Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Screw You Dewey. You and Your Decimal System

     Well Company, I finally decided that I was tired of looking at all the boxes sitting around in my living room, which is also my dining room, so I decided that it was finally time to put my many, many books into my bookshelves.  I guess that I owed it to Mikey and David Nathaniel because they had to carry them all up all of those stairs, and to Duke and Dingo because the four of them carried them all down the old ones...but that's not why I did it.  I did it because I was tired of things being so unsettled.  But I also loathed having to unload them.  Don't get me wrong, I love my little personal library.  But for some reason I just didn't want to deal with it.  So I decided to just power through it.  I went at it like a dog humping an elderly ladies leg for like a half hour until it was done.  It went really quickly, even though it usually takes like four hours.  But I think that that is because I didn't organize them in any way, shape, or form.  And I didn't do that because Melvil Dewey is a dick.
     Yeah, that's right.  I said it.  I went there.  He's a dick.  I am not going to arrange my books in a certain way just because an American librarian and educator who has been dead for over eighty years says that I should.  I threw them in there all willy-nilly.  Because I want people to see all the crazy books that I have.  You know, the ones that people have made fun of me for reading for years?  Yeah, I want people to see those.  Because they make me seem smart.  They make me seem like I know things.  They make me seem like I might have a clue as to what is going on around me.  Even when none of those things are true.  So if someone wants to find something on my bookshelves I want them to have to look through the shelves and see what is available.  Maybe they are going to be looking for my book about the history of the pencil (I don't know why, that book was terrible) and they discover a book about how to repair steam engines (yeah, I have one of those, don't ask me why).  Or maybe they lose an afternoon paging through the Far Side books.
     Okay Company, I can hear you and your objections getting all up in arms over there.  Settle down.  I know that my system won't work in a big library.  I know that you can't roam the stacks at The Ralph Brown Draughon Library at Auburn University looking for your book about paper airplanes.  That would take hours, maybe days.  You would be absent from your job at Brand X and they will come to your apartment and your roommate will not have seen you for like four days because she's been at her boyfriend's most of the time, and they will send out a search party.  All sorts of community members and police and campus people will go door to door searching for you and really you will be in the library searching for camping books to make a dwelling out of to survive the winter.  Yeah, that is what would happen.  But that still doesn't mean that we need the Dewey Decimal System.
     My main problem with the Dewey and his system of decimals is that it uses numbers.  Think about it for a minute.  You are at the library.  Looking for books.  Which are filled with letters.  Letters and words and the occasional picture.  So you are in an alphabet frame of mind and suddenly they are throwing numbers your way?  What's with that?  If I wanted to deal with numbers I wouldn't be at the library.  I'd be at the calculator store.  Or the bank.  It's basically the reverse of the problem I always had with handing out paychecks.  Seriously, when I am in reading mode, thinking A B C D E F G and you throw a 4 at me, I am totally lost.  See what that did to you right there?  I saw you and your reading come to a crashing halt.  I saw you slam on the brakes and then they lock up and you are skidding out of control on the black ice of Arabic numbers and then jolt back into line when you hit the dry pavement, which in this case is the words.  Yeah, once you get past the four all is well.  But then you hit that number all hell breaks loose.  That's why I usually spell them out.  
     Seriously Melvil Dewey, why numbers?  Why couldn't you have just done it like at the store.  With acres of shelves and big signs showing what section is which.  Instead of Housewares and Junior Miss the big hanging signs would say different topics, like Whales or Cartooning.  They could do it like your friendly local grocery store does it.  And I don't know if you've taken the time to notice, but all those signs have words on them.  Holy shit!  Words!  That's like a warm up for all the reading that you are about to do.  That helps you read more.  That means you will check out more books.  And that means more business for the library.  I fail to see the problem here.  I need to talk to someone in the library community about this.
     So go suck it Melvil Dewey.  You and your decimal system have no place in my life.  In fact, I might stop by my friendly local library on my way to work tomorrow morning to talk to them about my letter-based system of classification.  Actually, that library is pretty small.  Maybe I will talk to them about my random system of non-classification.  That would work pretty well there I think.  But something has got to change.  There is no room in the library system for Melvil Dewey and his system of decimals.  No room in the library, and no room on my shelves.

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