The non-fiction section is the MOST mysterious area in the entire children’s library, and it’s all because of the numbers. Instead of being organized by title or author, non-fiction books are organized by topic! And those topics are cataloged as numbers.
I am a recent library school grad, and I never had to take a class on learning the Dewey Decimal system. I don’t think I was even trained on it when I got my first library job! Instead, I pretty much memorized all the important numbers as a result of reorganizing the entire non-fiction section in a previous job as an elementary school librarian.
That means: don’t worry!
The Dewey Decimal system is NOT some secret professional librarian thing that can’t be learned without getting a Master’s degree. Anybody can learn it, and everybody can USE it. And once you figure out which numbers are the ones your kids are into the most, it makes it super easy to get to that section at the library, find books, and get to reading even faster.
Of course, having a cheat sheet to take with you to the library would definitely help!
So I’ve got one here for you.
Dewey Decimal System: The Basics
- There are ten “classes,” from 000 to 900. These are the major (general) subjects.
- Within the larger classes are “divisions,” which are more specific subjects within the general ones. And then within the divisions are “section,” even more specific subjects and categories!
- Books in each division are organized numerically, so for instance: 631.2. 633.4, 650.
- Call numbers still have the author name at the end, so: 631.2 THO
- If two books have the same call number, they’re then sorted alphabetically by title.
But really, all you need to know is the most-requested specific subjects within the major ones.
Got a kid who only wants books about dogs? Science books about outer space? Biographies and American history? Give ’em the number(s) from the list and they’re good to go.
Dewey Decimal System for Kids
Tip: Sometimes a particular topic will be in multiple sections! For instance, if you’re interested in Buildings, you might also want to check Architecture, Travel (for historical buildings) or Biographies (for famous architects).
000 Computer science & general information
- 001 UFOs & Big Foot
- 005 Coding (Scratch, Python, etc.)
- 030 Encyclopedias & books of facts
- 032 World records
100 Philosophy & psychology
- 130 Ghosts & the paranormal
- 150 Psychology
- 158 Self-improvement
- 170 Ethics, animal rights
- 180 Eastern philosophy
- 190 Western philosophy
- 220 Bible studies
- 290 Mythology (Greek & Roman myths)
300 Social sciences
- 331 Jobs & careers
- 350 Military (including military vehicles)
- 378 Colleges, SAT/ACT, etc.
- 391 Fashion
- 394 Holidays
- 398 Fairytales & folklore (Tall Tales)
- 419 Sign language
- 430 Foreign languages
- 500 Science fair projects & experiments
- 510 Math
- 520 Astronomy (stars & planets) — see also 629 SPACE EXPLORATION
- 530 Physics
- 540 Chemistry
- 550 Earth sciences (weather, volcanos, hurricanes, earthquakes)
- 560 Dinosaurs & fossils
- 580 Plants — see also 635 GARDENING
- 590 Animals — see also 636 PETS
- 595 Insects, spiders & worms
- 597 Lizards & snakes
- 598 Birds
- 599 Mammals (lions, tigers, whales, dolphins)
- 600 Inventions
- 610 Medicine & health
- 629 Space exploration (astronauts), cars, trucks, planes, robots.
- 630 Farming
- 635 Gardening
- 636 Pets (dogs, cats, horses, farm animals)
- 641 Cooking & cookbooks
- 646 Sewing, clothing, costume design
- 658 Starting a business (lemonade stands & more)
- 688.7 Legos
- 690 Buildings — see also 720 ARCHITECTURE
700 Arts & recreation
- 709 Art history
- 720 Architecture
- 730 Origami
- 741.5 Cartoons
- 743 How to draw
- 745 Crafts
- 750 Painting
- 770 Photography, film & video
- 780 Music
- 793 Minecraft
- 794 Video games
- 796 Sports (football, baseball, etc.)
- 811 Poetry
- 812 Plays
- 818 Jokes
- 822 Shakespeare
900 History & geography
- 910 Explorers & travel
- 920 Biographies (may also be in their own BIOGRAPHY section in the library)
- 930 Ancient history (Greek, Roman, etc.)
- 940 European history
- 940.5 World War II
- 950 Asian history
- 960 African history
- 970 US History (also Canada & Mexico), Native American tribes
- 973.7 US Civil War
- 980 South American history
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