Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Melvil Dewey was a racist librarian?

 Melvil Dewey: His Contributions to Library Science and Controversial Legacy

Melvil Dewey (1851-1931) was an American librarian and educator known for his significant contributions to the development of modern library science. Born in Adams Center, New York, Dewey grew up on a farm and attended the State Normal School in Albany. After teaching in a rural school in New York for several years, he was hired as the librarian of the newly established Amherst College Library in Massachusetts in 1876.

While at Amherst, Dewey developed the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system, which is still widely used in libraries today. The DDC is a system of organizing books and other materials by subject, using a set of numbers and decimals to indicate different levels of specificity. This system revolutionized library organization and made it easier for patrons to find the needed materials.

In addition to his work on the DDC, Dewey founded the American Library Association (ALA) in 1876 and served as its first secretary. He became the director of the New York State Library and the head of the library school at Columbia University. He strongly advocated for library education and helped establish several library schools throughout the United States.

Dewey was also involved in several other fields, including spelling reform and metrication. He believed spelling should be simplified to make learning and promoting international communication more accessible. As a result, he created the Dewey Spelling Alphabet, which used letters to represent different sounds in English. Dewey was also a strong advocate for the metric system and served as the first president of the American Metric Association.

Melvil Dewey's legacy in the field of library science has been tarnished by his controversial personal life. He was accused of sexual harassment and discrimination against women as director of the New York State Library and head of the library school at Columbia University. Additionally, Dewey was known to have espoused racist and anti-Semitic views, and he promoted eugenics and forced sterilization of individuals deemed "unfit" to reproduce.

The controversy surrounding Dewey's personal life has led to calls to remove his name from libraries and other institutions that bear it. In recent years, efforts have been made to rename the Melvil Dewey Library at SUNY Plattsburgh and the Melvil Dewey Medal, awarded by the ALA. These efforts are part of a broader movement to reassess the legacies of historical figures accused of misconduct or held controversial views.

Here are some links that provide more information about the controversies surrounding Melvil Dewey:

The New York Times published an article in 2019 about efforts to rename the Melvil Dewey Library at SUNY Plattsburgh:

The ALA website has a page about the Melvil Dewey Medal and its history:

The Washington Post published an article in 2019 about Melvil Dewey's legacy and the controversy surrounding his name:

The American Libraries Magazine website has an article about the controversy surrounding Melvil Dewey and the call to rename the

 Melvil Dewey Medal:

The Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) website has a brief biography of Melvil Dewey, including his work on the Dewey Decimal Classification system:

The Library of Congress website has a page about Melvil Dewey, which includes information about his role in founding the American Library Association:

The American Library Association website has a page about Melvil Dewey, which includes information about his contributions to library education:

The Dewey Decimal Classification website has a section on the system's history, including information about Melvil Dewey's role in its development:

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