school From 1883 to 1889 Dewy was a librarian of Columbia College library where he set up the School of Library Economy, the world's first library institution for training librarians (now defunct). He admitted seventeen women to its first, twenty-member class. As a librarian at the New York State Library from 1889–1906, Dewey founded another important library school at Albany. Eight library schools were founded after that by the graduates of the Albany Library School, and half of other library schools founded after that were also headed or staffed by Albany graduates. Dewey pioneered the creation of career opportunities for women. Dewey and the end of his professional life career All the life of Dewey, his first interest was in books; he live, ate, drank, and slept books, his interests extended to organizing the Lake Placid Club in 1894, Dewey and his wife started an exclusive resort in upstate New York, he thought of that club as social and recreation club for refreshment of mind and body after all these years of hard work, but he didn’t think that this club will be behind the dramatic ending of his professional life, the main problem of that club was that they did not admit anyone that other members found objectionable. Minorities such as Jews and African were not allowed. In 1905, several prominent Jews demanded Dewey's dismissal, and he was forced to resign a few months later from his last professional library position as the director of the New York State library. Dewey's wife died in 1922. He retired to Florida and continued to involve himself in librarianship. Dewey died from a cerebral hemorrhage or a stroke on December 26, 1931, but his revolutionary organization system still stands today as one of the most convenient and comprehensive tools today helping librarians and readers locate and classify information. Dewey’s contribution to library development far better than writer could, he devoted himself to his task, and the task molded him into greatness.

Hanem A. Ibrahim

Melvil Dewey
References

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Dawe, W(1932) Melvil Dewey : Seer Inspirer Doer: 1851-1931 : biographic compilation.Library Edition.- N.Y: Lake Placid Club.-391p. Kristen Patschke (2000) Melvil Dewey : the father of librarianship Retrieved on July ,10, 2009 from: http://www.booktalking.net/books/dewey/ OCLC. (2008) How one library pioneer profoundly influenced modern librarianship. Retrieved on July ,10, 2009 from : http://www.oclc.org/dewey/resources/biography/ Rider, F( 1972) Melvil Dewey.- Boston: Gregg Press, 1972.( American library pioneers; 151p. Stevenson, G. , Greene, J. (editors) (1983). Melvil Dewey : The man and the classification.Albany, NY: Forest Press .210p. Vann, Sarah K (editor) (1978) Melvil Dewey: his enduring presence in librarianship.- Littleton, Colo. : Libraries Unlimited, Inc., 278p. (The Heritage of librarianship series) Wayne A. Wiegand .(1996) A biography of Melvil Dewey: Irrepressible Reformer .- Chicago: ALA, 403p. Wayne A. Wiegand (Feb. 2000) Dewey, Melvil: American National Biography Online Retrieved, July ,10 ,2009 from : http://www.anb.org/articles/09/09-00229.html *The photo of Melvil Dewey. Retrieved on July11,2009 from : http://images.google.com/images? sourceid=navclient&rlz=1T4RNWN_enUS320US321&q=melvil%20dewey%20%3A%20the %20father%20of%20librarianship&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi

Hanem A. Ibrahim

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