5 Controversial Facts About Melvil Dewey and the Dewey Decimal System

iStock/TerryJ
iStock/TerryJ

Melvil Dewey, the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System, was born on December 10, 1851. Among other things, Dewey was a self-proclaimed reformer, so when working for the Amherst College library in the 1870s, he began to reclassify the facility’s books and how they were organized.

Though the system has gone through plenty of changes over the years, it’s still in wide use all over the world today and forever changed how libraries categorize their books. It has also caused a handful of controversies. In honor of Dewey Decimal Day, we dug into the organizational system—and its creator’s—dark side.

1. Melvil Dewey co-founded the American Library Association, but was forced out because of offensive behavior.

Melvil Dewey was an extremely problematic figure, even in his time. Though he co-founded the American Library Association (ALA), his often-offensive behavior—particularly toward women—didn’t make him a lot of friends.

In Irrepressible Reformer: A Biography of Melvil Dewey, author Wayne A. Wiegand described Dewey’s “persistent inability to control himself around women” as his “old nemesis.” In 1905, Dewey and several fellow ALA members took a cruise to Alaska following a successful ALA conference, with the purpose of discussing the organization’s future. Four women who were part of the trip ended up publicly accusing Dewey of sexual harassment—a rarity for the time. Within a year, Dewey was forced to step down from his involvement with the organization he helped to create.

2. Dewey required applicants to his School of Library Economy to submit photos.

A History of the Adirondacks, by Alfred Lee Donaldson (1921) // Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In 1887, Dewey founded the School of Library Economy at Columbia College, where 90 percent of his students were female. It was long rumored that in addition to basic information like name, age, and educational background, Dewey required that prospective female students also submit their bust sizes. While this rumor was eventually proven to be false, Dewey did ask women to submit photos, often noting that “You cannot polish a pumpkin.”

3. A Howard University librarian reorganized Dewey's original system because of its racial bias.

Dewey’s personal biases spilled over into his creation, too, and it has taken sincere effort and work to right those wrongs. In the 1930s, Howard University librarian Dorothy Porter helped create a new system to undo the racist way Dewey’s system treated black writers. As Smithsonian reported:

All of the libraries that Porter consulted for guidance relied on the Dewey Decimal Classification. “Now in [that] system, they had one number—326—that meant slavery, and they had one other number—325, as I recall it—that meant colonization,” she explained in her oral history. In many “white libraries,” she continued, “every book, whether it was a book of poems by James Weldon Johnson, who everyone knew was a black poet, went under 325. And that was stupid to me.”

In addition to charges of racism, the DDS has also been accused of being homophobic. Early editions of the system classified books on or regarding LGBT issues under Abnormal Psychology, Perversion, Derangement, as a Social Problem, or even as Medical Disorders.

4. Its 'religion' section is skewed heavily toward Christianity.

The DDS section on religion starts at 200, and no other religion besides Christianity is covered until 290. Given that there are more than 4000 religions in the world, saving a mere 10 numbers for their classification doesn’t leave a lot of room for thorough coverage or exploration. Though some changes have been made as new editions of the system have been introduced, the process of restructuring the entire 200s is a project that has yet to be undertaken.

5. Critics of the system would prefer libraries take the Barnes & Noble approach.

The Dewey Decimal System is the most used library classification system, with the Chicago Tribune estimating that more than 200,000 libraries in 135 countries use it. But it’s far from a perfect system. As such, many libraries are experimenting with other organizational techniques, and many are dropping the DDS altogether.

The main complaint that public libraries have is that the Dewey Decimal System does not make reading exciting, and that there are other ways of categorizing and organizing books that are more like that of general bookstores. By doing away with the numbers (which are hard to remember for general library patrons), some libraries are classifying books simply by category and organizing by author—a system they've begun referring to as "Dewey-lite."

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

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Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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11 Brilliant Gifts for the Cocktail Enthusiast in Your Life

Libbey/Amazon
Libbey/Amazon

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Cocktails are an art form. Each drink has a unique history. Why does a margarita have salt? How is the garnish chosen for each drink, especially when you’re creating one spontaneously? What’s the best way to make an old fashioned? If there is someone in your life that has the answers to these questions, they are probably a cocktail enthusiast. This holiday season, treat that person to goodies that will help enhance their craft. 

