All the resources in the world are useless if they cannot be consistently located. Since consistency is so critical to arranging resources in a searchable fashion, incumbent standards such as Dewey (DDC) have managed to propagate and persist long past their relevance. As the information delivery profession has evolved over time, it has been necessary to bootstrap successive layers of functionality onto a system never designed for it.
Dewey’s classification schema is certainly a product of its time. The original schema has gradually slipped further and further behind modern thinking, and increasingly reflects a comparatively narrow view of the world. Numbering systems and branching trees fundamentally have an implied hierarchy, and Melvil Dewey envisioned these hierarchies to reflect his own understanding of the world in 1876.
But, these simply ordered categories have very real ramifications today, and the organisational schema chosen by Dewey may cause unnecessary harm or distress to information seekers by the ways in which it privileges—or disparages—certain elements such as religion or gender. To make matters worse, nuances of information that Dewey could never have envisioned—such as the entire field of Computer Science—have been awkwardly shoehorned into existing systems, diminishing the simplicity and usefulness of the system by introducing increasingly arcane complexities.
Adhering to a system built on narrow-minded, provincial ideas, leaves many of today’s information authorities in a worryingly untenable position. The only real solution to rectifying these mistakes is the colossal undertaking of migrating to a different schema, and reorganising centuries of work.
Mr. Dewey certainly has a lot to answer for.