Irrepressible Reformer

Irrepressible ReformerIrrepressible Reformer: A Biography of Melvil Dewey by Wayne A. Wiegand. Published by the American Library Association, 1996. 403 pp.

Library historian Wayne Wiegand presents a thorough and entertaining biography of the man most know only as the “inventor of the Dewey Decimal Classification.” Dewey, born in New York State in 1851 to passionate reformers and educators, became a tireless reformer himself, as well as a businessman, librarian, and resort empire-builder. Best known for his classification scheme still popular in libraries throughout the world, he was also responsible for organizing a library conference which grew into the American Library Association, published the first issue of American Libraries, became librarian of Columbia University, started a library school, became state librarian of New York, and developer of the Lake Placid Club, a resort built on the shores of Lake Placid for the rest and renewal of educators. Although the eccentricities in his personal and professional life became legendary (in spelling reform, for instance, rewriting his own name as Dui), his zealous, nearly religious passion for the profession of librarianship, make this a fascinating and memorable biography.

– Sharon Zuiderveld