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American Library Association Renames Dewey Medal Over Namesake’s Anti-Semitism

(JTA) — Seems like the creator of the Dewey Decimal System, the book-classification method for libraries that bears his name, was out of order in his treatment of minorities and women.

Now the Council of the American Library Association has voted to remove Melvil Dewey, the association’s founder, from its creative leadership medal because of his anti-Semitism and racism.

Melvil Dewey “did not permit Jewish people, African Americans, or other minorities admittance to the resort owned by Dewey and his wife,” and also made inappropriate physical advances toward women he worked with and wielded professional power over,” the council’s resolution passed on Sunday said, according to a report by Inside Higher Ed.

The Melvil Dewey Award, according to the American Library Association, is an “annual award consisting of a bronzed medal and a 24k gold-framed citation of achievement for recent creative leadership of high order, particularly in those fields in which Melvil Dewey was actively interested: library management, library training, cataloging and classification, and the tools and techniques of librarianship.”

A letter to the editor of The New York Times in 1905 noted that Dewey was rebuked by the New York State Board of Regents and resigned as state librarian over complaints from Jewish leaders about his anti-Semitism, in part manifested by his authoring the policy of the Lake Placid Club that banned Jews, blacks and others from membership.

In addition to allegations of inappropriate touching of women, Dewey also asked for photographs of applicants for jobs at his School of Library Economy at Columbia College, according to reports.

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