Is the Dewey System Too Outdated to Teach?

I know that many will see me mention the Dewey System for cataloging books and want to remind me that we are in the digital information age and that they have not used a library cataloguing system for a decade. I know all of that. I love Google and all of the power of searching in the 21st Century. Having said that, I still think there could be some benefit from teaching our children to understand the Dewey System, because if computers are down… well, they may be the only one of their friends that will still be able to utilize the library! Also, the system is an excellent example of how to organize our thoughts and ideas. Either way, the follow activity can be very helpful to your children.


My mother works in a library and recently she sent me an e-mail that I want to share with you. This is a fabulous idea to try with your kids. Many of us adults could take a lesson and practice this ourselves. What a great opportunity and a great teaching tool to help our kids be more independent!

Here are my mother’s words:

“So I thought I would play along and do some brainstorming. I picked a children’s book with the call number 025.4, called the “Dewey Decimal System”. Even after 16 years of library work experience, I learned more about how the Dewey Decimal system works than I knew before (probably should have known already but did not). While I was reading it I thought about the many kids who come to the library and do not know how to find anything and all they want is for me to go and get the book for them. I remember having activities in school where we had to actually learn how to find books in a library.


So, this is what I would suggest:

Have a scavenger hunt. After teaching the kids how to find a book, let them practice. Most library catalogs file books under title, author and subject.

Have them find a book on tornadoes or a book by Margaret Wise Brown, or a book titled, “Splat the Cat,” etc. You could probably plan the scavenger hunt from your home computer, but then have the kids actually perform the hunt at the library itself.


Switch it up and have the kids think of something they want to learn about…then have them go to the computer catalog and see how many books on a certain subject are in their library.


There is no reason any child that can read shouldn’t be able to find a specific book. What a great resource of knowledge for years down the road. It may take a little practice now, but in the future your work will be easy…just have the kids find the books:)”

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