Melvil Dewey

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Melville Louis Kossuth (Melvil) Dewey (December 10, 1851 – December 26, 1931) was an American librarian and educator, inventor of the Dewey Decimal System of library classification, and a founder of the Lake Placid Club.



Dewey was born in Adams Center, New York, the fifth and last child of Joel and Eliza Greene Dewey. He attended rural schools and determined early that his destiny was to be a reformer in educating the masses. At Amherst College he belonged to Delta Kappa Epsilon, earning a bachelor's degree in 1874 and a master's in 1877.

While still a student, he founded the Library Bureau which sold high quality index cards and filing cabinets, and established the standard dimensions for catalog cards.[1]

From 1883 to 1888 he was chief librarian at Columbia University, from 1888 to 1906 director of the New York State Library, and from 1888 to 1900 secretary and executive officer of the University of the State of New York. In 1895 Dewey founded with his wife Annie the Lake Placid Club. He and his son Godfrey had been active in arranging[clarification needed] the Winter Olympics — he was chairman of the New York State Winter Olympics Committee. In 1926 he went to Florida to establish a new branch of the Lake Placid Club. He died in Lake Placid, Florida.[2]

Even Dewey's friends found his personality difficult, and he early in life established a pattern of making powerful enemies.[3] As one biographer put it, "Although he did not lack friends, they were becoming weary of coming to his defense, so endless a process it had become.”[4] He was removed from his position as New York State Librarian during a controversy over policies he had instituted at the Lake Placid Club restricting membership based on race and religion.[5] Another biography refers to Dewey's "old nemesis—a persistent inability to control himself around women" as an ongoing cause of trouble on the job.[6]

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