FindIt! Frequently Asked Questions


What is FindIt! and why are you making this change?
FindIt! is a word-based classification system for nonfiction collections and it will be replacing the Dewey Decimal System at all San Mateo County Library locations during Spring 2015. We think that this change will make our materials more accessible to everyone in our communities. We’re simply swapping out decimal numbers for commonly-understood, word-based categories to make it easier for patrons to find their desired topics and books.

San Mateo County Library has found that fewer and fewer library users are familiar with the Dewey Decimal System. A 2009 Library Journal survey of 1,000 librarians credited patron difficulty in finding nonfiction to three top factors: having trouble understanding the online catalog, feeling intimidated by a classification system they don't understand well (the Dewey Decimal System), and wanting to go straight to the right shelf without having to look anything up. Our word-based classification system, FindIt!, is intended to address these issues.

I love the Dewey Decimal System! Why are you getting rid of it?
The Dewey Decimal system has worked well for the people who learned it, but many have not, and still others are not comfortable using it. In the 2009 online survey by Library Journal, 50.5% of respondents stated that they find "call numbers too difficult to use." Libraries have seen nonfiction collections used less and less, in part due to the rise in Internet use. In our pilot of FindIt!, implementing a word-based system with familiar terminology lead to an increase in the use of some of our nonfiction collections.

Without a decimal number, how will I know where to find my item?
There will be improved signs indicating where different sections of materials are, and books will now be labeled with words rather than numbers. You'll find a broad category, such as "Art," followed by a more specific category, such as "Drawing." Within those subsections, books can be found alphabetically by title. Like before, if you're looking for a very specific title or subject, you can always search the library catalog or ask a librarian for assistance.

Check out this easy guide for using FindIt! to get exactly what you want from your library.

Are other libraries making this kind of change?
Many public and school libraries in the United States and Canada are moving towards word based classification systems. San Mateo County Library is the first public library in California to make this change.

If you don’t teach children how to use Dewey, how will they get by in college?
Many colleges and universities use the Library of Congress classification system (LC) rather than the Dewey Decimal System, and most adults don't have the Dewey Decimal System memorized. More important than learning a specific classification system is learning about how organizational systems, categories and hierarchies work. We want children to learn how to find what they're looking for, whatever the context, by applying problem solving skills. We'll be able to continue teaching kids these skills no matter what classification scheme we use, and we want to create an environment in the library that encourages kids to be independent, curious readers.

Additionally, we've seen that moving to FindIt! has led to more use of our children's nonfiction collections. During our pilot phase at the Portola Valley Library, we saw children's nonfiction checkouts increase by 26%. Children respond very positively to this more intuitive, accessible way of organizing nonfiction materials -- Max, age 10, told us "It's easy! Because when I come to this section...BAM! It is right there!"