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 Melvil Dewey

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Melvil Dewey

Pioneer of Library Science. He is best known as the originator of the Dewey Decimal System, a decimal-based cataloging system to be used in libraries to locate books. His original name was Meliville Louis Kossuth Dewey; he later changed his to Melville Dewey, then shortened his first name to Melvil, and for a short time, used the surname Dui. The name changing came from his interest in spelling reform. He was the youngest child of five in a poor family; this caused him to start college later in life than most. After working in Amherst College Library as a student assistance, he realized a better system was needed for locating books in a large college library. Although others had an idea earlier, Dewey, using his keen mathematical skills, expanded and organized the idea putting it into reality and then copyrighting the the Dewey Decimal System in 1876. This system has proved to be enormously influential and remains in widespread use. This became the beginning of the profession of being a librarian, hence the art of library science as it is known today. Along with teachers and nurses, women had another profession. After earning a masters degree, he was a founding member of the American Library Association and holding several executive board positions over the years; published a professional magazine "The Library Journal"; a librarian at what is now Columbia University in New York City; and also served as director of the New York State Library. He can be called the "Father of Modern Librarianship." He served as the official delegate of the US Government to the International Library Conference in London, England in 1897. From early on in his career, he was interested in reforming the spelling of words; he founded the Spelling Reform Association in 1886. He and his first wife, Annie Godfrey, created the Lake Placid Club, a exclusive resort in the Adirondack Mountains of New York for promotion of winter sports, along with social, cultural and spiritual enrichment. The Winter Olympic Games were held there in 1932 with promoting from his son, Godfrey. The resort had its own library, fire department, theater, 21 tennis courts, seven golf course, farms for fresh produce for the restaurants and eventually a school. Since the resort was exclusive, not all people of various races and religions could attend. This lead to Dewey's resignation from his State Librarian position on January 1, 1906 after the State of New York investigated his practice of ignoring the needs of diverse cultures and having financial transactions with his students. The New York State Library had grown under his leadership to being the fifth largest in the United States. After his first wife's death in 1922, he married Emily Beale two years later. In 1926, he relocated to Highlands County, Florida to establish a new branch of the exclusive Lake Placid Club.

Bio by: Linda Davis


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 17 Oct 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 13079
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Melvil Dewey (10 Dec 1851–26 Dec 1931), Find A Grave Memorial no. 13079, citing North Elba Cemetery, North Elba, Essex County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .