Librarians Attend National Conference That Claims The Dewey Decimal System Is Racist

A national Librarian conference held discussions claiming that the Dewey Decimal System is racist and needs changed.

By Erika Hanson | Published

District Accused Of Banning Popular Coding Book For Girls

dewey decimal system

It seems nothing is off the table today when it comes to racism. And America’s Education system is no stranger to that notion. Controversial topics like critical race theory suggest that racism is systemic, and many claim it has been deep-rooted in our country’s broad sectors, including education. And coincidingly, the library system is being called out as prejudiced, as Librarians from all walks of the country were recently told the Dewey Decimal System is racist. 

Librarians from all over the country poured into Portland, Oregon this week for the annual Public Library Association conference. The event was held for three days in the City of Many Names, spanning from March 23rd to March 25th. It is touted as being a means for library professionals to connect with other workers in the field while learning from various panels, presenters, expos, and discussions. But one thing on the docket caught some viral attention, as the popular Twitter Account Libs of Tik Tok shared some photos and pictures of documents outlining some of the contentious topics outlined for the conference, including the Dewey Decimal System. 

A phone screenshot shows what appears to be an outline of one of the event’s expos titled, “Removing Bias and Barriers From Your Cataloging.” In the description, it showed that the panel would discuss how the Dewey Decimal System contains prejudiced perspectives that needed to change. Furthermore, it outlines how the Library Association has already implemented updates to remove the racial bias, as it was showcased as a means to show librarians how they too could remove any racist findings from their catalogs. 

The Dewey Decimal System has been called out more and more over the last decade as being archaic and inherently racist. Founded in 1876 by an American librarian Melvil Dewey, the cataloging system is used to categorize books by assigning them into 10 broad sections. Each section is then further subdivided within each section. The decimal points are then used to even further subdivide sections. It remains one of the most used cataloging systems not only throughout most of the world but in American libraries and public schools.

dewey decimal system

 Last year, a librarian at Cornell University made headlines for calling out the Dewey Decimal System as being racist toward Asians. Her theory was that English, German, and Greek each had eight individual numbered sections, while other languages including Asian spoken languages each only had one classification code. Similar arguments have been made for religion, as the system has over 889 sections devoted to Christianity, but only one for Islam and Judaism. Even further, the categorizing system has been called homophobic. Homosexuality topics originally appeared in the system under a section reserved for mental derangements. However, it should be noted that the categorizing has since been changed to a section that covers sexual relations. 

Opposers to calling the Dewey Decimal System haven’t necessarily shown opposition to making needed changes within the method, but they feel it is just another example of how critical race theory is permeating a vision that everything is racist into society. Many Republicans feel this is just another example of how far off the agenda of liberals is, as they seem more concerned with updating catalog systems over more dire issues at hand such as the failing school systems of America. Even though today marks the last day of the Librarian conference, the heated discussion regarding racism inside libraries will surely continue.