Features

Dewey Decimal Jewelry

When he developed his decimal system in the 1870s, Melvil Dewey was trying to bring the efficiency and allure of engineering to the emerging field of library science. At a moment when engineers were national heroes, nothing quite said reliable or important like decimals. It’s perhaps ironic, then, that the Dewey Decimal System is today not just a practical way to find books in most public libraries (but not most large research libraries, where the Library of Congress system holds sway). It’s also—and maybe more importantly—a symbol of the romance of libraries, not their efficiency.

We can see the particular, fantastical romance of the Dewey Decimal System best in the proliferation of jewelry that says “I still believe in 398.2,” or variations thereof. 398.2 being, of course, the classification for fairy tales (or, in other words, about as far as you can get from engineering):

From the Pendant Emporium.
From the Pendant Emporium.
From ChasingStarlight.
From ChasingStarlight.
From Sheep and Shamrock.
From Sheep and Shamrock.
From Moon Garden Designs.
From Moon Garden Designs.

But if your reading tastes run in a different direction, there are other Dewey Decimal categories to choose your jewelry from. The Written Nerd, for example, uses real card catalog cards to make jewelry under different headings. Like science:

From Written Nerd.
From Written Nerd.

Or art:

From Written Nerd.
From Written Nerd.

You can also find remnants of that other romantic library tool, the card catalog, for sale. Like this drawer:

From Veruca's Vintage.
From Veruca’s Vintage.

Sadly, I’ve never seen anyone combine them. For obvious reasons, perhaps, but screw obvious: I’d totally wear a card catalog drawer around my neck.

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About Derek Attig

Derek Attig writes and teaches about book culture, technology, and history. In addition to writing a book about bookmobiles in American life, he blogs at Bookmobility.org. Follow Derek on Twitter: @bookmobility