Dewey, Melvil

Dewey, Melvil,

1851–1931, American library pioneer, originator of the Dewey decimal system, b. Adams Center, N.Y., grad. Amherst (B.A., 1874; M.A., 1877). A man of originality and of enormous energy, Dewey played an important role in the early days of library organization in the United States. He became acting librarian of Amherst in 1874, and there he evolved his system of classification, using numbers from 000 to 999 to cover the general fields of knowledge and designating more specific subjects by the use of decimal points. From 1883 to 1889 he was librarian of Columbia College where he established the first library training school (now defunct). As librarian (1889–1906) at the New York State Library at Albany he founded another important library school. His interests extended from spelling reform to organizing the Lake Placid Club, a resort in the Adirondacks. Dewey is credited with the invention of the vertical office file. He was a founder of the American Library Association, the New York State Library Association, and the Library Journal. The 20th edition of his Dewey Decimal Classification and Relative Index (1876) was published in 1989.


See G. Stevens and J. Kramer-Greene, ed., Melvil Dewey (1983).

Dewey, Melvil (orig. Melville) (Louis Kossuth)

(1851–1931) librarian, cataloguer; born in Adams Center, N.Y. He studied at Amherst College (A.B. 1874) and his experience as a student working in the college library led him to propose his decimal-based system of classifying books; he published this as A Classification and Subject Index for Cataloguing and Arranging… a Library (1876). He was a founding member of the American Library Association (1876), founding editor of the Library Journal (1876–80), and an activist in the spelling reform and metric system movements. He was appointed librarian of Columbia College (now Columbia University) (1885–88) in New York, where he founded the first professional school of library services (1887). When he moved to Albany, N.Y., to become director of the New York State Library (1888–1905), he took the library school there. In 1893 he and his second wife, Emily Beal, created the Lake Placid (N.Y.) Club, which pioneered recreational winter sports.