Keith Richards has revealed he’s a fan of the library classification system
The following correction was printed in the Guardian’s Corrections and clarifications column, Wednesday 7 April 2010
This light-hearted panel erred in referring to Melvil Dewey’s system as a method of cataloguing books. Cataloguing has its own rules. Dewey is, rather, for classifying books according to their subject matter.
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz: Wake up, this is going to be more interesting than you think.
OK, sorry, I was still in bank holiday mode. Age? 134.
Something to do with libraries, isn’t it? Spot on. It’s the world’s most used method of cataloguing books.
I thought you said this was going to be interesting. It is. This is a seminal moment for librarianship. For 134 years, geeky men with acne and prematurely aged women in spectacles have quietly gone about cataloguing books according to the principles of Melvil Dewey, largely ignored by the rest of us. But now rock legend Keith Richards has admitted to a passion for librarianship, and a failed attempt to apply the Dewey system to his own large private library.
Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones? The very same. In his autobiography, he reveals that books were his first love, and calls public libraries “a great equaliser”.
Sympathy for the librarian? Indeed.
Little Red Rooster? Shhhhhhhhhh.
Wild Horses? Try 798, under equestrianism.
798? The Dewey system breaks human knowledge down into 10 broad categories, such as philosophy, religion, science and literature, then subdivides each into further batches of 10, more or less ad infinitum. Take music: that comes under arts and recreation (700) and is assigned the number 780. You’ll find rock music at 781.66, and the Rolling Stones and Keith Richards will form subsets of that.
Who was Melvil Dewey? A crazy American autodidact who invented the system in his 20s and is known as the “father of librarianship”.
Melvil? His real name was Melville, but another of his pet projects was the simplification of the English language. He wanted to eliminate all superflus letrs.
Do say: “No problem, sir, you’ll find it at 432.89718329.”
Don’t say: “No idea, I think it’s on the top shelf in Miscellaneous, somewhere between Penguins of Patagonia and Advanced Bidding Strategies in Contract Bridge.”