When we created our library program, there was a lot of deliberation regarding how we wanted to catalogue the books we donated. We found that with every single library we were donating to (and in fact every library in Kenya I have visited aside from Starehe Girls), there was no existing system to catalogue the books, and as of yet, the Kenya Library Association does not have document specifying how they want schools to organize their libraries.

When working with the students and teachers in this regard, it became apparent that the Dewey Decimal system was simply not intuitive or straight forward for them, and made even less sense for smaller libraries (we donate 1,500 books per school, which usually consists of all of the books in the library, as opposed to libraries at schools in developed nations which boast anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 books).

Thus, we chose to catalogue and label books by subject. This makes browsing for books much more straightforward for teachers and students, many of which are using a stocked library for the very first time. It also makes it easier to research by subject, and, just as importantly, to put books back properly.

We knew that it was an alternative approach to the traditional way of setting up libraries, and because of this we were very much encouraged when we were sent this article in the School Library Journal by Vida Juozaitis, a library consultant who we often turn to for advice. In the article, librarians at a private school in New York City talk about how they switched over their 20,000 book library from Dewey Decimal system to one based by subject. Citing findings similar to those we had come to independently, they say that organizing and labeling books by subject is much more user-friendly for the students, and led to a significant increase in circulation.