Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Apostles of Culture: Dewey, Oh-so-OCD!
Dee Garison paints a dark, but vivid picture of Melvil Dewey in Apostles of Culture. Known mostly for the creation of the decimal system that revolutionized library organization, he is also remembered as a nervous man afflicted with what is now known as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. His megalomania, in addition to his unorthodox way of conducting business, made for numerous enemies and critics, and put him in the middle of a few scandals. Despite his polarizing personality and debilitating neurosis, Dewey is given credit in reshaping the library profession by opening its doors to women. What did Dewey see in this new workforce pool that had previously been dismissed or unnoticed by others? Two of his most devoted employees were women, one who stayed on for 18 years and another, until her death 34 years later. Why did these women, and many others, stand by Dewey, especially after the scandal of 1906? It is thought that the role Dewey offered women in libraries "gave them new power but did not challenge the traditional boundaries placed on their activities." What does this mean for women in libraries at this time?