Library Notes // Please Excuse the Mess, Librarians at Work

By Sara Medlicott,
ICC Librarian

Have you been by the library recently and noticed any changes? Piles of books in places they don’t belong? Long stretches of empty shelf? Flags of post-it notes lining the books? We are library staff hard at work updating our classification and cataloging system! What does that mean exactly? Well, I hope it means by the completion of this project you will better be able to find whatever you are looking for.

Think back, way back to school. Remember old Melville Dewey and his Dewey Decimal system? Here’s a brief refresher. Born in 1851, Melville Dewey was a librarian, founder of the American Library Association and Library Journal.


He felt that the classification systems of the day were incomplete so he developed his own system while working at Amherst College. At that time, most libraries assigned permanent shelf locations to books in the order added to the collection. Dewey was the first to shelve books in relation to subject. The system uses three digit numerals for main categories followed by fractional decimals which allow for more detail. From General works (000) to History & Geography (900) there is a number for any type of information and every piece of knowledge.

In your average general library, each of those number classes will have a little something in it. Most likely, anything on the topic of food or cooking will be classed under Food & Drink (641) but here at ICC, the library is anything but average. Our collection contains many volumes on specific subjects and also has grown fairly quickly which makes the arrangement more than a little confusing. Our goal this summer is to re-arrange everything in a way that makes it easier for you to find whatever you’re looking for, whether it’s a guide to Japanese knives, a cookbook from Fat Duck or an atlas of wine regions.


My wonderful intern Laura started with a full shelf read to see what we had and where it belonged. Meanwhile, I created an abbreviated guide to the Dewey Decimal System, listing only the topics relevant to our collection. Next, we started the slow process of examining each book section by section to determine whether it was properly labeled based on content. When we arrived at Wine (641.22) we recruited an outside expert, the Bed-Stuy Somm and Executive Editor of ICC, Michelle. For the heavy lifting we brought in volunteer and aspiring chef/veterinarian Alejandro. Slowly but surely the collection is becoming more accessible and more organized.


I’m sure you don’t want to check out my Dewey Decimal manuals, but if you are a fellow cookbook lover, we have several selections you may like to browse. Thanks to Melville and Laura they are now much easier to find. So stop by and take a look at the new and improve ICC Stacks.

  • 101 Classic Cookbooks: 501 Classic Recipes Edited by Marvin J. Taylor and Clark Wolf
  • Cookbook Book by Annahita Kamali and Florian Bohm
  • The Cookbook Library: Four Centuries of the Cooks, Writers and Recipes that Made the Modern Cookbook by Anne Willan with Mark Cherniavsky
  • Will Write for Food by Dianne Jacob