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Chapter 13: Dewey Decimal System

Corrie did as asked, and she, Edie, and Annie joined the group slowly following the teacher out of the room. "What do you think is going on?" she asked her friends in a soft voice.

Annie shook her head, looking amused. "Maybe we're going to a park to look at birds."

Edie grinned. "She does seem like that sort of person."

"She wants to be our friend, huh?" Corrie looked up at the back of Jasmine's silvery head as she led them out of the building. "I think either I'm going to love her or she'll drive me crazy."

"I hope she means what she says about the essay not being our best work," Edie said, nodding but looking concerned. "I don't know how good of an essay I can do in two days."

"Yeah, you'd think she would tell us about an assignment like that a bit earlier--we do all have school email," said Annie. They were marching (in a straggly, unsure sort of way) across campus in bright sunlight. The fog had all burned away and Corrie had to shade her eyes at the sun, not too far above the trees.

"Maybe it's practice for all the assignments we're going to procrastinate on," Corrie suggested. They all laughed. Jasmine seemed to have reached her destination: she was holding the front door to the library open, and gesturing for the students to precede her inside.

Corrie had never seen the library before. It didn't seem to match the other buildings on campus. It was tall--at least three stories--and looked wider at the top than at the bottom. The facade where the door was looked modern--glass surrounded by slate--but above that it was all faded wood, too weathered to even hold paint well. She wondered if it could have been built back when the school was first founded. It certainly looked old enough, and so did the trees surrounding it: a few massive oaks, towering over the building and shading its small windows. They didn't quite make a forest, but passing under their shadow still made Corrie shudder. Maybe they reminded her of Ever.

Once inside, the library was cool and modern, with thick carpet on the floor and cheery blue paint on the walls. They passed the circulation desk, Jasmine leading them further back. Eventually, they found themselves in a large room; there were circular tables surrounded by chairs in the middle and books all around. "Sit down, everyone," called Jasmine over the chatter. "We'll get started in a moment."

"I'll take over from here, Jasmine," said a male voice with a slight accent that Corrie couldn't place shortly after she, Edie, and Annie found seats at one of the tables. "Welcome, students. My name is Harry Knox and I'm one of the librarians. Now how many of you are familiar with the Dewey Decimal system?"

About half the students in the class raised their hands, most of them uncertainly. Mr. Knox smiled, though it was hard to tell under the bushy grey beard that covered his face. He was tall and angular, but the beard gave him a jolly, Santa Claus-ish look. "That's fine. First rule of using the library: don't try to put the books back yourself. Let the students who work here do that." He indicated an empty cart. "Just put them on the cart or the table. Getting the books mixed up is a problem for everyone. But you do need to be generally familiar with the Dewey Decimal system to be able to use the library."

He picked up a book, pointing at its spine. "Every book has a call number. This is pretty straightforward; each room in the library holds a range of numbers, and books are in numerical order. As long as you find the right room and the right aisle, you'll find your book if it's on the shelf. Of course, reference books are all in their own room--that's this one. Any book that can't be removed from the library is in here."

It sounded very straightforward. Corrie felt her mind wandering to the lovely, if warm, day outside. Mr. Knox continued speaking. "You can find a book's call number either by asking someone who works here or by looking it up on the computer. There's a map on every floor by the stairs, so you can find where the room you need is. You probably don't need to be told this, but I will anyway because it's the rules: never tear, write in, or harm a book in any way. We all share a library, and making the books unreadable is a problem for everyone. Also, it makes your tuition go up." Several people groaned good-naturedly at that.

He walked over to a computer that was hooked up to a projector and flicked the projector on. The blank wall they were facing now displayed a search interface. "This is the site you'll use to find scholarly articles," Mr. Knox explained. "You won't always want to use books; the right articles can be even more effective, and easier, as most of them are available online. The site will show you those as well as articles the library owns." He took them through an example search, showing them how to narrow or broaden their searches as needed, and how to get the actual article once they'd found what they needed. "Jasmine, of course, will be teaching you how to use research effectively and cite things correctly. But now you know how to find what you need."

Jasmine returned to the front of the class as he flicked off the projector. "How about a round of applause for Mr. Knox?" The class dutifully clapped, though Corrie didn't think anyone else felt any more enthusiastic about it than she did. Mr. Knox seemed embarrassed, in fact. "All right, that's all for today, class," Jasmine said. "I'll see you all on Thursday."

The class couldn't get out of there fast enough.


I don't criticize often but...

this chapter seems a little... dry. It is short, but that's not something I'll complain about...that's completely up to the author. It seems like this chapter is entirely comprised of information that a lot of people already have...and just like sitting through a lecture on material you already know, it can be hard to concentrate on it. Also, I don't really see how this information advances the story. That may just be part of your general plan, and I obviously don't see it yet; in which case, just ignore me.
Overall good writing though.

Ahhh, but see

I think that the whole point of this chapter was to show how annoying those first year classes are in that they take up everyone's valuable time to learn things everyone either already knows or SHOULD already know. I thought it was a good chapter as an example...exactly like "sitting through a lecture on material you already know".

