WA-List » Do We Decimal?

Do We Decimal?

Published by Steve Campion. Category: Education & Research

Do we decimal?  Yes we decimal.  And in Washington we start decimaling with 979.7.

We’re speaking of the Dewey Decimal System, of course, created by Melvil Dewey as an efficient way to catalog and arrange library collections.  According to his system, every book, map, and recording has a specific place on the shelves neatly tucked away among the many decimals of Dewey numbers.

A good analogy for the Dewey system might be house numbers.  Imagine a “Dewey Street” 1000 houses long collectively containing books on every conceivable subject. Each building on the street has a house number somewhere between 000 and 999 and plays host to one particular subject.  On Dewey Street, books about the western United States might fit into house number 979.  But the West is a broad subject and it’s not good enough to just throw everything about Utah and California and Oregon into the house randomly.  So let’s say you devote one room to each western state and give Room 7 to Washington, right between Idaho (Room 6) and Alaska (Room 8).  So now, Washington’s address might be refined as 979.7 (house 979, room 7).  You might further divide Washington’s room into 10 bookcases and place all the Puget Sound books in the 7th bookcase, leaving Puget Sound’s address to become 979.77.  You could even designate one shelf of that bookcase to each Puget Sound county. All the books about Kitsap County might be found on shelf number 6.  In our address scheme, that would make Kitsap County 979.776 (house 979, room 7, bookcase 7, shelf 6).  Everything would be neat and tidy and in its place.

That’s just an analogy, of course.  There is no Dewey Street filled with books.  But the Dewey Decimal numbers do arrange library materials in an organized manner with that sort of address.  In any library using the Dewey Decimal System, Washington history books can be found on the shelves at 979.7 between Idaho (979.6) and Alaska (979.8).  And more specific parts of Washington follow with a few digits tacked on.

Melvil Dewey was born 160 years ago today, so we’re listing the Dewey numbers for Washington.  Next time you’re in a library, try it out.  Find your county among the shelves.  All you need is the address and that’s what today’s WA-List gives you.


Dewey Number Dewey Number
979.72 NORTHEASTERN WASHINGTON 979.771 Snohomish County
979.721 Pend Orielle County 979.772 Skagit County
979.723 Stevens County 979.773 Whatcom County
979.725 Ferry County 979.774 San Juan County
979.728 Okanogan County 979.775 Island County
979.73 EAST CENTRAL WASHINGTON 979.776 Kitsap County
979.731 Douglas County 979.777 King County
979.732 Grant County 979.778 Pierce County
979.733 Franklin County 979.779 Thurston County
979.734 Adams County 979.78 SOUTHWEST CENTRAL WASHINGTON
979.735 Lincoln County 979.782 Lewis County
979.737 Spokane County 979.784 Skamania County
979.739 Whitman County 979.786 Clark County
979.74 SOUTHEASTERN WASHINGTON 979.788 Cowlitz County
979.742 Asotin County 979.79 COASTAL WASHINGTON
979.744 Garfield County 979.791 Wahkiakum County
979.746 Columbia County 979.792 Pacific County
979.748 Walla Walla County 979.795 Grays Harbor County
979.75 CENTRAL WASHINGTON 979.797 Mason County
979.751 Benton County 979.798 Jefferson County
979.753 Klickitat County 979.799 Clallam County
979.755 Yakima County
979.757 Kittitas County
979.759 Chelan County

TIP: These numbers help find the history of these places.  If you want geography or travel of the same places, make a slight adjustment in the address.  Slip a “1” in after the first 9, then shift the decimal point so you keep only 3 digits to the left of the decimal.  All the other numbers stay in place.  For instance, Thurston County history is 979.779, so — insert a 1 and move the decimal — Thurston County geography would be 917.9779.

NOTE:  Some books have a Washington perspective but are primarily about something else.  Books about biking in Washington, for instance, might be more properly shelved with other biking books (796.6) than with books about Washington (979.7).  If you want something that specific, check the library’s catalog.

SOURCE:  I’ve worked in a library for most of my career.  These numbers stick in my mind better than phone numbers.  Then again, who remembers phone numbers any more?


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