Career Profile: Editor, Dewey Decimal Classification


Alex Kyrios

Title of current position:

Editor, Dewey Decimal Classification

Current employer:


Please provide a brief description of your job including a general overview of your responsibilities.
I’m part of a small team that maintains the Dewey Decimal Classification. We look for topics that haven’t been expressed yet, for better ways to organize existing classification, and for topics that no longer need provision. We consult with an international committee of Dewey users and share with them our proposed changes before implementing them for all to see and use!

How did you choose your specialty (i.e. music cataloger, metadata specialist, technical service manager, etc.)?

Introversion and an appreciation for order and detail drew me to cataloging work generally. I still enjoy the minutiae of cataloging, though I’m just as happy to be further away from that world as so many things get reworked! I found myself really enjoying the intellectual aspect of classification, of trying to describe materials within an ordered framework, figuring out what something’s really about without having the time to read the whole thing.

What specific skills, aptitudes, training, or education does your specialty require?

My position requires constant intellectual curiosity, a willingness to look into fields outside of my expertise besides just the ones that already interest me. It requires working with a team and within the boundaries of a system that’s over 100 years old. Are there areas of the classification we could make better if we just started them anew? I think so, but then you’ve made thousands, maybe millions of library materials out there that have completely outdated numbers! So we need to balance growth with what might be called backwards compatibility.

In what ways did your formal education prepare you for your career? What did you need to learn outside of this?

My formal education taught me research skills and other broad liberal arts pursuits, such as critical thinking. On the job, I’ve had to learn a lot of particulars. My library school education involved some learning MARC and classification systems, for example, but there’s only so much you can do until you’re in a situation where you’re working with those things constantly.

What do you find rewarding in your career?

I really enjoy having an impact on the library community worldwide. Dewey is still the world’s most widely used library classification system, and one of the few parts of our profession that’s widely known (at least by name) by non-librarians. My previous positions in cataloging were difficult to explain to outsiders; my current one usually impresses them.

What do you find challenging in your career?

I still worry about overall trends in society and in librarianship. I mostly worry that some trends might prove too strong for the profession to resist. I suppose that’s as good a reason as any to do the best work we can.

What advice do you have for those considering a career in your specialty?

Be curious! Learn about and from different fields, and be willing to step out of your intellectual comfort zone.

What do you see as the career outlook in your field (i.e. job prospects, changes in responsibilities, etc.)?

Automation is definitely a challenge. Until computers can write fiction as well as humans, they’ll never catalog as well as humans. But the idea of automated cataloging that saves money is bound to be attractive to some administrators, even if it’s not best for user outcomes. A trend I see in subject analysis is looking at ways to crosswalk different knowledge organization systems, to integrate the systems librarians have built with those from other disciplines.

This career profile is one of 14 developed by the Cataloging & Metadata Management Section (CaMMS) Recruitment & Mentoring Committee in 2017. To view a list of all profiles, see Career Profiles in Cataloging, Metadata, & Related Fields.

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