Melvil Dewey (1851–1931) is credited with founding librarianship as we know it today.
He created the Dewey Decimal System as a 21-year-old library assistant, and then started a library school, established Library Journal , and helped found American Library Association. He once championed women in the profession—although it was partly because librarianship could be deemed "women's work"—but he irreparably tarnished his legacy with appalling sexism and a long history of sexual harassment (including a documented incident with an NYPL staff member in 1905), as well as overt racism and anti-Semitism.
The organizational structure Dewey created, which assigns a numerical code to most works of nonfiction, has been around since 1876. It continues to grow and evolve every day, sometimes to course-correct for its dated, problematic, or just plain weird classifications.
Just the fact of its evolution means it's still broadly usable and pragmatic, however—and it's impossible not to fall in love with some of its idiosyncracies. Public libraries all over the world still use the Dewey Decimal System every day to make sense of the vast array of books in the world, find them quickly, and get them into the hands of readers.
In that spirit, we've constructed an (extremely unscientific) quiz to determine which of our favorite Dewey headings we all fall under. Are you a 060, a lover of rules and guidelines? Are you an 818 joker? How about an 031 perfectionist or maybe a 629.8, possibly a robot? Find out below!
Can't see the quiz below? Check it out on this site.
Want to actually learn something about the Dewey Decimal System? Check out the following resources that helped inform this quiz:
- LibraryThing's Dewey breakdown
- GeekMom: Cheat Sheet to the Dewey Decimal System
- Librarians Unite: How to Find a Dewey Number for a Book
- LOC webgude
- Giant list of categories
- Convert your name to Dewey
Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.
Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations.