Libraries around the world use the Dewey Decimal System to organize written works. And since today, December 10, marks the birth in 1851 of Melvil Dewey, the American librarian who invented this system, we thought we\u2019d take a brief look at how it works and where it came from.\r\nWhat Is the Dewey Decimal System?\r\nBefore Dewey Decimal Classification \u2013 also known as the Dewey Decimal System \u2013 finding a specific book in a library could be tricky.\r\nLibraries would often order books by size and date of acquisition. As such, you might find a guide to rabbit breeding next to Plato\u2019s Republic.\r\nBy comparison, in the Dewey Decimal System, each book in a library is given a number based on its subject. These call numbers, or shelf marks, mean that books on similar subjects are kept together, making them easy to find.\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_52469" align="aligncenter" width="574"] Books in a Finnish library featuring a version of the Dewey Decimal System.\r\n(Photo: Veikk0.ma\/wikimedia)[\/caption]\r\n\r\nHow Does the System Work?\r\nThe Dewey Decimal system has ten main classes for sorting written works:\r\n\r\n\t000 \u2013 Computer science, information, and general works\r\n\t100 \u2013 Philosophy and psychology\r\n\t200 \u2013 Religion\r\n\t300 \u2013 Social sciences\r\n\t400 \u2013 Language\r\n\t500 \u2013 Science\r\n\t600 \u2013 Technology\r\n\t700 \u2013 Arts and recreation\r\n\t800 \u2013 Literature\r\n\t900 \u2013 History and geography\r\n\r\nThese main classes are then further divided into more specific subject divisions and sections. And to narrow categories further, extra numbers can be added after a decimal point. For instance:\r\n\r\n\t\r\n\r\n\t\r\n\r\n\t\r\n\r\n\t700 \u2013 Arts and recreation\r\n\r\n\r\n\t790 \u2013 Sports, games, and entertainment\r\n\r\n\r\n\t796 \u2013 Sports\r\n\r\n\r\n\t796.3 \u2013 Ball games\r\n\r\n\r\n\t796.32 \u2013 Basketball\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nYou can then keep adding numbers after the decimal point to subcategorize as required. This gives libraries flexibility in how they sort their books.\r\nWhere Does the System Come From?\r\nMelvil Dewey developed his library classification system while working at the Amherst College Library. In 1876, at the age of 25, he published 200 copies of the Dewey Decimal System as a 44-page pamphlet.\r\nAs libraries around the world adopted the Dewey system, it expanded. By the twelfth edition in 1927, it was 1243 pages long. And with the first online edition published in 1993, it continues to adapt to new technology.\r\nThe system is far from perfect, with critics pointing to its complexity and cultural biases. And Dewey himself was a controversial figure, accused of racism and sexual harassment. But with libraries in more than 135 countries currently using the Dewey system, it is certainly influential.\r\nExpert Author Proofreading\r\nOf course, if you want your book to end up in libraries with a Dewey decimal number of its own, you\u2019ll need to proofread the manuscript before submitting it for publication. Submit a free trial document today to find out how our proofreaders and editors could help you polish your writing.