Non-Western Languages and Literatures in the Dewey Decimal Classification Scheme

Eunice Kua 1
  • 1 School of Information, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

A classification scheme reinforces the social systems that were in place at the time the system was devised, and projects, no matter how subtly or ineffectively, the social, moral and intellectual values of that system. The Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) scheme is the most widely used library classification scheme in the world today; it is based on the shape of the 19th century North American academic world, and shows a distinct bias no longer acceptable for libraries of the 21st century. Non-Western languages and literatures are given short shrift in classes 400 and 800 of the DDC. The situation of African languages and literatures is a case in point. Attempts at official and local revisions have been made, but more systemic efforts are necessary. The problem is complex and there are no easy answers. Nevertheless, national libraries should step forward to address the issue, and the new models for adapting the DDC should be investigated.

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