Dewey Decimal Classification

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Dewey Decimal Classification

The Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC, also called the Dewey Decimal System) is a proprietary system of library classification developed by Melvil Dewey in 1876, and has since then been greatly modified and expanded through twenty-two major revisions, the most recent in 2004. The system is a method for placing books on library shelves in a specific and repeatable order that makes it easier to find any specific book or to return it to its proper place.

The DDC attempts to organize all knowledge into ten main classes. The ten main classes are then further subdivided. Each main class has ten divisions, and each division has ten sections. Hence the system can be summarized in 10 main classes, 100 divisions and 1000 sections. DDC's advantage in choosing decimals for its categories allows it to be both purely numerical and infinitely hierarchical. It also uses some aspects of a faceted classification scheme, combining elements from different parts of the structure to construct a number representing the subject content (often combining two subject elements with linking numbers and geographical and temporal elements) and form of an item rather than drawing upon a list containing each class and its meaning.

Except for general works and fiction, works are classified principally by subject, with extensions for subject relationships, place, time or type of material, producing classification numbers of no less than three digits but otherwise of indeterminate length with a decimal point before the fourth digit, where present (e.g. 330 for economics + .9 for geographic treatment + .04 for Europe = 330.94 European economy; 973 for United States + .05 form division for periodicals = 973.05, periodicals concerning the United States generally).


Comparison chart showing how the Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress Classification systems organize resources by concept, in part for the purpose of assigning call numbers. These two systems account for over 95% of the classification in United States libraries, and are used widely worldwide.

Classes for the Dewey Decimal Classification

The system is made up of ten main classes or categories, each divided into ten secondary classes or subcategories, each having ten subdivisions of its own. For a more detailed list, see List of Dewey Decimal classes.

  • 000 – Computer science, information, and general works
  • 100 – Philosophy and psychology
  • 200 – Religion
  • 300 – Social sciences
  • 400 – Language
  • 500 – Science
  • 600 – Technology
  • 700 – Arts and recreation
  • 800 – Literature
  • 900 – History and geography

Bibliography