Technically true

But I have absolutely no desire to relive it :)

ddc? really?

i'm actually shocked that they're using the dewey decimal system at their library since the library of congress classification system is the standard used in the states - particularly considering it's an institution of higher education (the dewey decimal system is particularly inflexible to the addition of new subjects and cross-subject areas, and considering that the addition of knowledge to a field or developing new fields is sort of the entire purpose of universities, it would be quite ironic that a university library would choose a classification system that could not well accommodate this purpose). i think the last library i was in that used the dewey decimal system was the one from 3rd grade...


I can think of most libraries I have been in use the dewey decimal. Can't say I have been in one in the last few months, most are small to mid size towns not mega cities.
Live in a big city do you? Maybe they use a different system there as there are more books and people looking for them.


Actually, I think my school library uses the same kind of system. The way she was describing the library sounded exactly like the one on my campus.

You can add books to the list, by simply adding a .1 or .1002848277349 to the end of the initial classification. :P


i feel the need to clarify and correct part of my comment. the correction first - there are many libraries that still use ddc - these being most secondary school libraries and public libraries (one major exception being the new york public library which uses the library of congress classification system - and yes, i happen to live in new york city) - which explains my comment about 3rd grade.

as for the clarification - my point still stands. lcc is the standard for research and academic libraries, not the ddc - both in the united states and several other countries apparently (that part i just in my recent research). thus, it is still shocking that the college's library would be organized based on the ddc and not the lcc, which is the standard (and this has nothing to do with being a big city - look up your undergraduate institution's library online and find out which classification they use - i bet it's lcc).

now, if one wasn't aware that there were different classification systems, one might not notice that the library is arranged by lcc and not ddc. i think we all had to still through the ddc lecture in grade school and thus its name is certainly much more widely present in our lexicon that lcc. therefore, it seems quite possible that you may have been in a library classified according to the lcc and just not have been aware of it, but rather under the mistaken assumption that the stacks were dewey decimal classified. this is particularly apparent as the lcc also uses a lot of numbers. however, unlike the ddc which is all numerical, the lcc codes begin with a letter or two. but it's easy to overlook this if one is not particularly paying attention.

as far my comment regarding the inflexibility of the ddc (which is one major reason why the lcc has become the research and academic standard), you have missed my point and conflated the type-token distinction, mage. i did not say that it was difficult to add single books to the ddc list. adding tokens of a particular type is easy, as you have pointed out. my claim was rather that the addition of a new subject area all together - adding a new type, not mere tokens of an already existing type - is difficult. for example, one current new area of study is cognitive science. cogsci is a hybrid subject of philosophy, cognitive psychology, neuroscience and a bit of linguistics and anthropology. the ddc has a tremendous problem classifying this new subject (as well as any new subjects), and has had to undergo 22 major revisions since its introduction in order to try to work. the lcc, on the other hand, handles these new types quite easily.

DDC versus others

I must admit this was one of the things that surprised me. I didn't realise why it was different at university but it was. Every library I've ever used, with one exception, used DDC. The one exception was my university which used a system that had a mixture of letters and numbers.[1]

[1]For example, I think the book The Cuckoo's Egg by Cliff A Stoll (it's a true story about how a university lecturer/network administrator tracked a spy through the university computer networks) was QE 2025 Sto (where the "Sto" comes from the author's surname). However, I'm not sure which is more worrying -- if I've remembered that correctly or if I haven't.


Perhaps they used their own system? Did they have a lot of books?
I googled it ( ) and wiki mentions the ISBN and the DDC numbers (and two others that don't mean anything to me). But the number you mentioned wasn't in there.
I actually checked, but my university doesn't seem to have it :P next time I'm there, I'll check to see what system they use.
Also, it looks pretty interesting :) would you recommend the book?


They could have had their own system. Yes, they did have a lot of books (it's been a while but I'm sure it was over a million).

Yes, I would recommend it but I am a bit of a geek.

That system looks a lot...

... like the one they used way back when I was a regular library user in my teen and pre-teen years, although that's too long ago to remember anything more specific than that the sequence of letters + numbers + first few letters of author's name looks familiar.

Not so unusual

So it may not have been such an unusual system after all? It may have been the same system you're familiar with or a slightly different system. I wondered if it could be the Library of Congress system but that system only seems to have numbers that are less than 1000 and I know the system that my old university used had figures in the 1000s.

However, given the number of different systems I now see why it was easier for Clare to go with DDC. I suspect that systems that include letters are used in very large libraries?


Well, I like it :)

I just wonder when they will start searching the information about the faerie-contract ... now, that they know the library.


PS: little typo: Mr. Knox smiled, thought it was hard to tell under the bushy grey beard that covered his face. it should be: though

Still there

So, while re-reading this book I found that this typo is still there -- so I thought to point it out again :)


I must have missed this comment

since I never even responded! Thanks--I'll fix it :)


Yeah, that is why I thought to point it out again :)

You are welcome :)


We learned the dewey decimal

We learned the dewey decimal and how to use it in elementary school... All of our public libraries use it, as well as the few uni libraries I have been to...

I'm surprised that something

I'm surprised that something like this would be taught in an advanced literature class, rather than the FYE that all the freshman would take.

It's not an advanced literature class

Academic Writing actually is the very lowest-level writing class the school offers, and it's a prerequisite for all English classes and most humanities classes. Sorry if I didn't make that clear! It would make sense to be in FYE, though, wouldn't it? That's one of the things I didn't think about that hard when I grabbed it wholesale from the actual college I attended ;)

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