Irrepressible Reformer / Edition 1

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Melvil Dewey (1851-1931) is known for his Decimal Classification system for libraries, but the system was only one endeavor in a feverishly ambitious life. The other Dewey - reformer, businessman, powerful state education officer, resort-empire builder - has long been obscured, as has the dark side of Dewey's personality. Drawing from years of archival research, preeminent Melvil Dewey historian Wayne A. Wiegand has produced the first frank and comprehensive biography of this enigmatic reformer. While providing richer background on Dewey's positive achievements than earlier, reverential biographies, Wiegand reveals his subject as one who was "driven, tense, often arrogant," who had "an obsessive need to control...and self-righteously denied his own racism and class prejudices." Whatever Dewey's virtues and flaws, his influence on libraries and education was profound. To understand his life is to better understand these institutions - then and now - and the people who shape them.

The book contains black-and-white illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Finally, Melvil Dewey fully revealed, in entertaining prose, built on rigorous and deep historical scholarship. This is the definitive biography we've missed for so long. It tells the story of an American archetypea man imbued with the inventive curiosity, sexism, anti-Semitism, racism, type-A control-freakishness, and reform zeal so characteristic of the power brokers of his time and his nation. The result is a masterpiece of history. It appropriately bears the imprint of the library association he founded and nurtured and which was enlisted for years to coconspire to cover up the darker side of the old boy. Wiegand's (a Dewey historian) penetrating, provocative interpretations add to the readability and pleasure of this fine biography, even his highly arguable view that the persistence of Dewey's design for librarianship means it "will likely remain a marginal profession." To this member of the small club of holders of jobs Dewey once held, it is obvious that Wiegand's work can be used to make the opposite case as well: that it was Dewey who gave librarianship any hope at all of becoming central to modern American society. Either way, you should own and read this brilliant, comprehensive study of the biased crackpot genius to whom we librarians owe so much.John Berry, "Library Journal"
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780838906804
  • Publisher: ALA Editions
  • Publication date: 6/1/1996
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 444
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.99 (d)

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