Library books
Posted December 13, 2017 | 10:03 AM

Teach Me How To Dewey

Ditch the dance of uncertainty with a crash course to navigating the Dewey Decimal System

If you're a regular at the Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative but still don't know exactly how to interpret the Dewey Decimal System, you're not alone. The organizational tool, which was created by and named after its creator, Melvil Dewey (1851-1931), has been used by libraries around the world for more than 140 years. But for non-librarians - even avid readers and self-proclaimed bookworms - the complex system of specific classes and divisions leave most scratching their head in confusion.

In today's day and age, the Dewey Decimal Classification System, or "DDC" for short, is not as much of a #ThrowBackThursday practice as one would imagine. In fact, the HCPLC still uses the convention to organize and locate materials.

Simply put, the system uses numbers and letters to coordinate materials and serves as an "address" for each book on the shelf. The "addresses" are organized by a general area and progresses to more and more specific areas as the digit placements expand to the decimals. Beneath the "address" comes the Cutter number, which consists of a series of letters and numbers and further organizes materials by author name. Together, these seemingly arbitrary numbers and letters make up a material's "Call Number" and helps librarians to pinpoint its exact location in any given library.

Here's the numbers you need in a nut shell:

  • 000: Generalities
  • 100: Philosophy & Psychology
  • 200: Religion
  • 300: Social Sciences
  • 400: Language
  • 500: Natural Sciences & Mathematics
  • 600: Technology (Applied Sciences)
  • 700: The Arts
  • 800: Literature & Rhetoric
  • 900: Geography & History

While the DDC system is still very much in use at your local library, digital catalogs and user-friendly search engines have allowed library-goers to navigate the shelves of their local library with ease. Nowadays, Hillsborough County residents can use the Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative's online database to search fiction and nonfiction materials by keyword, subject, title, and author. Hillsborough County's public library also offers online assistance via the Ask a Librarian feature, which allows library card holders to chat, text, or email a local librarian for assistance.

The Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative has taken digital libraries to the next level with the debut of HAAL Pass. The county's more than 200,000 public school students grades K-12 now have access to the public library's vast resources. They just need their seven-digit student ID number.
Interested in learning more about the DDC? Check out these 8 frequently asked questions.