How To Use the Dewey Decimal System

The Dewey Decimal System organizes information into 10 broad areas, which are broken into smaller and smaller topics. Different topics are assigned numbers, known as "call numbers." For example, "Tigers" are given the number 599.756. To see what books we currently have available about tigers, go to the nonfiction shelves and find the books that have that number on their spine label.

A list of some of the information you can find in the different Dewey Decimal areas appears below. You can use our catalog to search for specific subjects. If you click on the links with each section, you will be redirected to a sampling of the catalog offerings on that call number’s topics.


Dewey Decimal System

  000 General Knowledge

  100 Psychology and Philosophy

  200 Religions and Mythology

  300 Social Sciences and Folklore

  400 Languages and Grammar

  500 Math and Science

  600 Medicine and Technology

  700 Arts and Recreation

  800 Literature

  900 Geography and History


Nonfiction vs Fiction

Fiction is fabricated and based on the author’s imagination. Short stories, novels, myths, legends, and fairy tales are all considered fiction. While settings, plot points, and characters in fiction are sometimes based on real-life events or people, writers use such things as jumping off points for their stories.

Nonfiction, by contrast, is factual and reports on true events. Histories, biographies, journalism, and essays are all considered nonfiction. Usually, nonfiction has a higher standard to uphold than fiction. A few smatterings of fact in a work of fiction does not make it true, while a few fabrications in a nonfiction work can force that story to lose all credibility.


Historical Fiction vs Creative Nonfiction

In a work of historical fiction, the story takes place in the past, but characters, actions, and other details are fictionalized. Creative nonfiction, on the other hand, is a broad term that encompasses many different types of writing (and, it seems worth noting, not all of it is historical). Creative nonfiction that covers the past uses the tools of dramatization but does not fictionalize.

Creative nonfiction that includes historical eras or events does not fictionalize. While it might read like a novel, its task is to remain factually accurate. In A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Ishmael Beah tells of his experience as a child during wartime in Sierra Leone. It unfolds with the kind of detail and tension you would expect in a novel. When rebels attack Beah’s home, he is in another town:

For more than three hours, we stayed at the wharf, anxiously waiting and expecting either to see our families or to talk to someone who had seen them. But there was no news of them, and after a while we didn’t know any of the people who came across the river. The day seemed oddly normal. The sun peacefully sailed through the white clouds, birds sang from treetops, the trees danced to the quiet wind…

“What are you going to do?” Gibrilla asked us. We were all quiet for a while, and then Talloi broke the silence. “We must go back and see if we can find our families before it is too late.”

Here, Beah recounts his own experience. Authors writing about events or eras they didn’t experience can also dramatize.

Both historical fiction and creative nonfiction that covers historical events or eras serve to illuminate real events from the past in a compelling and dramatic way. But each has a different relationship with factual accuracy.

Source: Ask the Writer: What's the difference between historical fiction and creative nonfiction?


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