Hi All!

I know that pretty much everyone here highly recommends the Dewy Decimal system of cataloguing but I'm looking to hear from church librarians who have small libraries and organize bookstore-style via categories.   

Our library is very small - we do not have a library budget and don't anticipate receiving one.  It's an existing library that has been neglected.  I'm just wanted to organize it a bit and implement a simple manual self-checkout system (via an old fashioned notebook or binder system).  

Starting from scratch, purchasing supplies for call numbers etc for our books seems like a much larger task than simply organizing by categories.

Thanks in advance for any feedback and testimonies that you would like to share!  

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  • How many categories did you use? What about spine labels so the book goes back on the right shelf? I am beginning to think bookstore cataloging is good!

  • Thanks everyone. I am learning quite a bit. I like the keep it simple method!

  • I am  a retired professional librarian so I am comfortable with Dewey. This discussion about Dewey has taken place in public libraries especially small libraries. But I don't like it and here's why and it's the same problem bookstores have. It is very imprecise. If you are busy and someone just says where are your biographies you can just wave your arm or your hand and say over there somewhere you can't say exactly where so you would have to consult a shelf list to know if anything was missing. Do we on the other hand, can be as broad or narrow as you need depending on the number of books you have in that subject area for fewer books your number just doesn't move a lot say 920 is for biography and then you would use the subjects name  and file them alphabetically. However there is no rule or law you can catalog them anywhere you want!

    I Would also add that the bookstore type cataloging is for browsing not for people who use a catalog.

    • We use Dewey. We put all the biographies in one place with B and the first three letters of the person's last name that is featured in the book. We do the same with putting all parenting books in one place with 649. All marriage books go with 306. All fiction for adults go in one place with F. Shelving has signs that are easily seen. This is our way of blending Dewey with Bookstore styles. It works great for us. We us Atriuum. We have a QR code in various places so people can use their phones to search our catalog. 

  • I work in 2 church libraries. One uses bookstore style and the other Dewey (both about 3000 - 4000 items). I have come to detest Dewey for Christian books. The classifications are often just plain wrong. I use OCLC Classify on the web to try to clean up all the errors in how others have classified these books and that helps but, our patrons have a much easier time finding books using the bookstore system. I copied our bookstore system from another church library and think it flows logically as you browse the shelves. We wrote up good descriptions of each heading and some rules for debatable books to help us be consistent. I would be happy to share that with you, if you contact me (it's too long for posting here =  48 headings). I hope to someday move the Dewey library to a bookstore system, God willing. 

    • Hi Ann,

      Your classification sounds interesting. Would you please send me your 48 headings? Do you use spine labels? Do you print them with the computer? Please tell.  Thanks. Audrey

      • I think 48 lines is probably too long to post here. There's a way to email me - someone else did - if you can figure out how to do that, then I can send it via email. We are cataloged on LibraryThing and have their TinyCat app, which makes it simpler, cleaner for patrons to use smart phones while in library or the desk top computer that is in the library to find a specific book, author, topic etc. Adult books have 2 line spine lables that use call letters: 1st line = abbreviated subject, 2nd line = 1st three letters of author's last name or of title, if no author. We use sheets of spine labels from Vernon and print them on the computer. The Microsoft Office software I used for printing spine labels has changed and I have to figure out a new method but won't have time to do that until fall. Tops of books cases have signs that say what subjects are in each case. Each shelf and each subject section is labeled. Bookends are used to create gaps between the subjects. The library I got the scheme from has a number at the top of each bookcase and puts that info on LibraryThing so patrons can walk directly to the proper case. There's a binder in our the library that shows subject order around the room and has detailed descriptions of what's in each subject but, I don't think anybody ever uses it, they just walk down the shelves and read the signs. The logical flow makes browsing easy. It goes from Bible to Fiction = God to us. 

        As far as deciding which subject to put a book in, I start with TAGS from LibraryThing's main page for the book and favor libraries that I know from years of doing this catalog books the way we would. I look at OCLC's Classify online and I read the back cover, flaps, and Amazon reivews for books that don't obviously fit a subject. When books could go either of two places, we made some executive decisions and wrote them down so we'd be consistent in the future. This is not a weekend project but we are very happy with it. Our library was started 30 years ago on a book cart by a professional librarian and it's just grown. We weeded and moved to a bigger space in 2012 and changed from a 27 subject array to 48 by copying the other library's system. I found that other system on LibraryThing by looking at non Dewey and nonLLC libraries then wrote to them. I got lucky later and was able to visit it. 


    • Would love to see your system. We are not in the cataloging phase yet but i can see Dewy is not an exact fit

      Thanks, Jackie Saturley


  • I have books in classifications:  women, men, health, etc.  The fiction are alphabetical by author.  Reference are alphabetical also.  

    We use a simple pocket in the back of the book with a card:  sign your name, leave it in the container near the door.  Maybe if more people used the library a different system would be feasible but it just isn't!  Keep it simple Peggy is my motto.

  • Hello fellow Church Librarian,

    Our church library is relatively smallish (yet we have grown over the last few years and hope to continue).  We have opted to not use the Dewy Decimal system because of (1) our size, (2) confusion of understanding where you will find a particular book (particularly when a trained volunteer was not present to assist) and (3) simplification when looking for a book where only the authors name is known. 

    We do separate/shelve our books by Fiction, Non-fiction, Devotionals and Reference.  It makes the entire process much easier for all.  We have over 1600 cataloged items in our main library collection with an additional 480 plus in our adult curriculum collection and another 190 plus in our leader collection.  I realize that for some Dewey is the only acceptable system but for our church library, and perhaps yours too, it may not be the the most user friendly option.  

    Best wishes in your library journey.

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