Our library presently is 'catalogued' by 'theme'. This is a good system, but tends to be too ambiguous and open for personal interpretation. In the past (20+ years ago or so) I used the Dewey Decimal System. Is that still a viable tool or would a newer system be more effective? What systems do my 'fellow librarian friends' use? Thanks for your  input.

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Comment by Jeannie Trapnell on December 11, 2017 at 7:41pm


We use the Dewey Decimal System in our church library.  There is a "modified" (not as many numbers to plow through - and numbers that are geared for church libraries) available at www.lifeway.com/Keyword/church+library  I use it all the time.  It has an index that helps a lot too.  I also use the Church Library Information Service (Manual).  Both have helped me a lot.

Jeannie Trapnell

Comment by Joyce W. Bullock on December 11, 2017 at 5:10pm

How would you catalog a children's book R.J. fright kicks away her fears: A Story about trust, published by Tydale. It is a Prayer Monsters series. It is fiction but it references Philippians 4:6-7. Would you use CE for fiction or C and a dewey number and if you use a dewey number what number would you use? I am puzzled by this. 

Comment by Charlie Dean on April 16, 2014 at 11:01am

Hi Bonnie,

I recently set up a digital library  http://archive.org/search.php?query=Oaks.Christian.Church.Houston  .  It is far from complete.  We have 75 years of material that is not digitized.  

As for the Dewey Decimal System:  I volunteer two hours a week to shelve books in the Houston Public Library.  It uses Dewey.  I'm good at what I do.  I have heard that possession is 90% of the battle.  If Dewey were starting today, it would fail.  The sooner it is replaced, the better.  But, it is the standard in most libraries.  

Comment by Bonnie Walker on February 17, 2014 at 7:17pm

Thanks everyone for invaluable advice! We have worked on the library since my last post and are moving towards an automated system. We're putting on a "Library Tea" next month to raise money and awareness of the new and updated library. I will keep you posted! For now, I've started creating interactive bulletin boards. The first month, Thanksgiving, was slim ... But January turned out to have much more action. We also gutted the 'old' stuff in the library (not the books, yet) and redecorated it. People are noticing the activity. Thanks again!

Comment by Karen Jones on February 17, 2014 at 1:47pm

Definitely the Dewey Decimal system -- that is what you will find in school and local public libraries and what your patrons are used to.  

Be aware that you mayo have to reclassify items downloaded from the Library of Congress, as it is the discretion of the person doing the data entering which subject area to put it in.  Even some publishers put anything with a Christian bent in the 240s -- Christian Living, even if it is a book about parenting or marriage.  Those items need to be classified in their perspective subject areas, not the 200s.

Also, there is no need to use the 800s for fiction, as most people wouldn't know to look there.  The same goes for biographies.  Just put them in their own "topic" area and alphabetized by author's last name.  Visit your local public library to see how they do it.  We use the following:

  • FIC - adult fiction.  We also include a second line for mysteries (MYS) and westerns (WES) and put them in a separate area of the library, since guys don't like to look in the romance area!
    • For series, put a 3-4 letter acronym for the series and the number of the book in the series.
  • JFIC - juvenile/young adult fiction
  • CFIC - children's easy fiction
  • B - Biography
Comment by Paul T. Jackson on February 17, 2014 at 11:02am

  There are lots of ways to manage a small library. Dewey is one of them for which most catalog software is designed. Readerware is what I use. It appears BookCollector, a software program which will update the BookCat inexpensive program, which I've also used. For a special rare collection, I have even used the decimal idea to create our own scheme, i.e., getting 'like' books together one the shelf. None of this creative effort works all the time, nor if you have one book, which could be in a separate collection in another place or building.

   The real key is to have a great index or program whereby you can search for what it is you want. I've done this with MS Access using a single field for the whole record...so when you search it finds keywords whether in a title or a comment or another 'field' of the records. Readerware can search this way somewhat, as it can search all 'text' from any field in the record. Numeric field have to be search separately however.

   Labeling books; part of the processing to get things on the shelf so you can find them can be easy or difficult depending on the software. We had a programmer develop our own label software for Readerware...in order to satisfy the use of special labels format.

Comment by Pam Cadd on February 17, 2014 at 10:18am

When I took over our library (rather small at 3000-4000 items) four years ago, I did an extensive weeding, then cataloged on new software, adding barcode and spine labels to everything. I used the Dewey system, but recently looked at the walls of books with new eyes. We had a great collection of interest to parents, but it was spread across different numbered areas. I decided to create a Family Life collection, where everything keeps its number, but they are all shelved together and displayed in an area convenient to parents passing back and forth to our children's wing.

I've continued this hybrid method for many other topics. I agree that it's ambiguous and open to personal interpretation (as is the Dewey system in some cases, especially with Christian books). However, my concern is making the collection accessible to patrons. For example, if someone is interested in books on marriage, they can see at a glance where the labeled shelf is, containing all-things-marriage, including premarriage, wedding planning, praying for your husband/wife, and marriage encouragement and improvement.

Everything retains the original Dewey spine label, but a new tag above the barcode on the back identifies the topic area. (The topic is also entered in the software, so patrons know where to look for the book when they access the catalog.) For us, this is a flexible system that allows for books to be easily moved from one area to another when desired.

I also display new books near their labeled topic areas, rather than grouped in a new book area.

I've received compliments from our patrons that they like seeing things grouped and labeled this way.

Pam Cadd, Richland, WA

Comment by Eva Nell Hunter on November 9, 2013 at 10:54am

Bonnie, the Dewey Decimal system is used worldwide and is also the one recommended for church libraries.  It is the only system that you will find in any church library conference.  Church members are mobile people and as they move from one church or city to another they are familiar with the church library classification system if it is Dewey.  It is actually an easy system to use once you get started.  If you are not familiar with the system, I recommend that you begin with the book which is available from LifeWay stores (www.lifeway.com/churchlibrary) for only $15.95. It is called "A Classification System for Church Libraries" and is based on the Dewey Decimal system and easy to use.  Then on the main page of this website, you will find an article on Sears subject headings.  You can download this list and together with the book I mentioned you will have the tools to get started.  Otherwise, the Abridged Dewey plus the 200 section of Dewey and the Sears Subject Headings books would cost more than $300.  I would also recommend that you begin this process using a library automation program.  You will also find information on both classification and automation in the "Church Librarians Information Service" which is available in pdf form.  You will find guidelines for choosing an automation program in this publication which also gives information for all areas of library work.  Two programs helping to support this website are Concourse (which we have used in our library for more than 20 years) and PC Card Catalog.   Thanks for considering the Dewey Decimal system!



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