We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is the Dewey Decimal System?

Niki Acker
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The Dewey Decimal Classification system, sometimes abbreviated DDC, is a method of categorizing books in a library by subject matter. It is a numerical system using groupings of ten — i.e. there are ten major classes, each of which has ten divisions, each of which has ten sections — and books are placed on the shelf in numerical order. The system was created by Melvil Dewey in 1876 and is currently owned by the Online Computer Library Center in Dublin, Ohio, which acquired the trademark in 1988.

The Dewey Decimal system is extensively used in United States libraries, and a system based on it, the Universal Decimal Classification, is used around the world. Before it was developed, there was no standard of organizing library books, and most systems in use were quite arbitrary and inefficient. Today, this system is used in about 95% of United States school and public libraries, while the Library of Congress Classification system, first developed in 1897, is more widely used in government and university libraries.

The call numbers in the Dewey Decimal system provide increasingly specific information about the book when read from left to right. There are three numerals in each, followed by a decimal point, which may be followed by more numerals to more specifically categorize the book. The second line of the call number consists of the first few letters of the author's name, which may be used to alphabetize books with the same numerical classification.

Though fictional works are classified within the 800 class, Literature, many libraries choose to have a separate section for fiction in which the books are alphabetized by author. Literary works in the Dewey Decimal System are subdivided by their original language and then by form — poetry, fiction, or essay, for example — so that all works of fictional prose are not in a single place. Making a separate section for fiction both caters to patrons who are only interested in novels and keeps the 800 section from becoming overgrown.

The ten main classes of the Dewey Decimal system are as follows:

  • 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
Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Niki Acker
By Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a Language & Humanities editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of interesting and unusual topics to gather ideas for her own articles. A graduate of UCLA with a double major in Linguistics and Anthropology, Niki's diverse academic background and curiosity make her well-suited to create engaging content for WiseGeekreaders. "
Discussion Comments
By anon1002258 — On Oct 09, 2019

This is useful.

By Fa5t3r — On Nov 26, 2012

@clintflint - When you consider that library science is actually a degree at university where you are basically taught Dewey decimal system classification (among other things, of course) it's not surprising that you had difficulty. Any system that can categorize every topic in human thought and experience is going to be very dense and difficult to interpret, although the Dewey system is as good as anything I can imagine.

I wonder how often (if ever) they get a new topic that needs to be decided on. Something that could go in more than one area, for example.

I wonder if there's a place where they decide these things, or if it's up to each individual library.

By clintflint — On Nov 26, 2012
If you're used to the Dewey system it can actually be quite difficult to adapt to another system. When I first got to university, they used a different system, I'm not sure which one, but it definitely wasn't the Dewey system.

And, I'm ashamed to say, instead of asking for help, I just kind of wandered around for the first year, hoping that I would find the right books (although I never did). The library was six or seven stories, all packed with books, so it's a wonder I got anything done at all.

The next year, I swallowed my pride and went to one of the open days so that I could learn how to find books and I did much better after that. Don't take it for granted that you'll be able to figure out a system.

By hschwab — On Jul 08, 2010

While many libraries do store books of poetry or plays in the 800s, fiction is usually found on the other side of the library, alphabetized by last name.

Mysteries and sci-fi have become such popular genres that they are kept separate even from the other fictional novels. Mysteries are alphabetized by themselves by the author's last name, as are sci-fi books.

By anon90452 — On Jun 16, 2010

this could really help a lot, especially to us students. thank you so much!

Niki Acker
Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a Language & Humanities editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide...
Learn more
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.