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Melvil Dewey
Melvil Dewey

Melvil Dewey

Melville Louis Kossuth Dewey was born on December 10, 1851. His family was poor, and lived in a small town in upper New York State. Later, he cut his first name to Melvil, dropped his middle names and, for a short time, even spelled his last name as Dui.

He invented the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system, the classification system that bears his name, when he was twenty-one and was working as a student assistant in the library of Amherst College. His work created a revolution in library science and set in motion a new era of librarianship. Melvil Dewey well deserves the title of father of modern librarianship.

Dewey changed librarianship from a vocation to a modern profession. He helped establish the American Library Association (ALA) in 1876; he was secretary of ALA from 1876 to 1890 and president during the 1890/1891 and 1892/1893 terms. He co-founded and edited the Library Journal. He was a promoter of library standards and formed a company to sell library supplies, which eventually became the Library Bureau. He was a pioneer in library education. In 1883, Dewey became the librarian of Columbia College (now Columbia University) in New York City. During his time there, he founded the first ever library school on January 1, 1887. In December 1889, he became the director of the New York State Library at Albany, retiring from that position in 1906.

His range of knowledge and work was wide and varied. He was a pioneer in the creation of career opportunities for women. In his later years he helped create the Lake Placid Club, a leisure center in the Adirondacks. Dewey was also a spelling reformer. Some of the early editions of his classification scheme were presented in reformed spelling, and his original introduction written in reformed spelling was reprinted in the Dewey Decimal Classification through Edition 18.

Dewey died from a stroke on December 26, 1931. Seven decades after his death, he is still primarily known for the Dewey Decimal Classification, the most widely used library classification scheme in the world.

Based on the text on OCLC.org: How one library pioneer profoundly influenced modern librarianship


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