By Wayne Miller
Gary Peacock’s piece on Melvil Dui, nee Melville Dewey, spurred my memories about both ‘The (Lake Placid) Club’ and Mr. Dewey.
Dewey had additional connections to the Adirondacks: The Library Bureau and its plant in Ilion produced a number of innovative products constructed of Adirondack maple and other hardwoods, including the card catalog cabinets that used to greet patrons as they entered every library. These and other library staples were needed to implement the Dewey Decimal System. While online catalogs have decimated card catalogs, some of the Library Bureau’s products, like the book truck, remain staples of libraries and bookstores world-wide.
Prior to the system’s invention by Melvil, libraries were arranged using an assortment of methods including when the book was added to the collection, the size of the book, or its color. The system itself was dependent upon use of a printed work whose size and complexity grew as the sum total of recorded human knowledge grew. By the third quarter of the 20th century, the full Dewey Decimal System had grown to three large, thick volumes or, for smaller libraries, an Abridged version, itself several inches thick. Used by over 80% of the world’s libraries, each of the more than twenty new editions became an essential purchase for every library using the DDS. This extensive recurring market and the profits it generated became a part of a brilliant tax avoidance scheme.