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Finding time, and my bromance with the irrepressible reformer


I haven't been in the library profession very long, but I have been a librarian all my life. 

I have always found information, collected information, and put information in order.  

Collected. Completed. Categorized.

A childhood of comic books, baseball cards, flea market bric-a-brac. 

I'm an INFJ.

I was a librarian in a past life.

It has been over a year since my days at the Jefferson Market Branch where it seemed I had a new blog post every week.  Where has the time gone?  Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and before I knew it a very busy 2010 was over and 2011 well underway.  

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to find more time. More time for myself. More time to be a better librarian.  

Seems easy enough, right?  Get from point A to point B throughout the day, faster than before, and you end up with extra time to do with as you please.  Fractions of seconds and fractions of minutes slowly adding up to give you little bonus of additional time. It's a model of productivity.

The idea isn’t new or original. Throughout history individuals have strived to find time.  Polyphasic sleep cycles were apparently practiced by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison, and Buckminster Fuller in an effort to find extra time.  

I'm not sure I want to mess with my current sleep patterns.

There is another individual who made the most of the cumulative effects of minor changes in an effort to lead a more productive life. I have a little more in common with that individual than I do with the likes of Jefferson and Fuller. 

He happens to have been a librarian.  His name was Melville Louis Kosuth Dewey.

To save time he dropped the "le" in his first name.  


A fraction of a second saved.

It adds up.

In the fall of 1876 one hundred and three individuals sharing an interest in libraries met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  One of these individuals was 24 year old Melvil Dewey.  At the end of the meeting Dewey made the motion that the group form The American Library Association

The motion was approved and everyone signed in. Dewey was first and signed as "No.1".

Fractions of seconds.

It was maybe a little precocious and presumptuous.

I imagine the 24-year old Dewey perhaps running from the back of the room, stiff arming other attendees, shoving aside the slow and less enthusiastic so that he could be first.  He had a point to prove.

Point A to point B. 

Better. Stronger. Faster. 

He straightened his jacket, wiped a lock of hair back from his forehead, and signed.

Fractions of seconds.

Incidentally 1876 was the same year the Dewey Decimal System was devised.  It was a busy year for Melvil.

I have an envelope from the 1870s postmarked March 16th in Boston, MA.  On the verso is an advertisement for The Spelling Reform Association.



It reads:

"The English spelling is the worst in the world. Millions of years are wasted by each generation in trying to learn it. Millions of dollars are wasted each year in printing, and writing silent letters.  The American Philological Association and leading scholars of the world recommend the following  Rules for New Spellings : -

  1. —Omit a from the digraf ea when pronounst as e short, as in hed, helth, etc.
  2. —Omit silent e after a short vowel, as in hav, giv, liv, definit, infinit, forbad, etc.
  3. —Write f for ph in such words as alfabet, fantom, camfor, filosofy, telegraf, etc.
  4. —When a word ends with a doubl letter, omit the last, as in shal, wil, clif, eg, etc.
  5. —Change ed to final to t where it has the sound of t as in lasht, imprest, fixt, etc.

For further information of the reform and its recent rapid progress, address the writer, or Melvil Dewey, Sec. Spelling Reform Association, P.O. 260, Boston."

Fractions of seconds.

Millions of years?!

Maybe Dewey was a little over-the-top and intense, but you have to admire his passion. His conviction. His adherence to a personal philosophy.  His unbridled enthusiasm. 

He was a little ahead of his time.  He would have been right at home in the 21st century.

Though there is an argument for the negative effects the Internet is having on the way people think and interact, the current age of information certainly lends itself to Dewey's views on spelling reform.

The productive value of omitting unnecessary letters.

Less is more.

Fractions of seconds.

Point A to point B.


I think Melvil Dewey would have taken to texting and Twitter like a fish to water.

I think I've found a way to find more time.


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FIRST... uh I mean No. 1

Dewey would've also taken to firsties.

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