I was reading Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail, and I came across a part where he talked about the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC).
He was arguing that our old ways of classifying information (in this example, the DDC) didn’t work so well in the modern world.
Here’s a typical breakdown (PDF) you would see in a library:
- 000 Computer science, information & general works
- 100 Philosophy & psychology
- 200 Religion
- 300 Social sciences
- 400 Language
- 500 Science
- 600 Technology
- 700 Arts & recreation
- 800 Literature
- 900 History & geography
Not too bad.
Anderson then explained how each particular category broke down even further and that’s where the old system failed us. For example, he looked at the subgroups under “Religion”:
- 200 Religion
- 210 Philosophy & theory of religion
- 220 The Bible
- 230 Christianity & Christian theology
- 240 Christian practice & observance
- 250 Christian pastoral practice & religious orders
- 260 Christian organization, social work & worship
- 270 History of Christianity
- 280 Christian denominations
- 290 Other religions
That’s right… Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, and all those other religions that, combined, represent the majority of the world’s population are all relegated to the 290s. Clearly, a relic of times past.
This page breaks it down even more.
As Anderson explained, “This taxonomy says more about the culture of 19th century America in which the system was developed, and probably something about Melvil Dewey himself, than it does about the world of faith.”
Libraries would do well to reorganize themselves, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon.
A quick check of suburban libraries in Illinois places Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion in the 211 section (“Concepts of God”), Sam Harris’ The End of Faith in the 200 section (the all-encompassing “Religion”), and Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation in the 277 section (“Christian church in North America”).
When did the day pass when it was easier to find a book at Borders than at a library?
[tags]atheist, atheism, Chris Anderson, The Long Tail, Dewey Decimal Classification, Religion, Bible, Christianity, Christian, theology, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Melvil Dewey, Illinois, Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, Sam Harris, The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, Borders, church[/tags]