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Nyack Library’s Dewey Decimal Debate

Nyack has a special relationship with its library. In some communities, people passionately debate banning books. In Nyack, people passionately debate how books should be filed.

When the new wing of the Nyack Library was opened last year, a new categorization system for non-fiction books was adopted. Library patron and local author John Gray doesn’t like it and thinks the library should adhere to the traditional Dewey Decimal system. Nyack Library Director James Mahoney defends the new approach where books are grouped by broad categories, similar to what commercial booksellers do.

From John Gray, June 16, 2012

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. Read more…

Response from James Mahoney, Director of the Nyack Library, June 20, 2012

The Dewey Decimal System is alive and well at The Nyack Library. We continue to use the classification system as it designed in both our children’s and adult collections. The physical arrangement of the newly expanded building, utilizing multi-levels for the adult collection on the top floors, requires us to divide the collection into some division of subjects as it cannot all fit into one area. Our architect did a wonderful job given all the code restrictions and land contour. No matter what arrangement we choose it would require some relearning and reorientation for both the public and staff. The flow of numbers from one stack to another is a difficult thing to manage when the book stacks are interrupted by considerable space. Read more…

Response to James Mahoney from John Gray, June 20, 2012

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I’ve read your defense of the Library’s current configuration and couldn’t disagree more with your arguments.

I’ve lived in Nyack for more than 40 years and have used the the Library since I got my first library card there as a second grader. At no time in that period has the Library been as difficult to navigate as it is now.

Neither the introduction of new signage, tweaking your ill-considered experiment, or offering a GPS to all Nyack patrons will change this fact. Read more…

See also:

Nyack Library Sketch by ©2012 Bill Batson

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