Who was Melvil Dewey?

Author:  Faizan Irfan

Mphil scholar (Punjab University)

Lecturer Library Science (Govt. Associate College, Safdrabad)

Who was Melvil Dewey?

Melville Dewey (1851-1931), “Father of Modern Librarianship,” was a powerful figure. He made an indelible impression on the library profession and had a significant impact on the path it has taken. Dewey rose from humble beginnings to become a famous leader via his tireless efforts and motivating zeal. Apart from this, he was a doer and a visionary with a diverse range of professional interests.

He created library education in the United States, assisted in the formation of the American Library Association, and was the first editor of the Library Journal. Dewey was an inventor, an educator, a wonderful librarian, and a strong administrator, among other things. Much before the famous universal adult education movement, he recognized public libraries as a powerful factor in adult education.

Library Bureau

He founded the Library Bureau, a company that sells library furniture and equipment, as a commercial endeavor. However, most of us associate Melvil Dewey with his Decimal Classification. It is the most widely used categorization system in the world, with 135 nations using it. And it was first published in 1876 and is still in use today.

School of Library Economy 

Dewey became the librarian of Columbia College in 1883, and the following year he launched the School of Library Economy, the first school for librarian education ever established.

Dewey was also the director of the New York State Library from 1888 to 1906, and the secretary of the University of the State of New York from 1900 to 1900. He overhauled the state library, making it one of the most efficient in the country, and established a system of state traveling libraries and photo collections while in that position. Furthermore, he established the New York Library Club in 1885.

American Library Association Medal

The American Library Association’s Council voted in June 2019 to remove Dewey’s name off its highest prize, the Melvil Dewey Medal, citing Dewey’s history of racism, anti-Semitism, and sexual harassment. Furthermore, with no debate, the resolution was passed by a large margin. At the ALA’s January 2020 convention, the prize was renamed the ALA Medal of Excellence.


Following are the references for this article.

  1. Satija, M.P. (1999), “Irrepressible Reformer: A Biography of Melvil Dewey”, Library Review, Vol. 48 No. 1, pp. 47-
  2. 48. https://doi.org/10.1108/lr.1999. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melvil_Dewey

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