You may have an image of the library, and library workers, as lovers of order and method. While there is definitely some truth in that (it is handy to actually know where a book is located after all) there is also a surprising amount of chaos just underneath the surface. Take the vaunted Dewey Decimal System for example. The idea is a noble one: assigning all non-fiction work a simple number code based on subject so similar books are grouped together and easy to find on the shelf. Sounds simple, no?
As it turns out (spoiler alert!) it is actually quite difficult to categorize all knowledge into a numbered system. I was reminded of that fact when I recently started ordering for the 300s Dewey range which has the broad subject heading of ‘the Social Sciences.’ While the Dewey Decimal System gets it right more often than not, I was surprised how many times I would scratch my head when faced with a possible purchase and think ‘That book is in the 300s?’ Instead of bemoaning the weirdness, though, it is probably best just to embrace it. Order is great, but chaos can be fun as well. Here are a few of the curious subjects and titles I’ve come across so far.
When History isn’t in History:
Usually history books are safely tucked away in the 900s range. Oddly though, if a book is about a specific ‘group’ it can wind up in the 300s. How or why this distinction is made has never been clear to me, but the important takeaway is for history buffs to keep the 300s in mind. Here are a few examples:
Women’s History & the Suffrage Movement
African American History & the Civil Rights Movement
History of Crime & Outlaws
Spies themselves are often out of place in a strange land so maybe it is appropriate that they have a home in the 300s. Whether you like 007 or have been watching The Americans, here are a few titles that might intrigue you.
Recovery from Substance Abuse:
It has always seemed like these titles should be in the health section to me, but hey, the important thing is that we have the books on this important topic.
Tattoos & Body Art:
Tattoos are a cultural phenomenon so maybe they are now a social science. In any case, we have lots of great books on the subject.
Luckily a colleague tipped me off that all things wedding are in the 300s. Who knew? Clearly not me. Keep your eyes peeled for these titles and more to come.
No specific topic headings, just a few unique titles that took me off guard.
So, clearly the 300s are more complex and harder to define than I first thought. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.