I know a lot of librarians read this blog, but bear with me a few moments...
Imagine you're a customer. Yes, "customer", not "borrower" as they are small people who live behind the skirting boards. Not "user" - libraries are not heroin, nor even opiates for the masses. Not even "reader", as we all offer much more than that - don't we?
Anyway, for the sake of argument, you're a customer and you're looking for Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking.
You walk into a bookshop - you look around at the headings on the bookshelves - you notice that there is an area headed "cookery" or "food and drink", you think - ah, yes, that sounds right. On closer inspection, you notice that every couple of shelves is a smaller sign "barbecues", "soups", "A-z by country" Ah-ha!!!! a,b,c,d,e,f - French cookery.
You take the initiative - you read the titles and author's names on the spines of the books - OK sorry, getting a bit controversial there. But hey - you did it!
Now the alternative scenario - you walk into a traditional library. There are no signs above the shelves. On the end of each run of shelving, you notice an array of numbers (340-385, 610-649 etc.) You walk further and may notice a decrepid poster filled with a list of these numbers and what they mean, written in arcane language. (If you're a kid, your poster may have a jungle theme but the language will be the same).
OK - you say - I get it, there's some sort of coded system in play here! But, I'm an intelligent human so I can work it out. Right, let's see:
000 - computers, information and general works (nope)
100 - philosophy and psychology (nope)
200 - religion (well Delia's a bit fanatical about eggs but...nope)
300 - social sciences (don't think so)
400 - language (non!)
500 - science (erm, no)
600 - technology (nope)
700 - arts and recreation (ah-ha! The culinary arts! Recreational activity - sounds good, just finish checking)
800 - Literature (nah!)
900 - History and geography (no - hee-hee! I've cracked it, now, off to find the 700 section!)
Go home or ask the code master.
Of course 641.5944!! "Utilising the sciences to harness the natural world and it's resources for the benefit of mankind" = Cookery! Silly me.
By the way - helpful tip, when you do get to it, if you do get to it, hope there's not too may books on French cookery, because chances are, you won't be able to identify the book you want behind all the spine labels.
There ends today's anti-Dewey rant.