US library group expunges Dewey name from medal over anti-Semitism, misogyny
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US library group expunges Dewey name from medal over anti-Semitism, misogyny

Inventor of the decimal system, who died in 1931, kept Jews and blacks out of his resort and was repeatedly accused of harassing women

Melvil Dewey, 1851-1931, inventor of the Dewey book-classification system, in 1891. (Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)
Melvil Dewey, 1851-1931, inventor of the Dewey book-classification system, in 1891. (Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)

JTA — The creator of the Dewey decimal system, the book-classification method favored by librarians that still bears his name, was a noted misogynist and racist during his lifetime.

On Sunday, the council of the American Library Association, the world’s oldest and largest library association, voted to remove the name of Melvil Dewey, its founder, from its creative leadership medal because of his history of anti-Semitism and racism.

The famed librarian and educator, who lived from 1851 to 1931, “did not permit Jewish people, African Americans, or other minorities admittance to the resort owned by Dewey and his wife,” and also made “inappropriate physical advances toward women he worked with and wielded professional power over,” the council’s resolution said, according to a report by Inside Higher Ed.

The Melvil Dewey Award, according to the American Library Association, is an “annual award consisting of a bronzed medal and a 24k gold-framed citation of achievement for recent creative leadership of high order, particularly in those fields in which Melvil Dewey was actively interested: library management, library training, cataloging and classification, and the tools and techniques of librarianship.”

A letter to the editor published in 1905 in The New York Times noted that Dewey was rebuked by the New York State Board of Regents and resigned as state librarian over complaints from Jewish leaders about his anti-Semitism, in part exhibited by his authoring of the Lake Placid Club’s policy banning Jews, blacks and others from membership.

In addition to allegations of inappropriate touching of women, Dewey also asked for photographs of applicants for jobs at his School of Library Economy at Columbia College, according to reports.

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