Updated: Nov 15, 2019
Ah, the Dewey Decimal System. I have vague memories of school librarians attempting to teach unruly crowds of children how to use said tool, but what do I really remember from all these lessons? Was anyone listening? Was it all just a dream? Upon realizing I wasn’t completely sure how the system worked, I decided to ask a few people from different generations about their impressions of the system and its mysterious manner of function.
Subject One: older millennial
Me: What comes to mind when I say “Dewey Decimal System?”
Millennial: Haha...really?! Is the Dewey Decimal System the same as the card catalog? Are they combined? Do they still have the cards? It’s been so long since I’ve even tried.
She pauses to think.
Wait, wait, wait–it’s the numbers and the dots. Maybe there’s letters for the authors’ names?
She pauses to think.
Ok, now I remember–doesn’t it kinda look like brail?
I guess she stopped thinking.
Me: (laughing as she continues to try to remember more details)
Millennial: Ya know what? Is it still in use? Seems like it’s a dying language that will magically appear on the Rosetta Stone. It will also appear on fossils.
Me: Concluding statement?
Millennial: I’m sure I knew at one point how it worked. I took my mandatory library classes as a kid, I swear.
Subject Two: my dad
Me: Dewey Decimal System–whaddya know?
Dad: Without Googling it, I know nothing of the Dewey Decimal System. However, I do know a guy named Dewey who makes good barbecue.
Subject Three: someone a little younger than my dad
Me: Ok, you’re the second-to-last person I’m asking. Do you know what the Dewey Decimal System is and how it’s used?
Someone Younger: The Dewey Decimal System was the system for using the card catalog. You would use the system and flip through the card catalog to find what shelf the book was on.
I was suspicious of his use of the word “system” in his definition of the name that already had “system” in it.
Me: You’re the first person to actually know what it is! Rather, I don’t know what it is, but you sound like you do, so I’ll believe it.
Someone Younger: My goodness, you’re making me feel ancient.
Me: At least you’re younger than my dad.
Subject Four: member of generation Z
Me: So there’s this thing called the Dewey Decimal System.
Gen Z-er: If you say so.
So, after all this confusion, I bet you’re wondering, what is the Dewey Decimal System?
And after careful consideration, I’ve decided that my dad had the right idea–Google it and let me know.