Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Melvil Dewey invented library system

New York State Library about 1900. Inset: Melvil Dewey, who served as its director.
It is the birthday of librarian Melvil Dewey (1851), who invented the Dewey Decimal system that libraries use to make their non-fiction books easy to find. He copyrighted it in 1876. Dewey also created vertical files, standardized size and shape of card catalogs and greatly improved the quality of the index cards used in them. He founded The Library Journal and served as chief librarian at Columbia University and as director of the New York State Library.

He was also a founder of the social and recreational Lake Placid Club in New York and was instrumental in bringing the Winter Olympics of 1932 to the region. In 1926, Dewey went to Lake Stearns, Florida, to establish a southern branch of the club, resulting in the renaming of the town to Lake Placid.

As a young man, Dewey advocated spelling reform. To that end he simplified his spelling of his own name, dropping the redundant letters from the common spelling. Briefly, he even changed his surname to Dui.

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