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The Dewey Decimal Edition–a special personal finance edition!

How do I find a library book? So I’ve started mentioning the Dewey Decimal system in the end of random posts and I’ve had some questions about what it is and how relevant it is. I thought I’d explain it a bit using some Personal Finance examples.

To start with, the Dewey Decimal system is one of the two major systems used in the States (and beyond…) to organize non-fiction books. The other is the Library of Congress system, which is found more in academic settings. I think it’ll be relevant as long as libraries are in use or until a better, similar system comes along.

Why? Because books have to be organized somehow. What if you want to find books on personal finance? Well, they could organize it by title, but then you’d only be able to find a particular book, not browse. Your PF book might be shelved in a row with one self-help book, one on world religions, on one algebra, one on politics, and the complete works of Aristophenes.

As it is now, you might look up a Suze Orman book and find that the call number is 332.024 O (PF). Then you notice Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover just a few books away as 332.024 R. You glance one shelf over and see a book on index funds in 332.6 (investing). And when you look down you find a 333 book on investing in real estate.

You decide that real estate is too much effort compared to index funds and move on. At least if you’re me.

Here’s a broad overview of the Dewey by hundreds, along with some examples:

000s — General, Reference

004-006 — computer stuff
031 — encyclopedias

100s — Philosophy, Psychology

158 — self help

200s — Religion (very unbalanced in favor of Christianity, which involves 220-280)

270s — Christian history
297 — Islam (all of it, in one number! lots of subdivisions, though)

300s — Social Science

300s — economics
332 — personal finance
395.22 — wedding ettiquette

400s — Language

419 — Sign language

500s — Natural Sciences and Mathematics

540s — chemistry

600s — Technology and Applied Sciences (health, home, family, etc)

615.8527 — depression (I’m not sure why it’s in here, but health counts)
629.287 — auto repair
641 — cookbooks

700s — The Arts

741 — cartoons
791 — film

800s — Literature

820s — British literature

900s — History and Geography/Travel

973 — US history
973.7 — Civil War

Ok, so that’s basically how it works. General ideas by 100s. Classes by 10s. Similar topics by 1s, really crazy breakdowns into .1111 and beyond!

Visit this page to see a greater breakdown of the hundreds and then scroll down for an alphabetized index of where to find certain things. You can search for “personal finance,” “investing,” and “depression” and find them all there.

I mentioned last night that even though I was pretty successful, the day had left me depressed. Today has been better on the whole. I still don’t feel great, but I don’t feel like crap. Point for our team!


Hilda February 6, 2008 at 9:40 pm

I’m glad to hear you’re feeling better, MrsM! You know, the only call number I know by heart is guess what? 322.024. That’s right, can’t get enough PF books. But I gotta check out 333 one of these days. Thanks for the info!

Ryan S. February 6, 2008 at 11:34 pm

Interestingly, I spent a lot of time learning the Dewey Decimal System when I was growing up, but the library at the university I went to didn’t use it.

FWIW, David L. Scott’s Wall Street Words, which I’m looking at this second, is 332.603 Sc in the HI public library system.

Catherine L February 7, 2008 at 7:04 am

Hi Mrs M – hope you’re having a better day to day.

I get lost in the library quite a bit, so this post is useful. Thanks.

Bellen February 7, 2008 at 9:44 am

Your post is very useful. But, don’t schools, and I mean elementary/high schools teach this anymore?

Our public libraries have had significant cutbacks due to budget contraints, so instead of having library aides who would help you find the books, they have posted about double the number of guides to the Dewey Decimal system. Now if we could just have people read the signs…

jodie February 7, 2008 at 2:03 pm

hehe! I’m a librarian, so I enjoy seeing references to your library work. (We use LOC, though, since we’re an academic library.) I just found your site a few weeks ago…it’s quickly becoming one of my daily reads! 🙂

Becky February 7, 2008 at 4:18 pm

I’ve always thought the Dewey Decimal System was pretty easy and intuitive. I definitely don’t have the numbers and subjects memorized, but I’ve never had any problems finding something once I looked up the number in the library’s computer system.
Hey, Mrs. Micah, do you know the history of the DD system? I’d love to hear about that!

Simple Tam February 7, 2008 at 6:35 pm

Mrs.M, thanks for the post on DD. Also thanks for the advice. I was able to talk them into replacing the book.. which now works out to $10 🙂

mrsmicah February 7, 2008 at 6:42 pm

Awesome! I’m sorry you weren’t able to get the charge removed, but at least it’s only 2/5 the original one.

Julie February 7, 2008 at 6:49 pm

When I was in middle school, I used to hang out in the library instead of going to class (I was excused by my teachers of course!) and I loved the Dewey Decimal system… I think I dreamt about reading all of the books in the whole library. I haven’t thought about that in years! Thanks!

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