1. Cocktail Shaker Set; $18

Amazon

Whether they like their drinks shaken or stirred, amateur mixologists can make all kinds of cocktails with this kit. It includes all the essential tools: a muddler, jigger, shaker, and more. They’ll feel like an expert in no time.

Buy it: Amazon

2. The Carry On Cocktail Kit—Old Fashioned; $24

W&P/Amazon

For the traveler who demands a good drink, these kits come with everything but the booze. But if they are going to pack their own mini bottles, remind them to check the airline’s regulations—rules vary on whether it’s legal to drink your own booze in-flight. Also available in Moscow Mule, Champagne Cocktail, and Gin & Tonic.

Buy it: Amazon

3. The Spirit Infusion Kit; $42

Amazon

One of the best parts about making cocktails is that experimentation is rewarded. This infusion kit, including instruction and recipe book, bottle, strainers, and more, will help your cocktail enthusiast turn average vodka into a berry explosion or take tequila to the next level by infusing it with jalapeño peppers.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Tovolo Sphere Ice Molds; $10

Amazon

Instead of filling their glass with plain cubes, cocktail fans can use this set of two ice molds to craft spherical, uh, cubes. Each piece will melt slowly in a drink and add flair to their home bar. 

Buy it: Amazon

5. The Bitter Truth Travelers Set; $20

The Bitter Truth/Amazon

Any cocktail aficionado worth their salt should have a few bottles of bitters. To spice things up, give them this sampler set that includes five complex flavors: celery bitters, classic old time aromatic bitters, orange bitters, Creole bitters, and Jerry Thomas bitters.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Homemade Gin Kit; $50

Amazon

Though some home bartenders have a house cocktail, few can say they make their gin in-house. Help your loved one mix it up and make 750 ml of homemade gin with this collection that includes one tin of juniper berries, one tin of the company's secret botanical blend, one stainless steel funnel, one fine stainless steel strainer, and two 375-ml glass bottles. All that’s missing is your giftee's label—time for them to brush up on those Photoshop skills.

Buy it: Amazon

7. The Cocktail Chronicles: Navigating the Cocktail Renaissance with Jigger, Shaker, and Glass; $15

Amazon

Whether the recipient is a seasoned bartender or a cocktail newcomer, Imbibe editor Paul Clarke’s book has something for everyone. From modern cocktails to obscure classics, the snapshots in this 200-page book show how far the cocktail scene has come—and where it’s going.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Glencairn Whisky Glass Set; $30

Amazon

Whiskey drinkers know that the type of glass can dramatically change the smell, taste, and experience of the drink. This set of four award-winning glasses would make any cocktail enthusiast swoon.

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9. Fancy Paper Straws; $5

KTOJOY/Amazon

Almost any drink looks fancier with the addition of a patterned paper straw. Gussy up your loved ones' bars with a box of these beauties. The stocking stuffers are biodegradable, compostable, printed with food grade ink, and available in a variety of colors and patterns.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail; $25

Amazon

This 416-page book should be a prerequisite for all science nerds who want to make better cocktails. Dave Arnold of Booker & Dax breaks down the facts and recipes to make any bar more interesting.

Buy it: Amazon

11. Libbey Mixologist 18-Piece Cocktail Glass Set; $39

Amazon

If your cocktail enthusiast likes to experiment with different drinks, then they need the glasses that go with them. They can’t have a martini in a margarita glass, nor drink tequila from a whiskey balloon, after all. Libbey’s set will instantly upgrade their bar cart.

Buy it: Amazon

Bonus: Vintage Fernet Poster; $50

CANVAS ON DEMAND/Amazon

Bartenders call a shot of Fernet a "handshake." The bitter, minty liqueur is an acquired taste, but there's much to appreciate. Deck out the wall of the Fernet fan in your life with this reproduction vintage ad.

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