Diocesan News

Students at St. Matthias Just Dewey It at School Library

by Tim Harfmann

RIDGEWOOD — Looking for a book in the library?

St. Matthias Catholic Academy in Ridgewood incorporates the traditional way of organizing books at its school library — the Dewey Decimal System. (Photo: Tim Harfmann)

There’s an app for that, but it lacks the charm of an old-school card catalog.

The library at St. Matthias Catholic Academy, Ridgewood, has one of those ‘antiques’, and students use it to look up books based on the Dewey Decimal System.

That time-tested way of organizing books in a library was established by Melvil Dewey in 1876 when he was a student at Amherst College in Massachusetts.

“We want students to be able to see what a traditional card category is, because everything is computerized now, and students have the opportunity to take a look at it,” said Maria Cuomo, St. Matthias’ principal.

St. Matthias incorporates new technology into other subjects, but students say the old method — not an app — helps them navigate the school’s library.

“Sometimes when you have the technology, there might not be any service, so you might as well come to the library,” fifth-grader Treangel Martinez said.

“Technology only gets you so far,” said Freddy Cavalli, another fifth-grader. “The extra mile comes from all of the books.”

“I like sciences,” Cavalli said. “It (the Dewey Decimal System) separates them into 10 categories based on what the book is about.”

The Dewey Decimal System gives each book a number based on the subject. The numbers go from 000 to 999, and categories are broken down into 10 broad subject areas. The categories of topics are further divided into 10 more narrower subjects, and then 10 more times so that each subject as a three-digit number. Subjects are further divided from there so that each book gets a three-digit whole number, followed by two more decimal place numbers.

At St. Matthias, students from pre-K through the sixth grade go to the school library once a week, and students in the upper grades learn about the Dewey Decimal System.

The school’s next project? It’s signing up every student for a public library card. That way, when they get to the library, they’ll know how to find a book.