Make Finding Books Easier for Teachers and Students!

The Dewey Decimal System (DDC) can be complicated, confusing and burdensome for many people to use. 

So why not make it easier on everyone? 

We created small signs in the Non-Fiction stacks that helped staff and students to find where topics based on our school's curriculum were located. This supplements the larger Dewey Table that we have at the end of the stacks giving everyone an overview of where they should begin, i.e. 720 Architecture, 730 Sculpture & Related Arts and so on.

Here's an example of a DDC table we created to put into our library stacks based on topics covered in our school's courses

Here's an example of a DDC table we created to put into our library stacks based on topics covered in our school's courses

How Did We Do This?

First you need to decide what topics should be included.

1) We Chose Subjects and Topics that were most commonly studied based on our school's needs

- ask teachers what topics they will be covering

- check the school course guide, it should have details about topics covered within each course taught

- learn about your school's curriculums there are lots of resources online to learn more

- read through textbooks that are used - make sure the teacher is actually following the textbook closely - looking at the table of contents at the beginning can save a lot of time - this worked well for our lower school Chinese courses that have set textbooks which teachers follow chapter by chapter

- think about if there are any after school programs, activities, clubs, theatre productions, music classes, etc. that could benefit from this 

We didn't want to overload the tables with too much information so we tried to stick to major topics. See link below for our tables we created. 

2) Hit the Stacks

We started with the 000s General & Reference section and took at look at what topics we had a lot of books on. We made quick bullet point lists of this with DDC number and topic. We buy books based on the curriculum so this is also helpful in getting an idea of what topics are covered. 

3) Listen to Library Users

Are students always asking for help in finding the same types of books? 

Are teachers teaching the same units every year and want to quickly locate the resources they need to support this? 

Pay attention to what people commonly want. If they are asking the same kinds of questions over and over again, maybe there is a better way your library could be organized to help people locate what they need more effortlessly. An example of this is biography and poetry books. Our English Departments teaches these units every year, and every year we are asked for help in finding them. Of course, it's no problem for us to go over and help them find exactly what they want, but it can become frustrating for users when they try to locate items on their own and still can't find them. We want the library to be easy to use!

Additionally, there are some popular authors who write non-fiction books that our users have a hard time finding because they are always searching the Fiction stacks for the author's last name. 

Example: Malcolm Gladwell - so he got included in our DDC Tables 

We have every Chinese translated version and I think every English version of his books!

We have every Chinese translated version and I think every English version of his books!


4) Check the Dewey Decimal Classes

Are there any topics that your library should have books on? Doing projects like this is also beneficial to your collection development!

You could use:

1) WebDewey - not free but an excellent resource that is updated as changes are made in new editions

2) Wikipedia's List of Dewey Decimal Classes has a great overview which should be enough to cover the major areas if you don't want to break down the tables down too far

3) Need more detail? I used the OCLC's Summary DDC document to help (skip down to page 8)

4) We have the print edition of the DDC 23 that our Chinese librarian uses to get the exact details for Chinese topics that require a lot of decimal places to shelve accurately. For example, to separate Dynasties, cultural activities, etc. Dewey didn't really leave enough space.

Here's the Link to the DDC Tables we Created for Our Library

English Version

Chinese Version (Mandarin Simplified)

Note: The colours are arbitrary, they're just to make them more visually appealing :) 


Maybe some of you are thinking, why use DDC at all if it takes this much effort to explain it? 

For me, I think:

1) All systems have limitations and problems - there is no current system that meets all of our needs

2) Our school has a multilingual collection - choosing systems that are specific to cultures or languages can lead to cataloguing nightmares - i.e. The Chinese system would not work well for all the topics covered in our English collection (our school has a dual language Chinese-English program so students read books in both languages)

3) Time - it takes an incredible amount of time to take on a project like choosing another classification system to use - our library was already using DDC previously - I want to focus my energy on developing our information literacy program and working more with teachers and students

4) Logistical problems - our library has fixed and limited shelving - I cannot move or add any shelves to hold more books, I need to work with what I have - creating more sections requires more space

5) Annoyance for Users - re-arranging the stacks can be inconvenient for staff and students during the transition process especially - it would take months to take on a task like this

6) Destiny Follett Library Management System already generates many of the records for our books with a suggested DDC - saves time!

7) Our primary school also uses DDC - students are taught about this system and are familiar with how it works when they join our school - this saves the limited lesson time we have to focus on teaching them other skills 

8) And lastly, I think this system works quite well for our school's needs. 

Hope this helps inspire some ideas for your own library!

Kendra Perkins

International Librarian Network - China Ambassador