De-emphasized Dewey: How I Changed Up My Non-fiction Section

De-emphasized Dewey: How I Changed Up my Non-fiction Section - A detailed step by step explanation of the approach I took in my school to de-emphasize Dewey

When I decided to de-emphasize Dewey in my library collection, I wanted to come up with an organization system that would make sense to me and make sense to my students.  I decided to divide the non-fiction collection into nine different categories (many of which are Dewey aligned) with sub-categories (done as sublocations in Destiny) in each one.  Please note that this post is focused specifically on what worked best for my school when we de-emphasized Dewey – your school will likely have some differences.  Use this as a reference and inspiration point rather than as an exact instruction manual for what to do in your school.

Our De-emphasized Dewey non-fiction categories

  • Poetry and Literature (shelved close to the fiction section)
  • Culture and Identity
  • Social Sciences and Government
  • Science and Technology
  • Self-Improvement
  • Beliefs and Religion
  • Arts and Entertainment
  • History and Geography
  • Biography and Memoir

Every book is scanned into one of these categories in Destiny.  You can run reports by category, so I use these when looking up non-fiction circulation data.

Book spines showing sublocation labels
These are some of the spine labels we use to show sublocations within our non-fiction categories.


Almost each of these categories has several sublocations to further organize these sections.  Each sublocation has a spine label sticker to identify where the book goes.  In Destiny, the sublocation includes the category so I can tell the general spot.  Here’s an example of what my sublocations look like in Destiny:

NONFIC: Poetry and Literature / POETRY

So a student will know that this book is in Non-fiction, in the Poetry and Literature section (category) and in the subsection of Poetry.

I made these stickers in Canva, then importing the images to a spine label template (I just used one from Demco) to print them out on spine label sheets from Demco.  Most books still have the same Dewey label as before.  The exception is a lot of the 300s that I moved to American fiction – I re-cataloged these to put them in the correct section of American history.  We have several research projects in this subject area, so this works a lot better for my school.

>> Check out my Canva template for my stickers here and adapt it for yourself. <<

Note: Originally I only added spine label stickers these if I had moved books from their previous Dewey spot (i.e. STEM and Makerspace books).  And if they stayed in the same place Dewey-wise as before (i.e. all my art books are still in order at the beginning of Arts and Entertainment) then I used a clear colored label cover, placed above the spine label.  This confused my students who were helping with shelving, so now I’m shifting to all my books having spine label stickers to show sublocation.


I added a lot of signage to help students navigate our collection.


Our Library’s Currrent Sublocations

  • Poetry and Literature
    • Speeches
    • Poetry
    • Drama/Shakespeare
    • Literature
  • Culture and Identity
    • Languages
    • Culture (books focused on culture, such as books on Native American culture, holidays, etc)
    • Identity (mostly LGBTQ+ and gender identity)
  • Social Science and Government
    • Psychology
    • Economics and Business
    • Government and Politics
    • Law and Crime
    • Social Issues & Activism
    • Military
  • Science and Technology
    • Maker/STEM (this pulls in books from coding to robotics to LEGOs)
    • Math
    • Science
    • Space
    • Earth Science
    • Animals
    • Medicine/Health
    • Technology/Transportation
  • Self-Improvement / Personal Growth
    • College/Career
    • Self-Improvement
    • Cookbooks
    • Exercise and self-care
  • Beliefs and Religion
    • Philosophy
    • Religions
    • Mythology
    • Folklore
  • Arts and Entertainment
    • Fine Arts
    • Photography
    • Music
    • Media & Performance Arts (social media and news related books are now here)
    • Games
    • Sports
    • Crafts and Hobbies (origami, knitting, sewing, etc)
  • History and Geography
    • General History
    • Ancient Civilizations (combined them all together from the various Dewey sections they were in)
    • Wars (WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan)
    • World History
    • American History (lots of 300s moved here)
  • Biography and Memoir (not currently subdivided because it’s small.  I’m debating interfiling these, but I want to see if circulation increases first)
Sublocation sticker sheets
Our sublocation stickers are printed out on spine label sticker sheets.

Timeline for De-emphasizing Dewey

Here’s what my timeline looked like when I de-emphasized Dewey (you can also read a lot about this in my previous post).  I didn’t really keep track of dates, but this is more or less the order I went in:

  • DEEP weed of collection
  • Decided on my categories and started thinking about sublocations
  • Re-cataloged some items that made more sense to me in completely different sections
  • Shifted some sections out of Dewey order in a way that made more sense (i.e. combining British and American poetry)
  • Created categories and sublocations in Destiny
  • Scanned all books into categories and sublocations
  • Added sublocation stickers to books to color code them in new sections
  • Designed and printed signage for my new sections (I got these printed poster size and then cut them down and glued them to foam board)

It’s all definitely still a work in progress and I’m constantly finding things to tweak and change.  But the new signage and layout is bringing more attention to books that were often overlooked before.

De-emphasized Dewey: How I Changed Up my Non-fiction Section - A detailed step by step explanation of the approach I took in my school to de-emphasize Dewey