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Melvil Dewey: Life, Dewey Decimal System and Controversies: Home

Melvil Dewey is a pioneer in Library Science who is best known for his invention of the Dewey Decimal cataloging system.


Life and Education 

Melvil Dewey was born in New York on December 10, 1851. He was the youngest of five siblings.

From an early age, Dewey took a great interest in education and spelling reform. He attended Alfred University where he received a bachelors degree in 1874, and then received a masters in 1877 from Amherst College.

Melvil Dewey is most famously known for creating a book classifying system that is still used today: the Dewey Decimal System. The Dewey Decimal System was created by Dewey when he was hired to manage the Amherst Library and reclassify its collection. He officially published his classifying system in 1876.

In the late 1880's, Dewey founded the School of Library Economy at Columbia College which was famously composed of mostly women (much to the disapproval of the college board). 

In his later years Melvil Dewey, was one of the founders of the American Library Association where he held the position as secretary from 1876 to 1891, and then as president from 1891 to 1893.

Melvil Dewey was married twice in his life and had one son from his first marriage. Dewey died in Florida at the age of 80 on December 20, 1931.

Melvil Dewey




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Achievements Gallery



  • Published and copyrighted the Dewey Decimal System in 1876
  • Founded the Library Bureau
  • Founded and Edited The Library Journal
  • One of the founders of the American Library Association 
  • Held positions as secretary and president of the ALA
  • Introduced Hanging Vertical Files
  • Established the American Library Institute in 1905
  • Initiated the program for traveling libraries im New York
  • One of the founders of Lake Placid Club