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Melvil Dewey

Dewey, Melvil, 1851–1931, American library pioneer, originator of the Dewey decimal system, b. Adams Center, N.Y., grad. Amherst (B.A., 1874; M.A., 1877). A man of originality and of enormous energy, Dewey played an important role in the early days of library organization in the United States. He became acting librarian of Amherst in 1874, and there he evolved his system of classification, using numbers from 000 to 999 to cover the general fields of knowledge and designating more specific subjects by the use of decimal points. From 1883 to 1889 he was librarian of Columbia College where he established the first library training school (now defunct). As librarian (1889–1906) at the New York State Library at Albany he founded another important library school. His interests extended from spelling reform to organizing the Lake Placid Club, a resort in the Adirondacks. Dewey is credited with the invention of the vertical office file. He was a founder of the American Library Association, the New York State Library Association, and the Library Journal. The 20th edition of his Dewey Decimal Classification and Relative Index (1876) was published in 1989.

See G. Stevens and J. Kramer-Greene, ed., Melvil Dewey (1983).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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