12 July 2007

John F. Germany Genealogy Collection Reorganization is Complete!

There has been a major change in the History and Genealogy Department at the John F. Germany in downtown Tampa! Major portions of the collection have been reorganized, re-cataloged, and physically reorganized.

When Melvil Dewey (10 December 1851 - 26 December 1931) devised his Dewey Decimal Classification system for library classification, he established ten (10) major classes, and each class was divided into ten classes. The 900s represented and included History and Geography, with the following ten sub-classes:

  • 900 - Geography, History, and Biography
  • 910 - Geography & Travel
  • 920 - Biography, Genealogy, and Insignia
  • 930 - Ancient world
  • 940 - Europe
  • 950 - Asia
  • 960 - Africa
  • 970 - North America
  • 980 - South America
  • 990 - Other areas
Most genealogists already know that the 929 area contains a lion's share of "genealogy" material. However, from a genealogical perspective, the Dewey Decimal System has never been necessarily ideal. Looking at the 930s to 990s, you would find cemetery books, local histories, geographies, and other geographically-related materials filed outside the 929s -- particularly in the 974s for U.S. geographical materials Therefore, if you simply walked into the John F. Germany Library's collection on 2-West and made a bee-line to 'read the shelves' in the 929s, you would miss a huge amount of resources.

Melissa Shimkus, Melinda Philips, and other staff members have been working extremely hard over the last year to implement a "Modified Dewey System" that has been adopted by some of the largest public library systems in the U.S. and beyond. The 'modified' system entails reclassifying and re-cataloging the materials outside the 929s, and then physically relocating those newly classified items. They are now inter-shelved with the 929s so that, whenever possible, all the print materials concerning a physical location are grouped together for ease of use. Note that the periodical collection is not interfiled with these materials.

Your absolute best way to gain access to what is in the collection and where it is is to always use the online catalog. Any of the library staff are more than happy to give you a tutorial, as well as a tour of the new organization of the collection. Knowing how to access and use the online catalog (and the Information Gateway databases (and not just the "Genealogy" databases!) gives you the power to search the THPLC catalog or any other public library catalog worldwide that you can access via the Internet. This skill can help you pre-plan any library visit so that you can concentrate on the research, and less on the "find" activities.

We owe Melissa and the staff at the JFG Library an enormous thank you for the hundreds of hours they have dedicated to making this transition project a reality! You should now have a much easier time finding helpful reference materials -- but still learn to use that catalog!

- George G. Morgan