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Nyack Library: Dewey Decimal Debated (1 of 3)

by John Gray

As a local author, professional bibliographer, and decades-long patron of the Nyack Library I’ve grown increasingly mystified as to the way in which its adult collections are currently organized.

I’ve been told that the Dewey classification system has become passe, even though all the books still have Dewey class marks, and have been re-arranged in a new configuration that conforms to a more user-friendly ‘€œmarketplace’€ arrangement, a la Barnes & Noble.

The only problem is this system now breaks the collection up into many balkanized and poorly-defined subject areas, any one of which might contain the book a user is looking for. Inevitably the patron will be forced to consult with a librarian to figure out which section the book might be located in and, after a bit of hunting, the mystery will be solved.

However under the old-Dewey system there was no mystery. Books were organized in a unified numerical scheme starting with the 0s and finishing with the 900s. Thus patrons could simply look up a book in the library’s catalog, find its call number and go to the shelf to pick it up. I can’t understand how one can argue, as the Library’s director has, that it is an improvement to have a system in which its librarians are forced to do a job, hunting for books, which could easily be accomplished by the patrons themselves? Also, how does it assist in the workflow of library paging staff who must now figure out where to re-shelve an item once it has been returned? Finally, how does making the process of finding books more difficult than it once was aid patrons or help move the library forward?

Equally dire is the state of the library’s adult periodical collection. Once organized in a simple A-Z arrangement in the Library’s Carnegie Room it may now be found in 13(!!!) different locations throughout the Library. This is the equivalent of throwing a deck of cards up in the air and seeing where they land. Who wants to trek throughout the library in search of a single periodical title? Just as many people complain about the lack of parking in Nyack and how it encourages them to go elsewhere where it is easier to park I feel the same about the Library’s current organization. I would rather go to Valley Cottage with its easy to navigate and welcoming periodicals section than use the holdings at my hometown library with it’s bizarre and inefficient organizational system.

I am a regular user of other libraries in Rockland and New York City and I find Nyack’s to be the most difficult to naviagate by far.

These are issues that can and should be rectified in order to return the Library to its former status as a centerpiece of the Nyack community.

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