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Celebrate the Dewey Decimal System

By: Courtney Newman

Melvil Dewey

The Dewey Decimal System has been used by libraries for 140 years now, creating a recognizable organization key worldwide.  It’s only fitting to celebrate the father of this system, Melvil Dewey, on his birthday! Dewey Decimal Day is celebrated on December 10th in honor of this man’s brilliant work.  At age 21, he effectively revolutionized library systems by creating a more specific and simple universal key for book organization. As homeschoolers, the library is very important for many of us, so let’s learn more about how it functions!

Learn about the Father of Modern Librarianship

Melvil Dewey was passionate about simplification and efficient organization.  In fact, at birth, his first name was spelled “Melville,” which he changed later to reduce unnecessary letters.  Before the Dewey Decimal System was copyrighted and adopted by libraries, visitors would have to relearn a new system for each library they visited, or heavily rely on the librarian to locate books for them.  

The Dewey Decimal system is utilized by over 200,000 libraries worldwide, with the Dewey Decimal call numbers conveniently computerized to accommodate our technology today.  While a small number of libraries have switched to the Library of Congress Classification System, most still use the Dewey Decimal System with ease. The Library of Congress system, invented by Herbert Putnam in 1897, features 21 subject classifications, while the Dewey library book sorting system has 10 subjects with 10 sub-subjects.  As a result, the Dewey system is both more simple and precise.

To appreciate Melvil Dewey’s incredible and timeless efforts, all you have to do is visit your local library!

Fun Ideas for Visiting Your Local Library

It’s a bit tragic to know how many people think libraries are unnecessary or outdated these days.  The reality couldn’t be further from the truth, because libraries have adapted to our changing times to embrace technology while continuing to support communities.  Libraries will always be important in our societies as a place that celebrates knowledge and sharing information. Here are five things you can do at your next library visit!

  • Sign up for a library card!
  • Get to know your librarians! (Maybe even talk with them about Dewey Decimal Day!)
  • Look into their free courses (some libraries even offer Lynda.com courses).
  • Sign up for access to programs like Overdrive and Hoopla to access free music, audiobooks, and eBooks.
  • Attend a free event!

Engaging Activities for Celebrating Dewey Decimal Day

Now that you know all about Melvil Dewey and his classification system, we want to celebrate Dewey Decimal Day with engaging activities!  The library is fun and informational, and so it only makes sense for our Dewey Decimal Day celebrations to feel the same.  Here are four great ways to celebrate the classification system that makes it easy for all of us to find our favorite books!


  • Book Races. Gather your children and their friends together at the library for this fun book race!  Of all the Dewey Decimal games, this is a great activity since it teaches how to use the system, makes finding the books an exciting competition, while also getting out any extra energy.  Try to remind your kids to stay as quiet as they can (after all, it is still a library). Divide the kids into two teams, have them line up, and give each student a book call number. The students must wait in line while their teammates find a book and bring it back to verify it is correct before the next child can search for a book.  The first team with all their books wins!


  • 10 Quiet Games to Play at the Library. The library is not only a great resource for homeschoolers because of books, but it’s also a fun place to hang out when you want to take your homeschool outside the house!  These games are engaging and make use of the abundant resources at your library.


  • Dewey Decimal Treasure Hunt. Find our free printable below for this fun book hunt!  This is a great way to help your kids practice learning this system while having fun!  The Dewey Decimal System for kids can be confusing at first, but with practice — and our helpful printable bookmarks you’ll also find below — they will get it down before you know it!


  • Free Printable Library Scavenger Hunt. While this scavenger hunt is more generalized than the Dewey Decimal hunt, it is still a fun way to enjoy your library and celebrate the wonder that is Dewey Decimal Day!


For many of us, the library is a resource we would hate to live without.  It is invaluable for our homeschools, our budgets, and the wealth of information we can find.  The events help our children have exciting learning opportunities, socialization, and a fresh perspective.  Children can tire of mom teaching all the things, which is where library events and courses are especially helpful.  Without the Dewey Decimal System, our libraries would likely still be difficult to manage on our own or when we visit a new area. On this Dewey Decimal Day, let’s remember Melvil Decimal for his brilliant work!


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