Come see the oppression inherent in the Dewey Decimal System

This won’t surprise my librarian friends, but the Dewey Decimal System is amazingly Eurocentric. Newspapers are in the 070s, subdivided by geographic area:

071 North America
072 British Isles
073 Central Europe
074 France and Monaco
075 Italy and adjacent islands
076 Iberian Peninsula and adjacent islands
077 Eastern Europe
078 Scandinavia
079 Other geographic areas

Did you notice that? “Other geographic areas”? As in, the place where more than half the world’s population lives? Newspapers from Brazil, India, China, Japan, Australia, Egypt, Ghana, South Africa, etc. are all lumped into “other”, whereas Monaco and Luxembourg are filed into different categories.



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6 responses to “Come see the oppression inherent in the Dewey Decimal System

  1. tally_cat

    The subject of this post made me laugh out loud – and that’s saying a lot considering the fact that it hurts to laugh.

    Secondly, I’ve always found that so humorous; just like the religion area…
    Mind if I reference your post?

  2. sylvar

    I posted it publicly — go right ahead and link to it!

  3. tally_cat

    *snerf* Thankies.

  4. tealfroglette

    It makes me feel like i am in the same ‘what! silliness is this’ zone when i realized that i had been raised in a catholic ghetto with the truth conviently not shown to us.

  5. cbustapeck

    I’m not surprised.

    What does surprise me is that such a big chunk of the DDC is used for newspapers… I’ve never seen a library that organized newspapers using the DDC, and there aren’t that many books about newspapers, are there?

  6. segnbora

    Pretty much all the areas that have geographic subdivisions use about those same proportions. Maybe two-tenths of the 200s, the religion section, has non-Christian stuff; only one-tenth of the 400s, Languages, has languages not originating in Europe; the same in the 800s, Literature; Geography/History is about the only major area that is remotely evenly divided up. All the subdivisions for encyclopedias and serials. “Oriental” philosophy is stuck in 180 with ancient and medieval philosophy, while “Modern Western philosophy” has from 190 to just before 200. (Source:

    But Melville Dewey probably was reflecting what was in the collections of American non-academic libraries in 1876. And the changes that have been made since (adding computers and such) are the ones that reflected the collections of public libraries since then. I don’t know that public libraries often have such a multiplicity of foreign papers that this is difficult for them, and the same for foreign-language books, etc. I’d think generally there’s a single non-English-speaking community for each library/ system that gets the “other” category to itself in a public library; research libraries aren’t likely to use Dewey.

    (And it doesn’t surprise me that Monaco and Luxembourg are in different categories, given that Monaco is historically associated with Italy and France, while Luxembourg is more historically associated with the Netherlands and Belgium and even Germany.)

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